How to Hire a Felon


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The decision whether to hire felons is not an easy one.  Employers are faced with the need to fill their jobs with qualified employees to keep their company operating.

Just because an applicant is a felon is not justification not to hire them.

There are reasons on both sides of the hiring question for employers to weigh.

This blog post will address the issue of how to hire a felon.

  • Reasons for Hiring a Felon
  • Steps in Hiring a Felon
  • Planning
  • Recruitment
  • Selection
  • Background Check
  • Tax Credit
  • Making a Case for Hiring a Felon

Reasons for Hiring a Felon

There are many compelling reasons for companies to hire felons.

What makes felons good workers?  They have been gone for a number of years since it was a felony conviction with a lengthy prison sentence.

They have had the chance to reflect on the years they spent incarcerated and how much of their lives they have wasted because of their crime.  They are ready to put the past behind them and begin an honest life in society.

For many, they are grateful to those willing to give them a chance.   They are motivated to succeed and just need the opportunity to show their gratitude.

Years of incarceration has made them punctual due to the rigid schedule they had to follow in prison.  They are accustomed to hard work and prepared to perform on a job.  They usually will work for less just to have a job.

Now they have the opportunity to show others that they can adapt to working in society again.

Many are on probation and have to be accountable to their Probation Officer for finding and keeping a job.

As felons, they realize that losing their job will result in facing further difficulties in locating another one.

Felons mostly are not as dangerous or untrustworthy as the stereotype suggests.

Steps in Hiring a Felon

The steps involved in hiring a felon are the same ones used in hiring a non-felon.  There are a few particular things to pay attention to.


It is important to outline the qualifications for any job.  These include any special education or training that might be required.

Employers also decide on the duties of the position.

They also outline the skill set that a new employee needs to have.  These include hard skills as well as soft skills.

Hard skills are teachable, involving knowledge and job-specific abilities.

Soft skills are interpersonal skills.  They include the ability to work with others, communication, and critical thinking/problem solving.

As felons, they have spent time in prison working at a particular trade and in many cases had to learn new skills.

Often, the hard skills they acquired in prison fit well with the position employers are offering.

Those who are applying for an open position are those who demonstrated the willingness to learn a trade and can fit well with many companies.

Felons have become accustomed to hard work, long hours, being punctual for work, and working for smaller wages.

They have shown the ability to succeed in difficult circumstances in prison and can bring the same soft skills and capacity to listen, ask questions, and ability to get along with even the toughest of supervisors in prison.


A job board is an excellent way of notifying those who may be interested and qualified for the position.

For felons, job boards are difficult to find.  There is only one free job board for employers to list their position and provide information about their company.


The job selection process is a complex one.  While there is an application to complete, the hiring process is about more than just the questions an application contains.

Rejecting a felon just because they have a criminal background is discrimination.  There must be more involved such as the felon not fitting the job description or the offense on their record disqualifying them for a job.

Employers rely on conducting a background check as part of their screening process.

Background Check

The purpose of a background check is to ensure employers hire the best candidate for a job.

There are several important questions for employers to consider:

  • How long has it been since the conviction? It is quite different for a felon with a crime for theft last year versus one with a theft offense from 15 years ago.  That is especially true if there has been no further criminal activity during that time.
  • How does the conviction relate to the job? For a felon with a financial crime, hiring them for a position involving handling money may not be the best idea.  That is different from hiring someone with a financial crime for a manual labor job.
  • Did the applicant have the opportunity to explain their circumstances? For felons who are considered to be disqualified from a position, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires employers to provide applicants a chance to “demonstrate that the exclusion should not be applied to his particular circumstances.”  It is essential to have all of the relevant information.

EEOC guidelines indicate that hiring decisions should consider:

  • The nature and circumstances of the offense
  • The relation of the offense with the responsibilities and requirements of the position
  • The time elapsed since the offense
  • Corrective actions the applicant has taken since the offense

This is the time for employers to get to know about applicants.

Tax Credit

Another advantage for companies in hiring a felon is that there is a tax credit.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal program started by the Small Business Job Protection Act in 1966.

Felons convicted or released within one year of their hiring are eligible to be hired through the WOTC.

Employers may hire as many felons as they want under this program and receive up to $2400 for a two-year period for each one employed, depending on how many hours the employee works.

Making a Case for Hiring a Felon

It isn’t easy for employers to hire, especially felons.

But there is an opportunity for a job to be filled.

Doing the things that it will take to fill that job is challenging, but what isn’t as an employer.  In many cases, hiring a felon is the right thing to do.

Business owners and hiring managers should be encouraged to seriously consider hiring a felon.  Often, they are the most qualified and worth giving a chance to succeed.

What do you think about this blog post?  Are you or someone you know been in the situation of hiring a felon as a new employee?  What was that like, and was it successful?  Please tell us in the comments below.


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