Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

How Do I Video Interview…Candidates With A Criminal Record?

Having a criminal record has the potential to overshadow a job candidate’s skill set and character. And with more than 92 million Americans having a criminal record, it can be easy for hiring managers to get the wrong impression. That’s why we’re tackling video interview tips for different types of candidates with this how-to series.

Today, we’ll discuss how to use video interviews to connect with candidates who hold a criminal record. How do you ask questions without offending the candidate or breaking discrimination laws? And at the same time, how do you make sure you’re not hiring a dangerous felon?

Fortunately, it is possible to hire great candidates who have a criminal background. According to CareerBuilder, half of employers have hired someone with a criminal record. So let’s get started.

Find Out What Happened And When
It might sound easier said than done, but finding out what is on a candidate’s record is important. Why? Because not all crimes are going to be serious or impact the nature of a candidate’s work at your company. Similarly, when the crime occurred is also important. A minor misdemeanor 15 years ago might not hold as much weight as a more recent and weighty conviction.

But before you ask any questions, keep the laws in mind. The EEOC does allow employers to inquire into felony convictions when looking at applicants. However, you must avoid discriminatory or biased statements. But if you do decide that this candidate isn’t the right fit, most states require employers to provide a written statement when they decline to hire an applicant due to a prior criminal conviction.

If you’re unsure of your state’s law concerning requesting a criminal background or denying work based on a conviction, check before you make any decisions.

Ask About Their Work History Too
So now you know what happened and when. Do you feel a little better? If you still have some red flags, ask the candidate what they’ve been doing since then (if it’s not included on their resume). Other points to consider are halfway houses, rehabilitation programs, volunteer work, and higher education post-conviction.

What your job candidate did after their conviction says a lot about their work ethic and character. Also consider how they answer your questions. Did they answer it head-on or tip-toe around the subject? This can also be telling during your interview.

Don’t Forget To Look For A Career Fit
Fortunately for you, you’re using video interviewing technology that allows you to see your job candidate and judge body language, facial expressions, and personality quirks. These are all important in determining if this person is a career fit for your company. Don’t focus on the criminal record, focus on the person, their brand, and how they would fit in with your team. Also don’t forget to weigh in their skills!

In the end, if you can look past a criminal record at the eager job candidate you’re interviewing, you may find a well-qualified candidate who would fit well within your company. As the saying goes, don’t judge a book by it’s cover — or in this case, a candidate by their criminal record.

Have you hired an employee with a criminal past?

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Heather Huhman

Heather R. Huhman is the Career & Recruiting Advisor for Spark Hire. She writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets, and is the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle (2011), and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010).