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Toppling Barriers to Fair Chance Hiring: Comments for Context

A man holding a sign that says 70 million Americans have a criminal record

Some 1 in 3 US adults has a criminal record. GoodHire’s Comments for Context feature makes discussions with candidates about their records easier, and helps with individualized assessments. Employers can request more information, and candidates can comment directly in their background check results. See how Comments for Context provides a fuller picture of candidates.

What would you do if you found out your best job candidate has a criminal record? Nearly 70 million people in the United States do – about 1 in 3 adults. That means you’ll likely face that dilemma at some point.

Ideally, the candidate would tell you about the record before it turns up on a background check. Realistically, that conversation isn’t easy for candidates or interviewers.

To make these conversations (and your hiring decisions) easier, we’ve added Comments for Context to every GoodHire background check. The new feature, exclusive to GoodHire and available at no extra charge, helps you make confident, effective, and fair hiring decisions when a candidate has a criminal record.

How Comments For Context Helps Job Candidates and Employers

Comments For Context lets candidates see their FCRA-compliant background checks the way employers will and enter comments directly on the results. The context they create stays with the candidates’ results, so any employer who checks that candidate’s background through GoodHire will see that more complete picture.

Candidates can even choose to share their  results with employers who aren’t using GoodHire as their employment screening provider. We designed for portability because we believe context is a crucial component of fair chance hiring practices for everyone, not just our customers.

How does all this help employers? Now that 22 states and more than 100 cities have passed ban-the-box laws that govern how and when employers can ask about criminal history, a background check often serves as the first mention of a criminal record.

Having run more than a hundred thousand background checks through GoodHire, I’ve seen firsthand how they can help companies build great teams. But I’ve also seen that they’re far from a perfect solution.

Without context, criminal records tell only part of the story – that a conviction occurred. The records say nothing about why or what has happened since. Without that context, employers run the risk of excluding otherwise qualified candidates.

Worse, excluding people with criminal records from consideration could attract unwanted attention from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which has strengthened its focus on the disparate impact of hiring policies on protected classes.   

It’s a tech-based approach to avoiding the systemic inequality that traditional employment screening unintentionally perpetuates.

With Background Checks, Context Is Everything

Perhaps as importantly, Comments For Context may help keep otherwise qualified applicants in your pipeline.

Ask anyone on the street if they’d hire someone with a criminal record and you’re very likely to hear a no. If you ask again – clarifying that it was a minor offense, unrelated to the job, and happened years ago – the answer might change.

survey of California employers found that most are more willing to consider hiring a candidate when they know the nature of the offense. For example, 84% said they’d be willing to hire someone with a misdemeanor offense.

That openness turns out to be a good thing, because considering individual circumstances and context around a criminal record is a best practice for avoiding EEOC scrutiny. Other best practices include providing candidates who have criminal records with an “individualized assessment” that considers:

  • The nature and gravity of the offense
  • The time that has passed since the offense or completion of the sentence
  • The nature of the job sought and the offense’s relevance to the position

Let Technology Break The Ice

GoodHire gives you a simple, automated way to request context around records that’s simply part of the process, like requesting e-consent to run the check in the first place. And our intuitive interface makes it easy for candidates to check that the record is accurate, add context if it is, or dispute it if it’s wrong.

Candidates can add context at any time – when they run their own personal background check with True Me Checks or when a GoodHire employer asks the candidate to provide context for records returned.

It’s all part of our commitment to fostering trust, safety, and fairness throughout the hiring process – for both employers and candidates.

After all, your relationship with your employees begins long before they’re hired. That’s why it’s  in everyone’s best interest to approach sensitive background discussions with respect and openness, right from the start.

We’ve just made it easier to get started.


The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

About the Author

Max Wesman leads all aspects of GoodHire services, from strategy to product development and design, to legal compliance, to customer support. Before joining GoodHire, he launched enterprise and small business software solutions for Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft.

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