Why This Startup Is Hir­ing Ex-Of­fend­ers— and Thinks You Should Too

Checkr, a back­ground-check startup with $150 mil­lion in fund­ing, is fill­ing its San Fran­cisco of­fice with hires who have crim­i­nal records.

Inc. (USA) - - STATE OF HIRING 2018 - —L.B.

For the founder of a hot San Fran­cisco startup with $150 mil­lion in ven­ture fund­ing, Daniel Yanisse has an un­usual goal: By the end of this year, he wants 5 per­cent of his work­force to be ex-of­fend­ers.

When Yanisse launched his tech-en­abled back­ground-check com­pany Checkr, in 2014, all he knew about crim­i­nal records was that clients didn’t like them. Back then, Yanisse and his team spoke on the phone to job ap­pli­cants, and “we heard hun­dreds of sto­ries about peo­ple who com­mit­ted very mi­nor crimes 20 years ago and were try­ing to get a new start,” says Yanisse. “They were be­ing re­jected for the wrong things.”

Yanisse is not alone in think­ing dif­fer­ently about the 70 mil­lion Amer­i­can adults with crim­i­nal records. More than 150 U.S. cities and coun­ties have banned com­pa­nies from ask­ing job ap­pli­cants about pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal con­vic­tions, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Em­ploy­ment Law Project. In 2015, Un­der Ar­mour, Drop­box, Face­book, and other large com­pa­nies signed the Fair Chance Busi­ness Pledge to lower bar­ri­ers to em­ploy­ment for peo­ple with crim­i­nal records, as did dozens of smaller em­ploy­ers. Y Com­bi­na­tor re­cently hatched 70 Mil­lion Jobs, a re­cruit­ment site for for­mer in­mates.

Yanisse be­gan reach­ing out to ex-of­fend­ers through reen­try pro­grams such as Defy Ven­tures and the Last Mile. The com­pany now con­sid­ers ap­pli­cants on a case-by­case ba­sis, con­duct­ing in-depth in­ter­views to un­der­stand the story be­hind each crime and the ex­tent of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. “We don’t have rules about the type of of­fenses that would au­to­mat­i­cally dis­qual­ify some­one,” says Yanisse. In­stead, he fol­lows guide­lines laid out by the Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion, which asks com­pa­nies to con­sider the na­ture and grav­ity of the of­fense, how long ago the crime took place, and whether it re­lates to the po­si­tion be­ing ap­plied for. So, for ex­am­ple, as a back­ground check com­pany, Checkr would likely not hire some­one con­victed of iden­tity theft.

While man­ual work in res­tau­rant kitchens or ware­houses is more com­mon for ex-in­mates, Checkr has placed re­cruits in cus­tomer ser­vice and op­er­a­tions po­si­tions and ex­pects to add some to sales. Yanisse—who is now help­ing clients in­clud­ing DoorDash and Cri­sis Text Line do the same—typ­i­cally starts the ex-of­fender in a tem­po­rary work pro­gram, where he or she serves in a paid, in­tern­ship-like job, while man­age­ment eval­u­ates per­for­mance.

One Checkr em­ployee, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, got out of state prison just over a year ago af­ter serv­ing 13 years. He now works with job ap­pli­cants who are go­ing through back­ground checks. “One thing I like about this place is that they didn’t make me feel like I was an out­sider or an ex­per­i­ment,” says the em­ployee, who pre­vi­ously had hes­i­tated to seek a new job be­cause he feared re­jec­tion. “It was just, ‘We ac­cept you. We be­lieve in you. We want to watch you grow.’ ”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.