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“Ban the Box” Continues to Take Off

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erik idoni

Yesterday, June 10, 2015, the National Employment Law Project and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called on President Obama to “Ban the Box” and give everyone a fair chance to get a job by pushing background checks to later in the hiring process and banning the check-box on job applications asking if a person has a criminal record. That was the latest step in the “Ban the Box” campaign that on June 1 saw Ohio become the 17th state to “Ban the Box”, and expects to see Oregon join them soon.

An estimated 68 million Americans have a criminal record, about one in four and more than the total population of France. On top of that, only around half of the FBI’s records are up-to-date, meaning an arrest without a conviction can still negatively impact employment chances due to an incorrect record. Not only do 92% of employers run background checks, but more than 800 occupations ban felons via the law or licensing rules. Furthermore, only 40% of employers interviewed said they would “definitely” or “probably” hire someone with a criminal record. Furthermore, the inability of ex-felons and formerly imprisoned Americans to get a job is costing the economy an estimated $57 to $65 billion per year in lost output.

The “Ban the Box” campaign’s purpose is to give people with criminal records a fair chance at getting a job. By eliminating background checks until later in the process, every person would have the chance to demonstrate their qualification without the shadow of a criminal record hanging over them. This can be a serious help to people with criminal records as 76% of hiring discrimination takes place when reviewing a job application.

The campaign took its first major step back in 1998 when Hawaii became the first state to pass a “Ban the Box” law. However, the term “Ban the Box” wasn’t coined until All of Us or None started using it in the early 2000s. Since then, “Ban the Box” has taken off, with four states passing “Ban the Box” laws already in 2015. While most states’ “Ban the Box” laws only apply to public employers, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, along with cities like Baltimore, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., have extended the laws to private employers.

These policies have been effective as well. After Minneapolis “Banned the Box” over half of applicants with convictions were hired, 10% of the people hired by the City of Atlanta between March and October of 2013 had records, and the number of people in Durham County, North Carolina with criminal records that were recommended for hire nearly tripled in the two years since they “Banned the Box”. Employers don’t regret these decisions either as a study by Evolv found that employees with criminal records end up being 1% to 1.5% more productive than those without criminal records.

There are many ways for people who want to help “Ban the Box” to get involved. The National Employment Law Project has plenty of information on the campaign as well as campaign strategies, model policies, and much more. People can also visit the “Ban the Box” campaign website to take the pledge, get information on the campaign, and find tools for a successful campaign. Similarly, All of Us or None has their own toolkit for people to use on their campaign as they try to make Ohio the 17th state out of 50 to “Ban the Box”.

In the interest of both strengthening the economy and giving more qualified individuals a fair chance at getting jobs, we here at Workplace Fairness hope to see “Ban the Box” continue to thrive.

About the Author: The author’s name is Erik Idoni. Erik Idoni is a student at the George Mason University School of Law and an intern at Workplace Fairness.

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Four Tips to Help You Stay Sane on Your Job Hunt

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Image: Anya WeberI’ve applied for 70 jobs over the last five months, and honestly, it’s been kind of a nightmare. The hardest part for me has been maintaining my cheerful attitude. In that spirit, here are a few tricks that seem to be helping me land interviews and (just as important) feel like I’m approaching my job safari with style, grace, and finesse, rather than abject desperation.

1. If you see a job posting, that interests you, apply within 24 hours.

It’s just so competitive out there! One position I applied for, at a high-profile nonprofit in Boston, received 200+ applications within 48 hours of being posted. The hiring managers took down the job listing at that point, figuring that they had more than enough fodder for their search already and that taking on more resumes would be self-defeating.

So don’t put it off while you work your connections at the company, hone your cover letter, or perfect your resume. Don’t rush your job app out there, but give it an hour or two of concerted effort and then send it.

2. Make sure the position’s still open before you apply for it.

Sounds obvious, but we’re talking about some surreally tight turnaround times here. One position, at a big-name university, was posted on a Tuesday. I applied on a Wednesday — or tried to. When I clicked the “send resume” button on the job-search website, an error message came up: the job was no longer open.

There could be several reasons for this. The school might have had an internal candidate and just posted the position publicly for legal reasons. Or they, too, might have received 200+ applications within the first 24 hours of posting the position.

Moral of the story: If you’re applying for a job off a site such as Monster, Idealist, or (especially) an aggregator site such as Indeed, make sure the job still exists. To do this, go to the source (for me, this would have been the university’s online job board) <i>before</i> doing your research and writing your application. In my case, I wasted an hour or so researching one specific branch of this university — time I could have saved if I’d gone directly to the school’s job page and made sure the position was still posted.

3. Dodge the trap of perfection.

My resume isn’t perfect. None of the four versions of it that I’m customizing for different types of jobs are flawless. But they’re all solid. My cover letters aren’t perfect, either, but they’re pretty good. I try to employ the 80/20 rule in my job apps: often, 20% of the effort will yield 80% of the results, and a lot of the time that’s enough. For example, spending 20 minutes on a company’s website jotting down notes and key phrases is just as effective as spending three hours on there researching every morsel of their mission, branding, and business plan.

4. Work your network, but don’t let the network slow you down.

My usual technique when I see a job posting that interests me is this:

I look on LinkedIn to see if I have any secondary connections there (that is, people I know who know someone at the company). If so, I drop my friend a line asking if they’d be comfortable e-introducing me to their contact at Company X, so that I can learn more about what it’s like to work there.

While I wait for their reply, I do my due diligence, researching the company, the open position, and anything from their branding that I can hijack in my application.

If the friend-in-law writes to me immediately, saying something like, “Don’t go through HR — just send me your cover letter and resume and I’ll pass them on,” I do that promptly.

If I don’t hear back from the friend-in-law within 24 hours, I send in my application through the usual channels. If I do wind up talking to the contact later, I can always ask her if she’d be OK with passing my resume and cover letter up the channels unofficially, or with dropping my name to someone in HR. It’s a good way to do an end run around HR purgatory.

I hope these ideas are helpful to my fellow job seekers! Good hunting, and let me know how it goes.

About the Author: Anya Weber is a writer and editor looking for fulfilling, creative work in Boston and elsewhere. You can find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

This article was originally published on Media Bistro on October 5, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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