Q&A: How to incorporate fair chance hiring into your DEI strategy

Ken Oliver, Executive Director of Checkr.org
Sep 15, 2022

70 million Americans have some form of a criminal record in their past. This means there are 70 million Americans who aren’t give a fair chance and are overlooked as viable job candidates. Believe it or not, fair chance hiring is a key part of DEI strategies, and it’s something companies don’t really think about. […]

70 million Americans have some form of a criminal record in their past. This means there are 70 million Americans who aren’t give a fair chance and are overlooked as viable job candidates.

Believe it or not, fair chance hiring is a key part of DEI strategies, and it’s something companies don’t really think about.

In this episode, Jordan Martinez, Marketing Manager at Checkr, interviews Ken Oliver, Executive Director of Checkr.org, Checkr’s corporate social responsibility program in philanthropic initiative.

Listen in as he shares insight into what fair chance hiring is, the benefits it can generate, and how organizations can incorporate it into their DEI strategy.

Additional Resources:

Ask a SMB Workplace Question and get featured on POPS! The People Ops podcast.

On this episode, you’ll hear:

  • [01:02] Ken’s background in social work and DEI
  • [02:41] Being a product-first corporate social responsibility endeavor
  • [03:58] What is fair chance hiring and how it relates to DEI
  • [06:14] Overcoming your biases
  • [08:03] Where to start incorporating fair chance hiring practices


Jordan: Welcome to POPS, the show that shows you how to shift from human resources, paperwork to people, operations for the new world of work. How? By answering one question at a time I’m Jordan Martinez, Marketing Manager at Checkr here to help answer the question, how to incorporate fair chance hiring into your DEI strategy?

My name is Jordan Martinez. I currently work on the marketing team here at checker. Today. I have the privilege of speaking with Ken Oliver, Checkr’s Executive Director of Checker.org, which is Checkr’s corporate social responsibility program in philanthropic initiative. Ken, thanks so much for your willingness to participate in this mini podcast on diversity and inclusion.

I’d love to know just a little bit more about you and your current role at checker.

Ken: Hi, Jordan, thank you for that wonderful introduction. I’d just like to start by saying that I’m honored and humbled to be here, to share in this conversation with you about, um, diversity and inclusion and some of the initiatives of checker.org.

I guess I’d like to start by saying that, you know, my background personally and path here did not follow the traditional roadmap of most corporate executives. I joined checker just under a year ago to lead our initiative, to build a fair future of work for all people in this country. What’s really interesting about that is that the CEO, Daniel Janis and other executives at the company, desire to build a future of work based on a foundation of this country’s most vulnerable and overlooked workers.

The more than 70 million Americans who have some form of a criminal record in their past as an innovative background check company, checker has witnessed firsthand just how record that indicate justice involvement can act as a barrier to access level wage employment for people. And what’s even more incredible about Checker’s mission in my mind is that we have invested in proximate leadership of someone who has lived experience with some of the challenges with America’s criminal justice system and its intersection with the future of work in this country.

And that’s me. Before joining checker, I was a state policy director for a public interest law firm, where my work primarily focused on criminal justice reform and civic engagement. I then went on to become the executive director of an innovative nonprofit here in the bay area and led an effort that got awarded a historic 28.5 million from the governor.

And the California legislature to develop the first of its kind residential based tech training program in the country dedicated exclusively to formerly incarcerated men and women exiting the prison system in regard to some of the work that we’re doing [email protected]. We are a product first corporate social responsibility endeavor.

Focus primarily on all of the entry points to being able to provide justice, impacted people in this country, the opportunity to access level wage employment, and to access economic mobility. We do this Jordan through product innovations, like automated expungement services. We create unblocked barriers for candidates during the background check process, using some of our, um, background check tools.

We also develop tools such as career mapping, reskilling, and upskilling and corporate education initiatives that educate employers on how to become responsible, fair chance employers. Wow.

Jordan: Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of your story and a little bit more about checker and checker.org and how our product is innovating and providing fair future options for the future of work and love to discuss just a little more about fair chance hiring in the terms of diversity and inclusion.

So we really see diversity and inclusion as buzzwords in society. These days, especially when it comes to hiring strategies for businesses. Can you provide a little more context on what fair chance hiring means and how that relates and goes hand in hand with diversity and inclusion?

Ken: I guess I’ll start by saying fair chance.

Hiring simply means that every candidate, regardless of background, Receives a fair opportunity to compete for a job based on the merits of his or her qualifications rather than on life events or circumstances that may have happened in a candidate’s personal life or past. And when we think about that, it’s important to note that when we talk about fair chance for everyone, what we are really talking about is the most authentic version of inclusion.

Diversity, equity and inclusion was birthed in this country because several large swaths of people in this country were not being provided access and opportunity to. Advance be promoted or even considered not based on their skills or merits, but based on their status, their status as a woman, their status as a black or brown person, their status as a veteran or a member of the LGBTQ community, or as a person who in this case suffers from having a criminal record, which becomes this kind of Scarlet letter, a person has to be judged on for the rest of their life.

So in essence, what we are advancing here at checker is this idea that opportunity to participate in meaningful work. And to be provided access to economic mobility should be provided to every single person in America, regardless of divisive statuses that we have often created in this country for people.

And, and to me, what’s interesting about what we are advancing is that the data shows that when we do that, when we are inclusive, we actually increase our productivity and profits. We increase creativity with our workforce and our staff. We increase innovation and wellbeing within our company cultures.

And more importantly, we increase the health and vitality of the communities where we do business and where we live. This is kind of a holistic brand of diversity and inclusion, and it’s not about racial identity per se. It’s about the richness and value in diverse lived experiences and perspectives that can maximize value across the.

Jordan: Definitely. And once, you know, we unlock that excess capital pool of qualified individuals. We really are able to build a base of loyal employees. So when implementing this practice, how can companies get ahead of biases when it comes to the workplace and hiring formerly incarcerated

Ken: individuals? I get asked this question a lot in, in, in my work Jordan every day.

And I think that when we get past the bias, so we’re talking about how do we overcome biases in the workplace? It’s really about building a culture of inclusivity in the workplace that has to start from the top down. There has to be intention from leadership to be inclusive. And cascade that company value down throughout the company.

When we look at some of this country’s leaders who have embraced inclusivity through fair chance, we see people like Stewart Butterfield from slack, who has led his company’s mission and the fair chance hiring. We see the same thing here at checker with Daniel Janis, who has built a wildly successful company by building fair chance and the checkers company culture.

We see people like Jamie diamond CEO of JP Morgan chase, who has done the same. Even some of the more unlikely suspects like Koch industries have seen tremendous value in integrating fair chance hiring into their corporate practice. Each of these companies and hundreds of others have done. So because there was an insight usually and a will by the highest levels of corporate leadership.

Once leadership has bought in an adopted intention, then the rest is like anything else, educating ourselves about best practices, educating ourselves about the primary issues and the myths about people. We are all trying to daily overcome. It’s very difficult to truly hold on the bias. When you are a part of changing the world, when you are contributing to making a difference in someone else’s life or a difference in your community, those are some of the ways that I tell people that we can overcome buyers.

Jordan: Definitely. And it’s really important to realize that the formerly incarcerated are really no different than any other American, especially when it comes to needing stable, long term employment. If a company would love to start incorporating fair chance hiring practices into their diversity and inclusion strategy, where would be the best place to start.

Ken: I think if a company is interested in educating itself on fair chance hiring how it can benefit their company or a more broader inclusion strategy that can help their business and make a difference in the community. Both my first suggestion is to download the checker fair chance playbook, which we have on our website to get a primer on what fair chance hiring is.

And some of the things that a company can do to educate themselves. The second thing is to contact [email protected]. If they’re interested in learning about checkers, fair chance program. And how we can help their company actually implement a fair chance initiative responsibly. We organize checker. We, we organize workshops, facilitations, and actually work with other companies and customers to take them through all the steps, to get them to their first fair chance.


Jordan: Thank you so much, Ken, for just your insight and time today, I know our listeners are going to be super excited to learn more about implementing fair chance. So like Ken said, if you’re interested in learning more, we have access to our fair chance [email protected]. Or you can go to checker.com and download our fair chance.

Hiring playbook URL will be in the description of this podcast. Thank you.

Do you have questions for us? Put the link in the show. Now explore if you’ve got other ideas and feedback about our show, send them to [email protected].

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