Hiring Former Offenders

Help Wanted! Now Hiring! Sign On Bonus to Work! Those attention grabbing, highly colorful signs are everywhere on windows, billboards, and yard signage. Look on social media or pick up a newspaper – more “Help Wanted” content. Go to the primary source for job openings – online job boards encompass an endless list of companies who are hiring for all levels of roles.

It’s never been more clear. Companies need employees now, and if companies do not meet their staffing needs to operate, doors will close—maybe permanently. So what can companies do to find more employees?

Pandemic Job Market

The pandemic has brought many challenges to the nature of the hiring process. Competition for employees is fierce with organizations scrambling to find additional perks to recruit, and even retain, employees. Good insurance and vacation time won’t cut it anymore; people are seeking flexibility and remote options because many need to be caregivers or provide support to children who are e-learning.

Additionally, there are many factors that affect the ability and willingness of individuals to work. Government funding plays a role along with concerns of physical and mental health due to COVID-19. Ultimately, in discussions with fellow HR colleagues, the consistent concern of finding available employees is reiterated. Where can organizations find potential candidates to fill their vacancies?

Hiring Former Offenders

After listening to an inspirational presentation delivered by Alice Marie Johnson at the HR Indiana Conference a few weeks ago, a solution for many organizations is readily available and has been in the forefront for awhile. To fill vacancies, it is time for organizations to take a clearer look at the former offender population.

First, a little about Ms. Johnson…Alice Marie Johnson was pardoned in 2020 after spending over 21 years in federal prison for her first and only conviction in a nonviolent drug case. She has been instrumental in criminal justice reform and helping former offenders become self-sufficient upon release. Ms. Johnson provided testimonials from multiple former offenders who simply want a chance to prove themselves to employers, their own families and even to themselves.

USA Today also provided statistics that we need to examine. More than 70 million Americans – that’s nearly 1 in 3 adults – have a criminal record. Those adults have families also so nearly 1 in 2 children have at least one parent with a criminal record.

A Brookings report published in March 2018 found that 45% of those released from prison did not have any reported pay in the first calendar year after they returned home. If a person cannot support oneself or their family, that affects the likelihood of recidivism. Earning a living wage to support oneself and family through employment can reduce the likelihood of committing future offenses and break the cycle of incarceration and poverty.

Justice Involved Hiring

As a country, we need economic stability, especially now in an unstable global market. A study released by the Center of Economic and Policy Research in 2016 found that the economy loses out on roughly 2 million workers and approximately $80 million in gross domestic product (GDP) by not hiring justice involved job seekers. That was in 2016, so take into account five years and the influence of a global pandemic, and those numbers have grown.

To help former offenders find more options to acclimate into life outside of prison and re-enter the workforce, the federal government passed the First Step Act. The First Step Act is a criminal justice reform law that reduces prison sentences by changing the sentencing guidelines and facilitating early release, and supports education and treatment programs in prison.

The need to hire former offenders is prevalent. Organizations such as Taking Action for Good (TAG, created by Ms. Johnson), Hope for Prisoners, and Indeed are offering resources to help formerly incarcerated individuals find the stability they need through work.

ExactHire does not provide legal counsel so please check with your company’s legal team. If your organization’s employment application(s) include questions related to conviction history, ensure there are established guidelines internally as to how the conviction will be evaluated in the applicant review process. Consider the impact of the conviction related to the nature of the job, the severity of the offense and how much time has passed since the offense to ultimately determine how much, or if at all, that conviction affects the individual potentially completing the duties of the role.

Ban the Box Policy

As more cities, municipalities and states evolve into Ban the Box entities, companies need to review their employment application content to confirm legality. Even if an organization is in a location that allows companies to ask if an individual has ever been convicted, is that question really necessary to include on an employment application?

Is it worth eliminating a population of individuals who want to work?

Once that question has been answered on an employment application, will that cause any staff to have preconceived notions?

Background checks are consistent resources in the hiring process. As an organization, consider removing the conviction question from the employment application initially to increase applicants. Then, if and when an offer is extended, conduct and review the applicant’s background check. The conviction may show, but at that point after reviewing the applicant’s qualifications and interviews, that applicant might have already demonstrated enthusiasm and willingness to work that supersedes a conviction from years ago.

Employers Benefit from Justice Involved Employees

Consider the nature of the organization. Does the organization have legal parameters that provide bona fide reasons to prevent the hiring of former offenders? Some industries, particularly healthcare, might have certain roles that have hiring restrictions. However, if an organization does not have specific guidelines that prohibit the hiring of former offenders, it’s time to review the qualifications of individuals in a population that is seeking to work.

Hiring former offenders can offer opportunities for an organization to adhere, or even develop, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. Financial benefits might exist for organizations which hire former offenders as well. An organization might qualify for tax credits through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program if hiring former offenders. Federal bonding programs also offer additional security for organizations who hire former offenders as well.

Staffing challenges are at an all time high. Let’s keep businesses open. Explore the opportunities for your organization by providing employment opportunities for qualified former offenders. We’re all in this together!


ExactHire offers applicant tracking software with features, such as multiple applications, to allow an organization to customize employment application content. Our OnboardCentric solution has the ability to help organizations effectively manage potential tax credits.


Photo by Hédi Benyounes on Unsplash

How Do I Create an Online Job Application?

If you’re like most employers, the current worker shortage has you rethinking your hiring strategy. This is especially true in industries like construction, restaurant, and home service. Perhaps in the past you’ve been able to avoid implementing an online job application without sacrificing the quality of applicants you attract. But if you’re one of the thousands of businesses forced to shorten hours or reduce the number of customers you can serve because you don’t have enough workers, you can’t afford to not have an online job application.

But how do you go about creating an online job application? Even after you create an online job application, you’ll have other difficulties to puzzle out. You need to get the application onto your website. And as long as you’re going digital, isn’t there an easy way to capture all that candidate information and sort it to find your best new hires?

Benefits of Online Job Application Forms

Considering how complex creating an online job application seems to be, it’s understandable if you’re still handing applicants a paper form. But you’re missing out on great new hires if you don’t give job seekers a chance to apply online.

According to Pew Research, 77 percent of Americans own a computer. And 85 percent own a smartphone. Digital access means a majority of job seekers go online to find their next job. Online resources outpace other, more traditional ways to look for work, including personal or professional networks, job fairs and employments agencies.

You risk losing out if you require job seekers to open their email application, paste an email address, and attach their resume. The best candidates won’t bother hopping in their cars to drive to your location to fill out a paper form, either. Including an easy-to-complete online job application within your job ad will help you hook the right talent before they click over to your competitor’s job ad.

You’ll see the most benefits from your online job application form if it’s mobile-friendly. Pew Research also says that more than half of young adults use a smartphone during a job search. Overall, 41 percent of smartphone users have used their smartphone during a job search. Smartphone owners are even using their mobile devices for complex tasks. Half have used their smartphone to fill out a job application. These smartphone-wielding job seekers will pass over your job ad if you don’t create a mobile-friendly job application.

Job seekers prefer online job applications for obvious reasons. They don’t have to travel to your location to fill out a paper application. Applicants can take their time answering the questions on your online job application. And if your careers site is mobile-friendly, they can fill out the application almost anywhere. Workers who have multiple jobs or children can fill out applications more easily online than in person.

Simple Employment Application Form

Now that you’re convinced of the benefits of an online job application, how do you go about putting one together? A simple job application form format is your best strategy to get more job candidates. The online job application you create should take no more than 15 minutes to complete and should include fewer than 20 questions. Your online job application should be easy to find within your job ad with a link that says “apply online now.”

Just like with your paper application, you should examine your simple job application form for potential legal liabilities. Education requirements that go beyond the knowledge necessary for the job or questions about criminal history may make you vulnerable to discrimination claims.

Your online job application must be mobile-friendly to attract young people or candidates without computers. You can create a mobile-friendly online job application by including drop-down menus or check boxes where possible. To create a truly mobile-friendly form, you’ll need to understand tech-savvy issues such as responsive design and programming.

Simplicity isn’t just for your job applicants. An online job application should be easy to create and should make your hiring process easier. That inexpensive solution may be prohibitive if your team struggles for hours to understand it. Or a blank job application form in a Word document may not be all that convenient if you’re printing it and throwing in a stack just like your old-fashioned paper applications.

Online Employment Application Software

You’ll reap the most benefits when you choose the right online employment application software. Look for these benefits and capabilities.

  • Flexibility. Your company is exceptional, and you’re looking for a standout new hire. Run-of-the-mill application questions won’t cut it. You want the ability to create custom questions to find candidates that fulfill your unique needs.
  • Mobile-friendly. You’re missing out on a major benefit of a paperless job application if it isn’t mobile-friendly. A free online job application form may seem attractive until you try to complete it on your smartphone. Remember, a third of applicants—and half of young adults—will pass over your online application if it isn’t mobile-friendly.
  • Data-capture. What’s the point of going digital if you’re printing applications and sorting them by hand? When you capture applicant data and store it digitally, you’ll be able to sort applicants and find the people with the skills you need.

This final point is key, and the benefits of data-capture don’t stop there. Over time, you can build a talent pool to draw upon for future open positions. When it comes time to file compliance reports, a few clicks of your mouse will gather the required data. Pairing your online application with applicant tracking software will also help you hone your application process. You’ll know which sites net the best applicants and which online application questions most effectively narrow the field.



Applicant Tracking System or Online Application?

An online job application will improve the applicant experience and increase the number of applicants you receive. But without an applicant tracking system (ATS), you risk wasting time thumbing through applications or overlooking quality candidates altogether. When you use an ATS , you’ll easily be able to create an online job application and much more.

Create multiple applications with an ATS. Some positions only require a one-step application, while other positions should have multi-step applications. You can even create an internal application for current employees.

Work within an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Our applicant tracking system allows you to choose from a library of application questions or create your own. You can also choose the best format for the answers, such as text box or multiple choice.

Direct applicants to a branded careers site. Don’t require your applicants to download a job application form or a Word document. Instead, improve your applicant’s perception of your brand with a careers site in which they can fill out your online job application.

Make it easy for smartphone users to find and apply to jobs. Chances are, at least a few of your positions are generally filled with a demographic that primarily uses their smartphone. ExactHire’s online job application is always mobile friendly, without any of the compatibility problems you’ll find with free online employment application software.

Easily sort candidates. With your current paper system, are you able to know at a glance why a candidate wasn’t hired? Using an applicant tracking system, you can create a list of applicant codes. Using these codes, you can always know what prompted a candidate’s advancement to the next step in the hiring process. And you’ll always know the reasons candidates were disqualified.

Final Thoughts on Creating an Online Job Application

Up until now, you probably considered digital job applications a costly addition fit for larger companies. But the current worker shortage has probably shown you that neglecting online job seekers is far more expensive. Don’t waste your valuable time trying to figure out complicated free online employment application software. Instead, let ExactHire create a customized, scaled solution for your hiring needs.


Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash



How to Manage Teams in Different Locations

I love the way grandmothers pack priceless wisdom into colorful phrases. Phrases like “when the cat is away, the mice will play” speak volumes about the human tendency to slack off when the boss isn’t around. Or how about this one: “out of sight, out of mind.” When something isn’t in front of me, it gets pushed to the back of my mind.

Maybe you think of these phrases when wondering how to manage teams in different locations. Conventional wisdom says managing dispersed teams is a headache. You can’t possibly make sure your staff isn’t goofing off. You wonder how to handle managerial tasks for a team possibly hundreds of miles away.

Nothing against Grandma, but her notions of remote management are a bit old-fashioned. With the right strategies and software in place, you’ll take to managing dispersed teams like a fish takes to water.

Considerations for Hiring Dispersed Teams

Grandma would say you can’t separate the wheat from the chaff when hiring a dispersed team. When you post job openings for multiple locations, you run the risk of missing high-quality applicants if your process is unorganized. Hiring employees at multiple locations requires strategic planning and implementation.

Perhaps one of the biggest considerations for hiring dispersed teams is maintaining your company’s branding. Multiple locations will probably develop their own unique culture. Your branding becomes the glue that binds employees in different locations to your company’s vision. Without strong branding, different locations may begin to feel like independent outposts for employees as well as customers.

You can introduce applicants to your company’s values, vision, and character with a branded careers site. A single careers website can manage applications for job postings at all of your company’s locations, even allowing job seekers to apply to multiple jobs with one application. Not only will you elevate your brand in your applicants’ eyes, you’ll be able to uncover more qualified candidates and manage applicant data from a cloud-based software system accessible at all of your locations.

From within the applicant tracking system, you’ll be able to sort applicants using a variety of data fields, including location. You can then assign tasks to individuals on hiring teams throughout the organization. You’ll be able to view applicants’ progress throughout the hiring process.

Perhaps most importantly, an ATS will give your hiring teams the tools they need to work independently without sacrificing your ability to oversee the process. An ATS can eliminate many of the intra-company emails and phone calls that hinder hiring across locations. With all the benefits of an ATS, I think Grandma might finally agree you can have your cake and eat it too.


Multi-Site Management of Employee Onboarding

Grandma might warn you against biting off more than you can chew when it comes to multi-site management of employee onboarding. It’s true that onboarding new hires at multiple sites can be problematic. Ineffective onboarding will cut into your bottom line, decrease your company’s productivity, and possibly leave you vulnerable to lawsuits.

Employees who undergo a comprehensive onboarding program are productive in their new roles more quickly. Effective onboarding can also improve employee retention. Onboarding software can help you create a consistent and effective onboarding process for all of your locations. You can use these digital onboarding tools when introducing your new hires to your company. Training modules within onboarding software can be customized for each position and its location.

New employee forms get trickier during cross-office collaboration. The best onboarding software will determine the correct new employee forms for each position and location. You won’t need to worry about your hiring teams forgetting about non-compete agreements for new sales people. And you can be sure the correct city payroll tax withholdings are on file. Best of all, onboarding software stores your completed new employee forms digitally. If your new sales person leaves for a competitor a few years down the road, you won’t need to chase down a paper copy of that non-compete agreement.

Even Grandma has to admit, onboarding software leaves no stone unturned.


Managing Employees at Multiple Locations

Grandma wouldn’t want you burning the candle at both ends when managing employees at multiple locations. Each location may develop a culture inconsistent with your company’s values. Productivity may suffer when employees aren’t engaged in the company’s larger mission. Poor communication can enhance existing problems.

You can address the challenges of managing employees in different locations by proactively managing your workplace culture. Create a comprehensive onboarding process with an emphasis on your company’s values and mission. Existing employees may benefit from training that focuses on your company’s culture. Try implementing a rewards program for employees who demonstrate behavior consistent with your values.

Nurturing a positive culture and workplace environment will help engage employees. You can also increase employee engagement by offering skill development training. Dispersed employees could access advanced training modules within your onboarding software or classes online. Think about pairing employees at remote locations with mentors working from the company headquarters. These mentors can help employees navigate the company’s dynamics.

Stakeholders need strong communication skills to make these strategies for managing teams at multiple locations successful. Managers with poor communication skills struggle with how to increase collaboration between teams and improve cross-departmental communication. Remind these managers to have regular video conferences with remote team members. Email is great for task-related communication. But only a phone or video call can nurture meaningful connections between co-workers.

You can overcome the challenges of managing and leading remote teams through culture, engagement, and communication. When you use these strategies, your employees will feel more emotionally invested in their roles and happy as clams.

Final Thoughts

Conventional wisdom may say that managing teams in different locations is difficult. Dispersed worksites tend to develop their own culture. Distance can complicate items such as paperwork. And poor communication will make managing remote employees even tougher.

But you’ll be changing your tune when you invest in the right software. And your remote teams will be over the moon when you use strategies to promote culture, engagement, and communication. Before you know it, managing teams in different locations will be a piece of cake.

Are you thinking about investing in applicant tracking software or onboarding software? Contact us today.

Photo by Antonio Janeski on Unsplash


Hiring in the Restaurant and Hospitality Industry

Let’s face it, hiring in the restaurant and hospitality industry is never really easy. Even when it’s an “employer’s job market,” filling open positions is a difficult, often times unpredictable, challenge. Today’s tight job market adds more difficulty to this challenge, as most job seekers have multiple job options.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the quit rate for employees in the restaurant and hospitality industry is 4.9%–more than twice the average for all other industries. Clearly these employees realize that they have employment options, and they’re exercising them. Restaurant and hospitality employers are facing two obstacles in trying to meet their employment needs: employee turnover and job applicant volume.

Job Applicants for Restaurants and Hospitality

A labor shortage has affected nearly every industry, however the tight job market has been especially unkind to restaurants. Often times these businesses seek to employ entry-level employees who will earn near minimum wage, or they need skilled workers who face little competition in the job market. So finding interested job seekers–let alone applicants–is very difficult for these employers when a) compensation is unattractive, and b) qualified workers are scarce.

That being the case, the industry relies heavily on a workforce that skews younger. Often it’s these employees in the 16- to 24-year-old age group who can afford to take minimum wage roles or who are actively training for more skilled roles. The bad news here is that according to the National Restaurant Association, there will be about 1.2 million fewer 16- to 24-year-olds in the labor force by 2028.

Employee Turnover in Restaurant and Hospitality Industry

Complicating the situation is the fact that many employees in the restaurant and hospitality industry don’t stay in one place for too long. There are a number of factors that can cause turnover, but for restaurant and hospitality employers it primarily boils down to one truth: the employer needs the employee, but the employee doesn’t need the employer. It’s upon this background where small conflicts and disappointments in the workplace can cause an employee to abruptly quit.

And there’s no getting around it, restaurant and hospitality work is stress-filled. This work can quickly wear down an employee, triggering a fight or flight response. It should be no surprise that often the response is: “It’s not worth the fight. I’ll get the same job in a new place, with new people.”

Attract and Retain Employees in Restaurant and Hospitality Industry

Employers of restaurant and hospitality talent are not helpless. Increased competition for talent within the industry and the pinch of trying to provide high value to customers by keeping costs (i.e. employee wages) low are daunting challenges. However, employers who look for creative ways to recruit, manage, and engage employees can succeed in a tight job market. Here are five creative ways for employers to do just that:

1 Target Your Employee Personas | Support Your Employee Persona

Develop personas of your ideal employees, and then build an employer brand to support them. The persona should not be a description of your current or past employees, and they should answer questions like:

  • What types of problems would the employee solve and how?
  • Why would the employee choose to work at your business?
  • Why would they stay?

If the answers to these questions are “I don’t know”, then there is work to be done in regard to building a work culture and operation that deserves the ideal employee you are seeking. Too often, crappy culture and poor operations scare off  good employees and job seekers. The mediocre employees stay around until it’s too uncomfortable. And the bad employees are likely the ones who power the poor culture and processes.

2 Billboards Where They Make Sense | A Perk That Works

Depending on where you live, billboards are still thriving in the United States. We often see them on the side of highways, perched atop buildings, or uniquely displayed in thriving urban areas. These expensive locations work to bring awareness to large brands and usually support a fully integrated marketing campaign. Don’t post your help wanted sign here!

However, there are many other billboard locations within metropolitan areas or between small towns that are much more affordable… and noticeable to the people you want to notice them. The catch here is that you must successfully achieve the following:

  • Develop the right message and imagery for the billboard
  • Place the billboard in the right location
  • Offer an enticing perk (and easy method) to respond to the advertisement

While all these points are important, having a great perk is key in order to convert a job seeker to an applicant. Here’s an example of a billboard advertisement located in a working class neighborhood of a large metropolitan area–20 miles away from the wealthy suburb in which the hiring restaurant is located.


3 Shorten Your Job Applications | Onboard with Care

How often do you come across a process or resource that is obscenely inefficient, and yet you continue using it because of momentum or tradition? The job application is an often overlooked inefficiency for employers in the restaurant and hospitality industry. It’s a product of the distant past carried forward to today and grossly out of place in an industry and job market where the job applicant possesses nearly all the leverage.

Employers challenged to fill open positions should be trying to make it easier to apply. Yet job seekers are expected to fill out 15-minute apps with short answer questions, provide the address of their high school alma mater, and scrounge around for other non-essential information that will ultimately have no bearing on whether they are hired. It’s no surprise that employers complain about low applicant volume! So here are a few tips to get more applicants with your online job application:

  • Only include the essential questions on your job application. These will likely vary based on the role, location, and type of business, but don’t trick yourself into thinking that every question is essential.
  • Consider breaking your application into two parts. The first part of the application will filter out those who do not meet minimum requirements. The second part of the application–perhaps delivered via text message follow up–will solicit more background and serve to identify the best applicants.
  • Ensure that the application looks and works well on mobile devices. This may be obvious to some, but it’s surprising how many job applications are not mobile-friendly.  And this is important, as 45% of job seekers use a mobile device for their job search–on a daily basis.

A quick, smooth application process is worth nothing if the new hire is greeted by a slow, disorganized onboarding experience. So ideally, the first few weeks of employment should match the expectations created through the hiring process.

4 Shoot Them A Text | Maximize Face Time

In much the same way that employers are clinging to outdated job applications, many are reluctant to move away from phone calls and email in communicating with applicants. While those are still effective channels, they lack the immediateness that text messaging can bring to communication. Receiving and reading all happen at once with text. Add links with the message, and now the applicant immediately knows their application status, next steps, and how to act.

Beyond the practical utility of text messaging, the channel also allows employers to show more personality. Engaging with applicants in a familiar, comfortable way can immediately warm the relationship and set the stage for a more relaxed onboarding experience–that is, if the the onboarding experience matches the tone and feeling created through text recruiting. This means employers must maximize their initial face time with a new hire. Here are a few tips for doing just that:

  • Use video chat or in-person meetings for final candidate interviews.
  • The language used in recruiting should be the same used in onboarding.
  • Do not use text messaging to communicate feelings or sincerity.

While text messaging is great at getting an applicant’s attention, providing them with resources, and communicating the “brass tacks,” it’s not a substitute for face time. Especially when seeking to convey gratitude or appreciation, it’s worth finding the time and opportunity to communicate feelings in person. And when doing so, the new hire should feel as if the person (or people) who recruited them via text is the same person speaking to them in real life.

5 Embrace the Gig Economy | Be the Best Gig In Town

Job seekers have become more comfortable with risk and uncertainty as the gig economy has evolved. This confidence has spilled over to full-time jobs, meaning employees are now more comfortable spending a few months working at one location, only to move to another. Why do they move? The reasons are many and varied, but they might include a job that: pays a bit more; provides a cooler workplace; serves different clientele; is located closer to home or public transportation; or is just, simply, different.

To confront this new mentality, employers can choose to embrace the gig economy and accept the fact that they will be hiring for the same role every 3-6 months. And to the degree that an employer can meet an employee’s needs, the employee may stay longer. Going one step further, the employer can resolve to be the best gig in town by offering a great workplace, competitive pay, and practical benefits like transportation stipends. Here are few ideas for helping to ensure that your new hires dig your gig:

  • Ask job applicants to describe their ideal workplace.
  • Solicit any concerns about the workplace from new hires upfront.
  • When employees leave, ask them why they decided to leave and where they’re going.

Asking questions of applicants and employees regarding their needs is one of the first ways an employer can show that they care. The next step would be to actually meet those needs, although that won’t always be possible. Beyond the impact that this will make in strengthening the employee-employer relationship, discovering the needs of employees will help the employer refine its work culture and protect against “bad fit” hires or early turnover caused by the greener grass down the block.

Hiring Software for the Restaurant and Hospitality Industry

There’s no doubt about it; the restaurant and hospitality industry is in a tough spot. Finding, hiring, and retaining talent is never easy, especially in a tight job market. However, by leveraging technology and making some common sense changes that cater to the job seeker and meet the needs of employees, employers can successfully (and profitably) staff their establishments. Hiring software can support these efforts in several ways, but most importantly it must:

  • Offer integrated text recruiting that allows you to quickly get responses
  • Support two-step applications that allow you to speed up the initial application process
  • Provide insights that help you identify your best hires, so you can hire more like them

The above features will help you differentiate your organization from the competition; however, the groundwork of caring about employees and work culture must be taken care of first. Hiring software is there to help you maintain your focus on the people. This is accomplished by automating much of the hiring process and recording data to provide you with powerful hiring insights.