Insights From Our Editors

Why Your Next Great Employee Could Be Someone You Currently Wouldn’t Think of Hiring

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

Sept. 21, 2022

Homelessness, criminal record, and other aspects of a person’s past, can make employers see them as ineligible for employment. Here is why you should rethink that policy, and how doing so can bring you productive employees in a tight job market.

While we are in a time where it is difficult to hire new team members, there is a trend in the business world to hire people who in previous years would have been overlooked – ex-felons.  We became aware of this while taking a walking food tour. One of the restaurants we visited was Hot Chicken Takeover (HCT). We were intrigued by the levels of spice they offered and how they marketed the choices.

                              Hot Chicken Takeover Menu | Hot Chicken Takeover

But, we were even more intrigued by their hiring approach. This is how they talk about hiring on their website.

Means People | Hot Chicken Takeover

We were impressed how HCT used their hiring philosophy as both a way to get new team members, but also as a marketing device.  Columbus, Ohio, has four HCT locations. We’ve been to two of the four. At each location we interviewed several ex-felon employees and received the same story from each of them. They were happy employees who were grateful to have a job and wanted the company to succeed in the marketplace. Their work ethic appeared excellent.

As we explored this concept further, we found that hiring people with a questionable past is definitely a trend.  Here are some of the companies that are following the same hiring philosophy with respect to felons.i

There are many other companies in other industries that follow the same hiring policies. These include the following industries:

  • Wellness and Healthcare
  • U.S. Government
  • Manufacturing
  • Delivery Services
  • Retail
  • Automotive & Car Repair Services
  • Food Packaging

What are the benefits of hiring ex-felons?

  • Because it is hard for ex-felons to get a job, ex-felons often become the best employees because they do not want to lose their job. They are highly motivated to separate themselves from their previous poor choices, show people how they have turned over a new leaf, and are thankful for the opportunity the employer is giving them.
  • Ex-felons, during their imprisonment, often receive education or training that other applicants do not have.
  • The U.S. government’s Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program pays tax credits for hiring ex-felons.
  • There are positive marketing aspects – as we felt when we visited HCT. Rather than keeping this hiring philosophy hidden, run the idea that you are a “fair chance employer” up the flagpole and celebrate the fact. Some people make the choice of where they do business based upon their perception of how you are helping the community at large.

Ban the Box
All ban-the-box laws prohibit employers from asking applicants about criminal history on an initial job application. Some ban the box laws require employers to wait until after they have conducted an interview or made a conditional offer of employment before asking about criminal history. Check with your practice attorney to find out what your local requirements are.i

What Should You Do?
We are not suggesting you should replace all your current employees with ex-felons. We are asking that you consider that there may be a population of people who might be helpful when you are looking to replace team members or expand your team.

i. Companies That Hire Felons – Updated List – Felons Jobs (
ii. ban the box law – Search (

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