Nashville has Decided to Ban the Box

Before you get too excited about your cubic rights, what they mean by “banning the box” that is they will no longer ask people if they have criminal records when taking applications for jobs in the city government.  That check-box will be removed from the form.  I think this is great because it is always good for people to have previous experience — and given the nature of how our government is run these days, criminals would be the most likely cohort to have the necessary skills.

Supposedly, after the initial round of applications, they will then still ask applicants about any record they might have, but I think this policy will last until about the time the first sex offender slips through and becomes a school bus driver.

I think people can get second chances in life and have tried to offer a few along the way.  I have run several businesses over the years and on three occasions we employed people who were ex-cons.  They worked out about as you would imagine.  The guy who was convicted of gambling (I didn’t know they even bothered arresting people for that anymore) was a soft-spoken and good employee.  He was grateful for the opportunity and acted like it.  The guy who had a drug conviction caused trouble and relapsed.  And the last guy had actually robbed a bank.  He worked out OK, but I think he was just waiting for the smoke to clear so he could go dig up what he had hidden.  And in fairness, I probably would not have hired the last two had I been the one making the decisions at the time.

But at the same time the last job I advertised paid $10/hr and we had 100-200 applicants in the first week.  I am not going to deny someone who has done everything right an opportunity just so I can crow about how big-hearted I am.  That would be selfish.  I was shocked at how many of those applicants were recent college graduates.

So how do you get work if you are an ex-con?  You show up.  When I had a lot of work that needed to be done and someone hustled by showing up at my small business looking for work I would give it to them.  And if they did well they would get called back the next time we had too much to do for the usual crew. Eventually, if they were dependable, they would get the next opening on the full time crew.

So if you are looking for work my advice is to not just sit behind a computer and send out applications but to pound the pavement — especially if you have a few spotty things in your past.  Half the key to success is in just showing up at the right time.

And for God’s sake clean up your social media accounts.  When a future employer looks you up they don’t want to see drunken videos of you along with a list of hobbies that includes “street fighting.”  And yes, that actually happened.

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