Professor Urges Hiring Managers to Take Second Look at Former Prisoners

The Charger Bulletin

By Karen Grava

Director of Media Relations

Marilyn Kendrix ’97 EMBA, ’00 M.A., an adjunct professor of psychology and a veteran human resources and organizational development professional in the telecommunication industry, believes managers should consider hiring former prisoners who were convicted of nonviolent crimes.

She is committed to building awareness about the poverty caused by the mass incarceration that has occurred during the last 35 years. Many of the individuals – often minority males – who landed in prison for nonviolent crimes are unable to find work once they are released from prison. The result, she said, is poverty for those individuals.

“Human resources professionals have an opportunity to act in a socially responsible manner and reduce poverty in their communities by questioning the barriers to employment experienced by applicants who served time for minor offenses,” she says.

She recently presented a talk titled “Turning Away Talent: Implications of Not Considering Applicants with Minor Offenses on their Record” as part of a program sponsored by the UNH student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.

Stuart Sidle, chair of the UNH psychology and sociology department, director of the industrial-organizational psychology graduate programs and faculty advisor to the SHRM chapter at UNH, said job application processes that weed out ex-offenders make it very difficult for someone who was convicted of a minor offense to land a job interview.

“And even if they make it to the interview process, interviewers are often biased,” he said. “Research indicates that interviewers usually make up their mind about a job candidate in the first several minutes of the interview and then spend the rest of the time confirming their initial opinion. Consequently, it can be very difficult for an ex-offender to succeed in an interview when the hiring manager already has a negative impression.”

Sidle said the presentation helped human resources managers gain awareness of a double standard in society. “Would we expect companies to not interview or hire our own children or friends for a minor offense committed in early adulthood?” Sidle says. “On the other hand, how would we view a stranger who has a minor offense on their record? I think professor Kendrix helped us see that we have double standards and that this double standard hurts our most vulnerable communities in the New Haven area.”