Candidate Pools & Proactive Recruiting, Sourcing

What Is Open Hiring?

Open hiring, at its core, is hiring individuals without regard to their background. It’s completely open, as the name implies. Open to individuals from all walks of life. Open to people who may have histories that would have excluded them from a more traditional hiring process—histories that may include things like time spent in jail, substance abuse, homelessness, or a lack of work experience. The key is that the hiring is completely open.

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Some employers are embracing this as a way to open the doors to a whole group of often-overlooked individuals. For a lot of roles, experience actually isn’t critical, so an employer can opt to not worry about experience and instead train on the tasks at hand.

This model has been championed by the Greyston Bakery in New York—the company that makes brownie treats for companies like Ben & Jerry’s. They’re still a leader in this hiring model and have launched an Open Hiring Center to help other organizations implement their own version of the practice. This overall model is sometimes called inclusive hiring or fair-chance hiring.

Some of the aspects of open hiring are a bit tougher for some employers to embrace—such as not doing criminal background screening—but that doesn’t mean the practice is without merit or that it can’t be modified a bit, if needed, while still embracing the concept.

There are a lot of reasons employers may want to consider this model, not the least of which is because it opens the door to literally millions of individuals who are looking for work and are available and being excluded from other workplaces. After all, a prior criminal conviction does not necessarily mean someone presents a risk. Someone may have a past conviction as a result of a mistake years ago that presents no risk today and no risk to other employees. (For more on this topic, check out this article: Real Benefits to Hiring Ex-Convicts.)

Besides having a wide open applicant pool, proponents of an open hiring model cite multiple other benefits. For example:

  • Improved retention. Giving people a chance who have been otherwise excluded from being hired at other organizations means you’re more likely to have employees who appreciate the opportunity—and, thus, are less likely to leave.
  • Improved diversity. Employers utilizing this model are more likely to have a diverse workforce and less likely to face discrimination charges.
  • The recruiting process is fast. The employer has a streamlined recruiting process—the lack (or reduction) of interviewing and screening time means time to hire is incredibly fast and efficient. Money saved in the recruiting process can be used in training.
  • The organization is seen as helping the community.

For employers interested in the idea, it’s important to note that open hiring doesn’t necessarily mean that no screening is done at all. Applicants are considered based on their ability to do the job. This means employers can still have the final say in exactly how the process might look at their organization, while still embracing the concept.

This might mean less emphasis on work history and more emphasis on the applicant’s abilities. It might mean more training for new hires. It might mean a probationary period. It might mean the application itself focuses more on the person and how he or she might fit into the organization.

Organizations like Greyston Bakery and others that utilize this concept promote the idea that many people can thrive with the right support. They focus on offering benefits that are more useful for people who may have been previously marginalized. For example, benefits like counseling, child care, or help with transportation could be particularly useful.

While these are just some basic examples, employers considering this model should note that implementing these types of benefits may also be useful for making the program successful.