An essential part of my work as Indeed’s SVP of Environmental, Social and Governance is breaking down bias and barriers in the hiring process. For me, it’s not just a corporate responsibility — it’s personal.

I’ve been working since I was 14, sometimes two jobs at a time. I never had an internship; I began my career in operations roles at startups during the first dot-com bubble. But when that bubble burst, I was laid off for the first time in my life. I was jobless for six months, despite my best efforts to find a new position. I had to move back in with my parents. I couldn’t sustain myself and my son on my own, and I was ashamed.

Why was it so difficult for someone with skills and experience like mine to successfully find employment? I was turned down over and over again because I don’t have a college degree.

When I finally did land a job (thanks to a friend), I went from making $90,000 a year to $11.75 an hour. This is why making work more accessible and equitable is so important to me. 

I understand what it’s like to face barriers to employment, to be evaluated on credentials versus skill and to feel like the world of work has left me behind. If I’ve felt this way, imagine how many millions of talented job seekers are out there who, just like me, have been underappreciated, underestimated and overlooked because they can’t check the right box on a job application. 

Imagine how much untapped talent your company is missing out on.

The World of Work Is Broken for Many. But We Can Fix It.

New approaches to recruiting are a necessity in today’s volatile talent landscape. Employer demand for workers is going strong, with employers still “hoarding workers” in the face of rising layoffs and general unease about an impending global recession. Voluntary resignations remain high, with one in five workers planning to quit by the end of this year. 

Recent Indeed Hiring Lab data shows job postings on the site are up nearly 50% from their pre-pandemic baseline, with quit rates up 16%. Meanwhile, job seekers and consumers alike are gravitating to companies and brands that not only support but create actionable change. In this environment, recruiting strategies that were once “good enough” are now looking threadbare and tired. 

This is the moment to build a future of better work for everyone by hiring outside the box. Where some companies will continue to feel the labor market crunch, others will seize this opportunity to adapt and grow. Organizations that thrive will widen their talent pools by welcoming untapped talent who have historically faced barriers to employment.

Here are three ways to break down some common barriers — not only for those without post-secondary degrees, but also for people with criminal records and people with disabilities — in order to fuel business growth and build a future of better work for all.

1. Promote skills-based hiring

Nearly two-thirds of people in the U.S. age 25 and older do not have a bachelor’s degree or higher, yet the unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma is 77% higher than for people with a bachelor’s degree. Even in a low-unemployment economy where demand for workers is high, it’s clear that many U.S. organizations still overlook candidates with the right skills and experience simply because they don’t meet educational requirements. 

With skills-based hiring, job applicants are assessed based on their competency, abilities and proven performance, not just degrees. This approach not only offers opportunities for a number of qualified workers who need jobs but it also provides employers with a much wider pool of eager, trainable talent with transferable skills and backgrounds.

For example, an experienced barista with a welcoming personality and an entrepreneurial spirit, but no college degree, might have most of the necessary skills needed for a corporate sales role. Unfortunately, many screening systems wouldn’t flag this type of job seeker as a top candidate. Why are we starving our organizations of capable workers, especially when it remains difficult to fill positions? With a skills-based hiring approach, we can change that.

2. Embrace fair chance hiring

Fair chance hiring is centered on the principle that every job seeker has the right to be considered for any role for which they’re qualified. Unfortunately, many who have been impacted by the justice system are not granted that equal opportunity.

Even a misdemeanor or an arrest without a conviction can create lifelong barriers to employment — and 77 million people in the U.S. have some type of criminal record. Over 60% of justice-impacted people suffer from long-term unemployment. For formerly incarcerated individuals specifically, the unemployment rate is estimated at 27%, many times more than that of the general population — even compared to the Great Depression. In addition, mass incarceration disproportionately impacts communities of color, as well as LGBTQ+ individuals and those with a history of mental illness.

The numbers also show that the justice-impacted are eager for employment. The share of job searches on Indeed using terms like “no background check” and “fair chance hiring” have risen 45% since May 2021. Think of all the candidates you’re overlooking by not including these terms in your job descriptions. 

It’s not just about the need to offer equal access to employment — it’s about what this talent group has to offer. Employers that embrace fair chance hiring benefit from:

  • Reduced turnover. Workers with criminal records are statistically no more likely than workers with no records to be fired for misconduct in many cases. They exhibit higher retention rates and are less likely to quit, saving on hiring costs. 
  • Reliable performance. Research from the Society of Human Resource Management found that 85% of HR professionals said workers with criminal backgrounds perform “about the same or better than” other workers.
  • Positive impact. Earning a salary, being part of a team, gaining accountability and getting a chance to make a difference — all these factors promote pride and self-esteem, reducing recidivism and benefiting individuals, organizations and society.

The good news: Indeed Hiring Lab data reveals a growing trend toward fair chance hiring: Between May 2019 and May 2022, job postings on Indeed featuring fair chance employment policies grew by more than 30%.

An Indeed-sponsored survey even showed employees wanted their employers to engage in fair-chance hiring practices too.

3. Support workplace accessibility

As activist Keely Cat-Wells said at a recent Indeed-hosted lunch and learn, disability is part of the human experience: one in four Americans live with some type of disability. Many will experience a temporary or long-term disability at some point, or know or care for someone who has. Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act became law 32 years ago, these job seekers still face barriers to employment. Across all ages and education levels, people with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed than their peers. Of the employment-age population in 2021, around 31% of people with a disability were employed compared to nearly 73% of those without a disability.

Expanding accessibility in the workplace and to employment uncovers a rich source of highly skilled and largely untapped talent that most businesses are overlooking. With technological advancements, as well as changing societal norms and workplace expectations, this is more easily accomplished than ever before. 

The pandemic revealed that people can work from home and be fully participating team members, increasing acceptance for remote and hybrid work policies. Meanwhile, new technologies, such as automatic transcripts and closed captioning on video conferencing platforms, are addressing the workplace needs of those with sight and hearing challenges. In addition, application designers and web developers are increasingly delivering products that are fully accessible to screen readers and allow alt text, thanks to legislation such as the ADA.

By reframing our approach and rethinking what’s possible, we can cast a wider net and expand our talent pool — making the labor market more accessible, one job at a time.

Image is split with text on one side and an image on the other. On the left side, a light grey background with blue and black text says 'Talent is universal'. On the right side, a woman wearing gray pants and a light blue top, holding a book, and sitting in a wheelchair with text overlay that says "Opportunity is not."

The Future of Better Work Starts With Us

In this moment, everyone has a unique opportunity to rebuild a world where work is equitable, job seekers facing barriers can find better work and everyone has equal opportunity to find jobs they love. That’s why, at Indeed, we’re committed to helping 30 million people globally who face employment barriers find jobs by the year 2030. 

But we can’t do it alone. 

Join us in rebuilding the future of work by tapping into untapped talent. Together, we can break down bias and barriers to employment and pave the way for a more equitable world of work.