Job Searching When You Have a Criminal Record

If we took a poll among the readers of our career blog, we’d probably find more than a few with career regrets or college day antics they wish they could take back.  While many of these rise to a level of no more than cringe-worthy, some of us may have ended up on the wrong side of the law or the backseat of a police cruiser as a result of our regrettable actions.  As a younger version of ourselves, the only consequence we worried about was our parents’ frowns of disapproval. As an older, wiser and job-seeking adult, however, having a criminal record can create barriers to great jobs and successful careers.

If you find yourself in the history of minor crime boat don’t despair.  We’ve got a few pointers for job searching when you have a criminal record that may help overcome obstacles and will definitely get you started on the right foot towards scoring a great job.

Answer the Question Honestly

While not every employer performs background checks or cares about criminal records, many do and in fact, ask about any such issues as part of the application process.  The trick here is to answer openly and honestly. While many applications have elective fields, leaving the “criminal history” section blank only to have a “surprise” pop up on your background check or in a question during the interview process can submarine an otherwise successful interview.  Likewise, lying outright on your application is a sure fire way to employment-related disaster.

Read the questions on this topic carefully.  Some employers want to know about all arrests while others only care about actual convictions.  In addition, minor, non-violent misdemeanors are often irrelevant when an employer is only inquiring about felony issues.  Finally, many employers only look back a certain number of years meaning your childhood transgression may be out of scope. Be sure that you fully understand the facts of your case and carefully and deliberately complete the application supplying only the information requested.

Know Your Rights

If you have a criminal record of arrest or conviction it’s a good idea to brush up on your rights under the law when it comes to employment before applying for a new position.  Some states limit an employer’s ability to question for minor offenses or convictions that have been erased from your record over time. Additionally, many states offer the ability to eliminate items from your publicly available criminal record after a period of years, community service or participation in prescribed rehabilitation programs.  Start with your state’s Department of Labor office and consider speaking to a reputable criminal record to fully understand your options and what may or may not come back to haunt you.

Take Responsibility

If you have to disclose a conviction or arrest, it’s best to avoid beating around the bush.  Practice on trusted family or friends how to answer questions on the topic. You should accept responsibility for your actions and have an explanation for how you and your behaviors have changed since your conviction.  If you’ve disclosed your background on the application or will have to disclose as part of a background check, be forthright about addressing the situation at the outset of your job interview. After brief introductions, try to “clear the air” or “be candid” by bringing up the topic first and foremost.  Chances are if the employer was still willing to interview you after seeing the information your additional honesty in addressing the topic will score points and help overcome any lingering doubts.

Choose Potential Jobs Wisely

Despite the length of time, type of rehabilitation, or expressions of regret, some jobs just aren’t going to be interested in hiring someone with any kind of criminal records.  Sensitive jobs in the education or legal fields may even have limitations on the ability to hire those with criminal records. Think outside the box when it comes to positions for which to apply.  Entry-level jobs are often more lenient when it comes to transgressions.  There may also be local resources that help those with criminal records connect with employers who employ those with blemishes on their resumes.  Last but not least, be sure to take our previous advice and look into programs and laws that may help rehabilitate your criminal history, eliminating any room for worry when it comes to obtaining future employment.

Have you had had luck finding a new position with a criminal blemish in your CV?  Drop us a line in the comments with other helpful suggestions and they just may be incorporated into our next update.

Article Updated from the Original on August 1, 2018