5 Tips for Getting a Job When You Have a Criminal Record

Searching for a job can be an intimidating prospect even under the best of circumstances. When you have a criminal record, it can seem like an even more daunting task. If you have a criminal record and haven’t found success in your job hunt, read ahead for some tips that might help you overcome this obstacle and finally land a great job.

Learn About Your Rights

Before you begin applying, find out what details of your criminal record will show up on a background check. Depending on your age at the time of conviction or the number of years that have elapsed since, you may be able to get your record expunged or sealed. Laws about what information employers can gain access to vary by state. Some may only allow employee background checks that go back five years, so look into your state’s rules. It is helpful to know what the employer will see when they run a background check so you know how to handle the situation when you apply for the job or interview with them.

Use Personal Contacts

Ask your family or friends if they know of any available job openings. If you have a personal connection to someone who already works for a company, they can vouch for your trustworthiness, and employers will feel better about any potential misgivings. If you don’t know anyone in the industry you’re interested in, seek out related professional organizations and build a network of contacts from there. Networking can be a huge help to any job seekers, and especially to those with a criminal background. An employer is more likely to hire you if they have received a recommendation from a trusted friend, family member or colleague. If you’re just another stranger applying for the job, your record will work against you and your less likely to get hired. Employee background checks don’t only include a check of criminal records—employers will also be looking at your educational background, financial background, and previous employment. With a high recommendation, these other components of the background check can out
shine the fact that you have a criminal record.

Think Realistically

Some criminal convictions are going to make it difficult to gain employment in certain job areas. For example, if you’ve been convicted of stealing money, applying for a job where you handle currency regularly may not be your best bet. So be realistic about the jobs you can apply for. Additionally, you may have gaps in your work history that are more of a problem than your actual criminal conviction. So you may need to start in a small, lower paying job to build up a record as a reliable worker. If you aim too high at the beginning, you’ll be disappointed. If you realize that you might have to start several levels below your ideal job and work your way up, it will make the process much easier. If you are willing to do these jobs, an employer will appreciate your humility and willingness to work your way up.

If They Ask, Be Honest

During the job interview, the interviewer may ask you about gaps in your work history or criminal convictions. It’s important to be up front about it rather than have them find out through the background check. Many employers won’t specifically rule you out because of a criminal record, but if you lie them, they will be much less likely to give you an opportunity with their company. Your honesty about your record is key if you want to start off on a good note with the employer. Clearing the air before any pre-employment checks will help them to form a good opinion of you as opposed to basing their opinion solely off the background check. Acting open and comfortable about the fact that you have a criminal record will put the employer at ease, and they won’t be shocked when it comes through on the background check.

Don’t Give Too Many Details

If an interviewer asks about your criminal record, it’s best to be direct but brief. Tell them that the issues which lead to your conviction aren’t a problem anymore, and focus on the positive ways you can contribute to their business. As before mentioned, honesty is key. The point isn’t to hide anything, but rather to dwell on your positive attributes as opposed to your negative past. By being honest and brief, you can tell the employer what they need to know. No matter what your criminal record entails, giving too many details about the incident or situation will be overwhelming for the employer. Touch on the fact that you have a criminal record, but don’t feel the need to divulge all the messy details, or to justify yourself to the employer. If you acknowledge the record, the employer will appreciate your honesty, but they probably aren’t interested in hearing your life story.

It can be discouraging to try and re-enter the work force when you have a criminal record. Many people are judgmental and having a criminal record really hurts your chances of getting a job. You’ll have to put in extra effort to get a job you will be happy with, but if you are prepared for applications and interviews, the employer will be impressed. Don’t discount the power of honesty, as well as networking. Use every possible advantage in order to get your foot in the door, and then rely on your skills and work ethic to help convince the employer that you are the right fit for the job.

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