Can I Get Hired with a Criminal Record?

Posted September 23, 2014 by
Michael Klazema

Michael Klazema

One of the first questions that people with criminal records ask as they head out into the job market in search of employment is about whether or not their search is even worth it. It’s a valid query: for years, employers have blacklisted ex-convicts and even misdemeanor criminals simply for having criminal offenses on record. Even if you have served your time for a crime and are working hard to rebuild your life, a criminal record can follow you around for your whole life and force you to keep paying for your mistakes. Quite simply, most employers aren’t willing to take a risk on people with criminal history, whether because they are worried for their safety (or the safety of their customers or workers) or because they just look down upon those who have committed crimes in the past.

Still, getting hired with a criminal record is possible if you know which steps to take and how to conduct yourself throughout the interview process. Follow the steps below to take control over your life and get yourself back to a respectable position of employment.

Look into expunging your convictions: Older or less severe criminal offenses can be removed from your record in some parts of the country. Look into your state’s policies for expungement: if you are eligible, figure out how to go about the process. You’ll have to do a lot of paperwork and make a few court appearances, but it will be worth it: you will no longer have to answer “yes” to the criminal conviction question on job applications, and your offense will not even come up on background check reports.

Move to an area with “ban the box” policies: If you are trying to rehabilitate your life, then you might find that job application questions about criminal history are your biggest roadblock. Luckily, many parts of the country are adopting “ban the box” policies that mandate the removal of these questions from job applications, and even delay the use of background checks until after an offer of employment has been made. With “ban the box” policies on your side, you will be able to make a case for yourself as a competitive applicant before your potential employer learns of your criminal history. It’s not a guarantee of a job, but it will help you to level the playing field a bit.

Be honest: If you don’t live in an area where “ban the box” is in effect, and if you can’t move to an area where such policies are the norm, you will likely have to face the criminal history question on every application you fill out. After submitting two-dozen of these applications without a single response, you will likely feel a desperate temptation to lie on the application and answer “no,” just so you aren’t instantly getting your application thrown in the rejection pile. Resist the temptation. Chances are that, eventually, you will find an employer who is willing to give you the benefit of the doubt despite your criminal history. There is almost a zero percent chance, however, that the same employer will hire you if you aren’t honest, and since virtually all companies these days run background checks, you can bet that your criminal history will come out eventually. If you lie about it, you won’t get anywhere.

Know your rights: Employers are bound by certain regulations and guidelines that dictate how they can and cannot use an applicant’s criminal history to make employment decisions. Knowing your rights based on these laws can help you to fight discrimination. For instance, employers can’t reject your application based on an arrest report without a conviction, and they have to explain, in writing, any decisions they make based on a criminal background check report – as well as furnish you with a copy of that report.

Know which jobs you will not be hired for: Just as organizations like the FCRA (Federal Credit Reporting Act) and the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) somewhat limit how employers can use criminal history information, they also make certain allowances. For instance, employers have the right to reject an applicant whose criminal history directly relates to the job in question. A person with a history of drunk driving will never be hired for a position that involves the operation of a motor vehicle, while a known pedophile will be kept far away from jobs involving children. Knowing which positions or industries your criminal history will disqualify you from can save you a lot of time and help you focus on a more likely career option.

Reach out to friends or family members for help: They say that, in today’s competitive job market, it’s not what you know, but who you know. That holds especially true if you are losing job opportunities left and right because of your criminal history. So reach out to a friend or family member and see if they know of anyone who is hiring. Maybe one of them will be able to give you a job, or at least give you a recommendation that helps you get your foot in the door somewhere. Either way, never be ashamed of asking for help.

All of the above steps can help you get a job in spite of a criminal record, but the most important thing to remember is to not give up. Too often, ex-convicts resort to their old criminal ways when they can’t find a job. Don’t fall into that trap. By following the above steps, staying vigilant, and being friendly and thoughtful in any job interviews you land, you will eventually be able to earn the employment opportunity you are looking for. If you go back to a life of crime, the only thing you will earn is another prison sentence. Getting hired with a criminal record is a difficult hurdle, but it certainly isn’t impossible, and by staying positive, seeking help where you can, and being willing to wait for honest employment, you will find your feet.

About the author:

Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted in Career Advice for Job Seekers | Tagged Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,