Having marks on your criminal record can certainly have an impact when you are applying or interviewing for a new job. Employers may be less likely to hire applicants with a criminal record. However, much depends on the nature of the crime, how much time has passed since conviction, and how you present the information to potential employers. In this post, we share some general tips for getting a job when you have a criminal record.
Do I have to disclose my criminal record to potential employers?
Unless the court has sealed or expunged your record, you are generally required to tell employers about your record. You certainly do not want to lie if a potential employer asks about it. If and when the employer pulls your record and realizes you falsified information, the employer is very likely to pass on your candidacy for the job.
When the interviewer asks you about your record, be honest about what happened without over sharing. Try to be succinct and then quickly move on to another topic. On the flipside, do not make too light of any crimes on your record. Rather, acknowledge your actions, express that you learned your lesson, and share how your life has improved since that rocky time.
For instance, let’s say your employer asks you if a court has ever convicted you of a crime. You may answer with something like, “Other than a DUI I got during my college days, no sir. I made a bad decision after a Super Bowl party, and I sure did pay for it and I have had a clean record since. I never drink and drive and often offer to be the designated driver when my friends and I go out.”
Then, steer the conversation to the positives you bring to the table and why you would be an asset to the company.
Note: You may not need to disclose your criminal history if it is a misdemeanor. For example, if the application asks if a court has convicted you of a felony, you can truthfully answer that it has not.
Will my record impede my job opportunities?
In some fields, having a criminal record could indeed thwart your opportunities. For instance, you may be unable to get a job as a teacher or a truck driver if you have DUIs on your record.
However, employers in other fields may not give it too much weight. A restaurant owner is probably more concerned that you will dutifully show up to work every day, and not so much about a misdemeanor on your record. In fact, many employers can overlook non-violent, non-fraud-related offenses, particularly if they happened well in the past.
The best things you can do to improve your chances of nailing the job are to mentally rehearse a short spiel on how you will answer any questions about your record, emphasize your strengths, go in looking professional, and put your best foot forward.