How Can A Criminal Record Affect Your Job Application?

A criminal record often puts job seekers in a difficult position. Though they may have officially completed their sentences and paid their debts to society, they may find it difficult to get a job with a criminal record. It is, therefore, important for all job seekers with criminal records to understand what a potential employer may find out about them, when a criminal record may prevent them from getting jobs, and how they can maximize their chances of getting the job that they want.
Information a Potential Employer Can Find Out
Most states require public agencies and certain private employers to conduct background checks prior to offering an employee a job. For example, most states require background checks before hiring an employee who has direct conduct with children, the elderly or the disabled. Additional private employers may conduct background checks if they so choose.
When a potential employer conducts a background check they can find out information about past criminal convictions, or plea bargains that result in a criminal record. How far back in time an employer may search a criminal record is a matter of state law. Some states limit the amount of time based on the type of crime and others permit employers to search all past criminal convictions.
A potential employer is not entitled to information that was erased from a criminal record. Criminal information may be erased if, for example, the person was found not guilty, the charges were dismissed, the record was expunged, or the person was a youthful offender.
A Criminal Record Will Not Exclude Convicted Criminals From All Employment
The effect of the information learned by a potential employer depends on what kind of job the convicted criminal seeks and where the job is located.   Many state laws require public agencies to consider how long ago the person was convicted, the crime which was committed, evidence of rehabilitation, and the relationship of the conviction to the job which is sought. While the government cannot put the same restrictions on private employers, most states encourage private employers to follow the same guidelines as government employers.
That said, this weighing of factors described above will not always tilt in the favor of a person with a criminal record. For example, it can be considerably harder to obtain a commercial license, get a job that requires you to operate or sell a firearm, work in childcare, work at an airport or other similar jobs.
Maximizing Your Chances of Getting a Job Even if You Have a Criminal Record
Despite, the difficulties of getting a job with a criminal record, it is not impossible. You can maximize your chances of success by:
·         being truthful on your job application;
·         providing detailed explanations about the circumstances of the crime (if favorable to you) and your rehabilitation efforts; and
·         providing excellent personal and/or professional references from people without criminal records.
It may be harder for a person with a criminal record to get a job but it is not impossible. It is, however, important to be prepared and to understand your rights, your legal responsibilities, and how best to market yourself to your potential employer.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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