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I Have a Criminal Record: Will I Get a Job?

People make mistakes; having any kind of criminal past does not always lead to a jobless future, even though hope seems to diminish for this population once they feel disowned and disregarded by society. Finding a job is reliant upon many factors that include one’s personality, dedication, reliability, and attitude. Criminal past does not yield automatic denial from all employers, but it is important to understand a company’s basis for not wanting to risk hiring individuals with criminal histories, particularly when the job market is so competitive. Unfortunately individuals with criminal records must explain to willing employers the reason for past behaviors and convey that there is no potential for concern in the future. Individuals with criminal records often worry about finding a job; getting back to work is not always simple, but there are important things to consider that will ensure you give yourself the best possible opportunities.

Look into your current state laws

Returning to life after a criminal incident is typically more challenging than it is for the average job seeker. Specific state’s laws help guide how employers question individuals about their criminal records. Sometimes it is lawful for companies to ask about arrests alone, without convictions. Other states can only ask about incidences that occurred in a designated, recent timeframe. It is important that you look into what your current state laws are surrounding employees and applicant rights and the boundaries that employers must stay within in order to give each applicant a fair chance.

Impress the employer

It is also important to make sure you initially impress the employer, more so than the average applicant. Make sure you dress appropriately and professionally and take time to prepare for interviews adequately. Looking online for sample questionnaires that are commonly asked in interviews is a good way to familiarize yourself with the atmosphere of a professional interview and help you to prepare by thinking about your values, morals, and strengths that will benefit the specific company and/or position that you are applying for. Being outwardly knowledgeable about whatever business you are looking to work in is a good way to stand out of the crowd. Be sure to have a few questions prepared for the interviewer—this shows your level of interest in the position and willingness to grow within the company.

Give concise answers

Having a criminal past adds a unique element to interviews. The interviewer may ask you about your criminal record, but you are otherwise not obligated to speak about your criminal past. Giving concise answers that are not elaborate is a good way to limit the amount you speak about the incident, but you should not avoid asking questions about your past as you are legally obligated to if asked by an employer; they have the right to know pertinent information about who they are hiring. Do not make excuses for past behavior, but own the choices you made and take responsibility for the ramifications of your actions. It is commendable and endearing when individuals can admit fault and take ownership of their choices—you should be sure to convey to the employer how you have changed, what the experience caused you to learn, and how you now apply it to your life—in as few words as possible (you don’t want the whole interview to revolve around your criminal past).

Hiring Perfect Candidate


As previously mentioned people make mistakes. Being “only human” is a phrase for a reason—every single individual has made choices in their life that they would change if they could time travel. Having a criminal past does not mean that you are faulty, damaged, or incapable; it simply means that you have a unique challenge that others may not have. Focusing on your strengths is incredibly important to your self-esteem and ability in finding a job in a timely manner; however, it is also critical to not ignore your shortcomings. No one is perfect, and therefore employers look for both positive attributes in addition to humility. While it is important to remain positive in your job search, it would be beneficial to make sure you set reasonable goals for yourself. Preparing for your job search is crucial to the success of the outcome; set yourself up for the opportunity you deserve.

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Gavin Muirhead

Gavin Muirhead has been involved in developing products for background checks and improving online experiences in the background screening industry since 2012. He is the lead author and editor of Affordable Background Checks.