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How To Find A Job With A Criminal Record


In today’s job market, finding employment can be a difficult, lengthy, and extremely competitive process. As of May 2013, the median unemployment duration in the United States was just over 17 weeks. On average, 118 people apply for any given job opening, with only twenty-percent making it to an interview.

Related: How To Prepare Yourself For A Background Check

For those with criminal records – about 65 million Americans according to some estimates – the outlook is even less promising. While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that “a person cannot be denied employment based on a criminal record alone,” a criminal history undoubtable has a major impact on the hiring process for many businesses.

According to a Princeton study, job applicants with a criminal conviction are nearly 50 percent less likely to be called back or receive a job offer. In fact, many large companies have blanket no-hire policies (the legality of which is a different post altogether).

So, when you’re trying to find a job with a criminal record, what are your options?

Flat Out Lie

Lying on your application may get you an interview. However, even if you blow your potential employer away, this one will probably come back to haunt you. Depending on where you look, statistics show between 73 and 80 percent of employers run criminal background checks on all potential employees. If your record wasn’t a deal breaker before, getting caught lying about it almost certainly will be.

Disclose Your Record And Hope For The Best

When applying for jobs, answer all question about criminal chargers and convictions on applications and in interviews truthfully. As painful as it may be, honesty truly is the best policy. It may take you longer to find a job, but you won’t have the rug yanked out from under you in the event of a surprise background check.

How To Find A Job With A Criminal Record

If you truly want to move forward with your life and remove potential barriers from your career path, here are a few steps you can take:

Request A Copy Of Your Criminal History Record

If there are mistakes or incorrect information on your record, you may be able to submit a challenge request to the FBI or the respective state repository. In many cases, companies that provide criminal background screenings provide inaccurate information. This can be anything from mismatching names or omitting crucial information to reporting a misdemeanor as a felony.

Seek To Expunge Or Seal Records

Expungement and sealing of records are both procedures that prevent or limit access to an individual’s arrest or criminal court records. For job seekers, this can be extremely helpful as expunged or sealed records are not accessible to employers. In certain cases, you may be able to legally answer ‘no’ to the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

However, each state has it’s own guidelines and record sealing laws and not all offenses are eligible for expungement. Some states do not allow expungement at all. You can find out where you stand by checking with your county’s criminal court or contacting an attorney and asking about expungement eligibility and procedure.

Search Openings At Companies That Offer Second Chances

Not all companies will automatically throw out your application. has compiled a list of companies that regularly welcome new hires with checkered pasts. In addition, many states and organizations offer programs that can help you in your job search.

Related Posts

What Happens If You Lie On Your Job Application?
Can I Get A Job Without A Background Check?
6 Ways To Find Your Digital Dirt Before Your Employer


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Brian Beltz

Brian Beltz writes and coordinates outreach for Expungement USA in Arizona.


    • Teddy Burriss (@TLBurriss)

      Quilla – The same answer I gave before applies. You will not get a job unless you are willing to have a conversation and get past both areas that you could be discriminated against. No Experience & a criminal record.

      Don’t waste time filling out applications and mailing out resumes. Stop asking hiring managers for a job. Instead, spend more time meeting and getting to know people who once they get to be able to trust you they will suggest ideas of employment that you don’t know exists.

      Good luck – It works if you’re wiling to do the work.

  1. I don’t get it i am a convicted felon 25years and still today i have to pay the price i think that is so wrong i was not in jail all they gave me was 18 mts probation i could find a job with no problem before now so hard why i think if gay people can get married we shold have some rights too that is just an example sorry i like all people

  2. Good advice generally but expungement means nothing in today’s world – even if you have had a conviction expunged it will show up on any internet search and in most background checks too. Saying no to the conviction question on the application and then having it show up on the net is seen as lying by most employers. If you have had a conviction expunged you should say yes to the conviction question and then add conviction expunged so that employer knows that you are not trying to hide the conviction.

  3. As I mentioned on LinkedIn, doing some meaningful volunteer work can go a long way in adding substance to your resume. You’ve paid your dues to society, now you can give back to a cause that is close to your heart. People whose opinions mean something, can provide valuable character and work references, IF you do a good job. I believe in second chances, this is a great way to make that happen.

    • Volunteering is a great start. Doing whatever you can to show that you are not your criminal record can go a long way. As long as you apply and interview in the right places. All the goodwill in the world can’t help if some is dead set on not hiring anyone with a record. However, I do feel that more and more employers are coming around and realizing that people with a criminal history can still be effective employees.

  4. Teddy Burriss (@TLBurriss)

    Often trying to hide the truth won’t work either. Furthermore, the cost of sealing ro expunging a criminal record can be far more than most individuals can afford.

    I coach my clients that the best way to overcome the discrimination related to a criminal record is a good conversation with a good person. This takes time and requires honesty and a belief in yourself that your criminal record is not a detriment to your future value to an employer. You’re not likely to overcome this discrimination issue with the first conversation or the second, however stay true to be honest and up front. In the long run, this will be your best option for life.

    Bottom line – have a good open conversation with the right good person and you can overcome this issue and find that next great career step.

    • Expungement is a great option in certain cases, but it really depends on which jurisdiction you are in and the details surrounding your arrest or conviction. I completely agree that honesty and open communication is best for your long term career prospects. Lying or half truths will eventually catch up to you and then you’ll have to start all over.

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