5 Strategies That Can Help You Find a Job With Less Than Perfect Arrest Record

bckchk_34c“Never, Never, Never Give Up”, Sir Winston Churchill

   The job search is stressful enough when you don’t have a arrest record. If you’ve been in prison or even if you’ve just had a minor scrape with the law, you may find that employers will be reluctant to hire you.

   Why are background checks so popular? The answer to that question is unpleasantly straightforward; in short, background checks work because they are so cheap and easy to do. They give the internet a permanent memory.. Anybody can do them and anybody can clamber on to a moral high horse. They create a justifiable naughtiness that empowers the searcher and makes him feel important.

   Even in everyday things like dating, according to a survey from Pew Research, 41% of 18- to 29-year-olds use online searches to find out more about a potential date. Long gone is the era when privacy was taken for granted. More people do public record searches than they are ready to admit.

   However, it is true that when one has paid his dues to society, he acquired a right to move on with a fresh start. Yet, that new life can seem to be anywhere, except within one’s reach.

5 strategies that can help you:


   You can’t control what an employer does, but you can control how you conduct yourself and how you conduct your job search. Be persistent, and you’ll be able to find a job even if you have a criminal record.

  • Tip #1: Know your rights. In some cases, you don’t have to tell a potential employer about your history. Such cases may include:

    • When an arrest is not currently pending or doesn’t result in a conviction
    • You’re going through a pre-trial adjudication for an offense that isn’t criminal by statute
    • A minor drug offense occurred, and a certain number of years have passed since the conviction
    • You’ve erased your offense by obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation or a similar document
  • Tip #2: Have your records expunged. You were convicted by a juvenile court and you are now an adult. You may need to have your juvenile records sealed or expunged; even if you committed an offense as an adult, you can still try this. Ask your attorney, public defender or your parole/probation officer whether you may be able to get the offense removed from your record so that you can legally and ethically answer “no” to conviction questions.

  • Tip #3: Don’t Get Screened-Out. An effective strategy is to avoid getting screened-out in the first place, then grab a chance to prove that you are the best choice. This is because much of the hiring process is spent throwing people in the trash. Only when an employer has their top 3-10 candidates do they focus on who they want. Often, job seekers focus too much on proving their value and not enough on avoiding getting screened-out. This is especially true for people with barriers, such as felony convictions.

       Help yourself by being seen as a person before you are seen as a felon, by avoiding the application as long as possible in lieu of phone or in-person interactions, or even a good resume or point-by-point letter.

  • Tip #4: People with felonies do work!  They succeed and lead in the workforce, and own their own companies. However, attitude is everything. The candidate’s fear of failure, judgment or being found out is powerful. Until the candidate believes someone will hire them, much of our efforts are fruitless. To quickly decrease fear and increase confidence, one needs to talk with others with similar felonies that are succeeding. Then, they need to craft a good, honest answer to eliminate (or dramatically reduce) the employer’s concerns and share how the gain is worth the risk.

  • Tip #5: Employers need to know! When an employer doesn’t ask about the candidate’s criminal history and offers them a job, should the candidate bring it up? Yes, but timing is vital! The employer has a right to know and will feel deceived if they find out later (though they never asked!). Many people have lost jobs after a successful probation or upon promotion, when a background check is done. Such a setback!

    From the beginning, candidates must answer honestly when asked, but they should strategize so it doesn’t come up until the employer is sold on their qualifications. When offered a job before the felony comes up, they should accept, express their joy and give the employer a chance to clarify the issue. For example:

    “I’m pleased to accept your offer and I look forward to officially joining your team.

    ~ I also want to say that you didn’t ask about something I learned the hard way that resulted in…

    – OR –

    ~ You’ll note on my application that I have learned some things the hard way and had some…

    … contact with the criminal justice system. I don’t want anything to stop me from growing with the company, so I want to be sure your questions are answered upfront.”

Good luck with your job search and don’t forget what Sir Winston Churchill said: “Never, never, never give up”.





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