Need a Job? 8 Things to Do if You Have a Criminal Record

Job hunting is stressful and could be more difficult if you have a criminal record. Most employers usually demand a background check, so even if you lie about your past, their investigator will uncover it for them.

Meanwhile, many people are in this same predicament if you are wondering if you are alone. For instance, approximately 1 in 3 adults in America have a criminal record.

Here are some of the things you can do you boost your chance of landing a job despite your criminal record;

1. Do a background check on yourself

Sometimes, there are errors in reports submitted to prospective employers by firms hired for background checks. To correct this, hire a reputable firm to run a criminal background on you.

There have been instances where names are mismatched, especially if they are similar. They may also report an arrest without noting there were no charges filed. It may also contain sealed or expunged information; in some cases, a single charge may be listed multiple times and even misclassified.

If you are a victim of such reports, file a complaint with the relevant authorities and also make sure the hired company amends accordingly as they might share a database with others that your prospective employer may hire.


2. Get a lawyer to evaluate your record

It is possible to get rid of a criminal record, and however, this is dependent on the nature of the charges and the laws in the area it was committed.

For a fee, you can hire a criminal defense attorney to handle this and get your name cleared, and this should not be confused with getting your criminal record sealed.

According to the Law Office of Scott C. Thomas, a competent Criminal Defense Lawyer in Orange County, California, a sealed record differs from expunged charges. Firms can still access a sealed criminal record via a court order. But expunged criminal records are cleared and gone and do not impede a job search.

3. Don’t apply for jobs directly related to your crime

Getting hired for a job directly related to your criminal history will be difficult. If you have been convicted of fraud, getting employment as an accountant will be difficult.

To boost your chance of landing employment, you may seek a career as a counselor advising people on how to avoid fraudulent deals. You may even apply as an animal control officer trainee.


4. Be honest

Put yourself in an employer’s shoes. Would you hire someone like you, and why? Until you can answer this question convincingly, it may be difficult to impress an employer except through lies.

Some employers are willing to hire former offenders. This is why honesty is important. When asked about your criminal record, do not lie. Answer the questions truthfully, but avoid going into detail.

Preparing your answers before the interview and having a trusted friend or family member review them is better.

5. Know your right

The “Ban the Box” law implemented in many states in the United States mandated that employers consider job candidates’ qualifications first before their criminal record is evaluated, if at all.

Since December 2024, most US federal agencies and contractors have been banned from demanding information on a job applicant’s criminal record until after conditionally offering the job to the applicant.

About fifteen states have already banned the inclusion of history questions from job applicants.

Former governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, in a LinkedIn article, noted the economic and societal implications of unemployment of formerly incarcerated people. This should not be an encouragement but a signal that most government agencies are stepping up to help former inmates in securing a job.

A report by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimated noted the government is losing about $87 billion in tax revenue due to the inability of ex-convicts to secure a job.

Every year, there is continual improvement in how employers treat ex-convicts.

Even when the law is not as favorable to you as it is in other states, in some cases, you are not obliged to tell an employer about your offenses.

Such cases include:

• If you were convicted by a juvenile court but are now an adult.
• Your case is not criminal by statute.
• You do not have a pending arrest or convicted for the crime.
• If a certificate of rehabilitation erases your offense.


6. Seek a pardon

Check with your legal counsel if you are eligible for pardon. This is not an option that should be explored after all attempts to expunge the case have been exhausted. Some crimes are automatically pardoned after a number of years. Confirm this before applying for a pardon.

When applying, include a personal statement; even though this may not be part of the requirement in your area, it gives a higher chance of being considered. Include any community service, rehabilitation, and any other thing that makes you look good to be considered for a pardon.

Be very cautious when picking your references. They must be people who support your journey and believe in your progress.

Also, clear out any offensive posts on your social media accounts. They may be checked during the evaluation of your request.

7. Leverage your criminal records

Laws in some areas reward employers for hiring people with criminal histories. Some of the benefits may include grants and tax credits.

Research companies that hire felons and ex-convicts, and during the interview, make sure to sell yourself and show you are repentant and indeed sorry for the crime.

While answering questions related to your crime, briefly explain what happened and the lessons you learned from the experience. Tell them what you have done since your conviction and how you are ready to contribute positively to the company and society. Emphasize how the job can allow you to do so.


8. Approach supportive agencies

Numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations assist convicted citizens in reintegrating into society. They usually offer job-training programs to help boost your chance of being considered for employment.

Some of these agencies have relationships with firms willing to hire former offenders. Approach them and leverage all the help you can get.

About Carolyn Lang