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Job Seeking with a Criminal Record

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How do you find employment with a background?

Recently we have been contacted by numerous job seekers who are wondering how to achieve success when applying for jobs with a criminal record. Actions from their pasts are making it difficult for them to get a foot in the door for an employment opportunity. Let’s review some insightful tips to overcome the perceptions of a criminal record when job seeking.

Q: How do I pursue a career with a criminal record?

A: In today’s world, the job search is hard enough for those without a criminal record. If you have been in prison or even had just a minor brush with the law you may find employers reluctant to hire you. You cannot control the actions of others, but you can control your own professionalism and arm yourself with knowledge on the job search process. Be persistent, and you will be able to find a job, even if you have a criminal record. Here are some helpful tips when pursuing a career with a background.

Understand Your Rights

Gain an understanding and know the specifics of your criminal record before you start your job search. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there are no federal laws that prohibit potential employers from asking about arrests and convictions. However, it is unlawful to use criminality as the absolute reason not to hire you.

In some cases, you do not have to tell a potential employer about your criminal record. Such cases may include:

  • When an arrest is not currently pending or does not result in a conviction
  • You are going through a pre-trial adjudication for an offense that is not criminal by statute
  • A minor drug offense occurred and a certain number of years have passed since the conviction
  • You have erased your offense by obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation or a similar document
  • You were convicted by a juvenile court and you are now an adult. You may need to have your juvenile records sealed or expunged

Before employers run background checks, they must inform you in writing and obtain your written authorization. A background check could include a credit check, national or local criminal record check, or an employment report. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, employers must also notify applicants that credit and criminal record reports will not automatically disqualify them for employment. Consult with an attorney on whether you could have your criminal record sealed or expunged. Be sure to discuss the intricacies of what is permissible and what is not with your criminal record in your state. Also visit the EEOC’s website for information on state laws.

Be Honest & Professional

According to a survey conducted by EmployeeScreenIQ, an employment screening service, 79% of employers admit to asking applicants to disclose criminal backgrounds on job applications. However, 52% of employers in the survey also said they would be more inclined to hire a candidate who disclosed a conviction before a background check revealed one. It is important to be upfront and honest. Prepare answers ahead of time regarding your conviction and the history behind your criminal record. Find time to focus on the positive. Speak to your abilities now and what you have been doing since then to improve your skills and employability. Stay honest, positive and professional!

Build a Network

Networking might be the best path into a career if you have a criminal record. Get on professional social media sites. Find associations in the industry you work, become a member and attend meetings. It is often the connection you have with people that will lead you down the path to employment. Talk to everyone you know about your job search and ask them if you can network with them and those they know. Gather references, both personal and professional, and have them readily available. Be social—get out there and network with people, companies and associations!

Be Realistic

Regardless of what the law says, some jobs will be out of bounds for you. The EEOC website states, “Even if an employer believes that the applicant did engage in the conduct for which he or she was arrested that information should prevent him or her from employment only to the extent that it is evident that the applicant cannot be trusted to perform the duties of the position.” The truth is, an employer can decide against employing you if the type of job conflicts with the nature and severity of your offense. Avoid negativity and avoid applying for jobs that you know will conflict with your criminal record.

Find Help

Go a step beyond networking and seek guidance from organizations designed to help job seekers with a criminal record. Some organizations geared to help whose with a background include the Employ Florida Marketplace a program that assists participants with finding employment while helping them gain skills necessary to find work. There is also America Works, which aids hard-to-place job seekers with finding employment.

We hope these tips help you on the journey to your next job. You may have to be willing to apply for a lessor position and get in there and prove yourself. Be open to all opportunities and always remember to sell yourself and what you bring to the table.

Do you have a question? We would love to hear from you and discuss your hot topic! Send your questions to jobs@hhstaffingservices.com and visit our website for our Jobseeker Resource area. We would love to interact with you on social media as well, so be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. Happy Job Hunting!