Does having a criminal record mean you can’t get a job?
Job hunting can be tricky for anyone, but particularly for individuals who have a criminal record — even if it’s for a crime that was committed years (or even decades) prior.
In the age of the internet and routine background checks, hiding a record is rarely possible and not advisable. Here’s what individuals can do to make job searching easier.
Tip 1: Know Your Rights
Laws vary by state, but more than 34 states and 150 cities have “Ban-the-Box” legislation that prohibits potential employers in most (but not all) industries from asking about a candidate’s criminal history on applications or in early screening interviews.
If your history comes up later in the hiring process, it’s important to be honest about it.
Tip 2: Don’t Overshare
A childhood transgression may be out of scope, and the same goes for minor convictions or nonviolent misdemeanors. In these cases, it’s probably okay not to share if an employer is only asking about felonies and/or arrests.
Tip 3: Run Your Own Background Check
Commercial background checks aren’t always reliable, so it’s worth pulling yours up and disputing any errors. This also allows you to see exactly what a potential employer will see when they take a look.
Tip 4: Use Your Resume to Promote Skills, Not Jobs
Skills are skills, regardless of where you learned them. Highlight them in your resume by formatting it based on areas of expertise instead of work experience. This makes gaps less obvious and puts the focus where it should be: on your strengths and qualifications.