An increasing number of employers are performing background checks on potential candidates. Now, criminal records and background checks are not only readily accessible but also inexpensively obtained. Various federal and state laws even prohibit employers from hiring candidates with criminal records in certain industries. With these regulations in place, it may seem nearly impossible for individuals with criminal histories to find meaningful and steady employment. Despite this, it is imperative to be open and honest with potential employers when discussing criminal history.


First, it is important to understand what an employer is asking. If an application asks the candidate to list all convictions or offenses, one should list both criminal (felonies/misdemeanors) and non-criminal convictions. However, it is not necessary to list any arrests that were not followed by conviction. If the application simply asks about crimes, convictions of crimes or criminal offenses, only misdemeanors and felonies need be included. Traffic violations and any other non-criminal offenses do not need to be listed. On a written application, writing, “Will discuss further in interview,” gives the applicant prime opportunity to fully disclose any criminal activity in a sincere and straightforward way.

Also avoid trying to downplay the arrest, charge or conviction—the employer may believe the applicant is attempting to minimize the significance of the criminal act. Instead, admitting the wrongfulness of the act shows the employer that the candidate is regretful of his/her actions and understands that it was illegal. If the candidate was incarcerated as a result of the charge, a candidate may explain what changes came about during jail time. Describing what accomplishments were achieved during incarceration will illustrate change and personal growth to the interviewer. For example, an applicant may let the interviewer know that he/she has completed his/her GED while incarcerated and that he/she is currently working on earning an Associate’s Degree. Describing current goals and the reason behind interviewing will show employers professional resolve and an attempt to achieve personal goals. When further explaining any felonious activity, honesty is key. Failure to disclose criminal history on the application can lead to immediate termination—for this reason, it is highly recommended to discuss a record with a potential employer in as much detail possible. First, disclose all relevant details to a potential employer such as year of conviction and the nature of the conviction. Do not use slang or jargon when explaining the crime. It is unlikely that the interviewer will understand the terminology and may feel compelled to ask further questions. This could create a potentially uncomfortable situation.

A criminal record does not put any future chance at employment behind bars. But remember, when managing a criminal history in your job search, honesty is always the best policy. 


For more information, contact a representative at McCallion Staffing Specialists.

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