Finding Work With A Criminal Record

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Applying for a new job can be nerve racking regardless of your qualifications, but there are certain circumstances that may make this process even more intimidating, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be successful.

For example, potential employers will often inquire about your criminal record, either on the application form or during the interview process, and may even ask permission to conduct a police information check.

Even if you do have a criminal history, such as a criminal conviction, you shouldn’t worry yet – there are steps you can take to ensure you address these questions without throwing away your chances at landing the job – and we are here to help you.

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First Things First: What Not To Do

The best piece of advice that we can give you is that the worst thing you could do on your application or during your interview for a new job is to purposely forgo telling your potential employer about your criminal history if they enquire about it. Plain and simple: don’t lie.

Most likely the truth of the situation will come out, whether before you get the job (causing them to turn you down) or after you’ve been awarded the position (potentially costing you the job).

Clearly, truth is always the best answer. Not only will lying about it (or about anything really) eventually come back to bite you in the butt, but being honest and upfront during your interview may even help you. Honestly is an admired and valuable quality that employers would like to see in their potential employees – if you are honest with them from the beginning about your criminal record, it shows them that you have desirable qualities.

With that being said, not every employer will ask, and if they don’t ask then there is no reason for you to disclose such information.

The Correct Way to Approach It

So now that you know know that the most important aspect of approaching this situation honesty, the next step is to learn how to best approach the discussion and how to present the information.

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Now there are a two different ways you can go about disclosing your criminal history to a potential employer: either on the application form or in person during your interview.

On the Application Form

Keep in mind that touchy subjects such as a criminal record are always better disclosed in person.

Some application forms (depending on the position you are applying for) will have a section pertaining to your criminal history. Here you have a few different options that will fare better for you than simply filling out the full answer to the question.

Option 1 is that you can leave the criminal record section of the application form blank and bring the issue up if and when you are called in for an interview.

Option 2 is that you can use the application form solely to provide your name and contact information and attach your resume to provide the rest of the information needed regarding past employment, etc., and once again bring the issue of your criminal history up in the interview.

Note that you should never mention your criminal record on your resume.

Option 3 is to answer yes on the filled out application form but to also write that you are willing to discuss it further during an interview.

During the Interview

If your interviewer asks about the criminal record, or the question was on your application form and you left that section blank, then it is important to be honest and upfront about it. If the interviewer does not ask about it, they are not conducting a police record check, and there was no mention of criminal history on your application, then it is up to you whether or not you choose to disclose the information.

If the subject does come up during your interview, we have some tips on how to discuss it in a professional and positive manner.

  • Be truthful but don’t over-share – your interviewer does not need to know every detail of your criminal history
  • Show the interview that you have learned from your mistakes – outline steps you have taken to correct your wrongdoings and get yourself onto a better path in life
  • Provide your interviewer with character references (such as past employers, teachers, or even your parole officer) who can attest to the positive changes and progress you have made since any incident you may have been involved in

Increasing Your Chances

There are a few key measures you can take that will work in your favour when you begin your job hunt:

Focus on Your Skills, Experience, and Training

Don’t let your criminal record be the focus of your interview. Be sure to highlight any training, education, or tickets you may have that are related to the position you are applying for. It’s important that the interviewer sees how qualified you are for the job in question.

Start Small and Work Your Way Up

If you aren’t trained or experienced, and even if you are, your best bet may be to start small and work your way up. Any job is better than no job, and working any job (any honest, legitimate job) will look good on your resume, will provide you with a professional reference, and should help you to find better positions in the future.

Take Advantage of Local Resources

Your city or province may have resources available to you, such as programs designed to help ex-convicts find work. While it may seem embarrassing or uncomfortable to ask for help to find work, you should not let your ego get in your way. As we’ve said previously, any work is better than no work, and if there is a way to increase your chances of finding reputable employment, don’t let it go to waste.

Keep In Mind

The tips listed above are sure to help better your chances of successfully finding work, but there are still some things you should keep in mind.

Know Your Rights

While it’s important to be honest, there are times when you are actually able to withhold information about your criminal record without facing repercussions. Examples of situations like this are:

  • If you were convicted as a minor and you are now an adult your conviction is not relevant
  • If you were arrested but never convicted

Know The Employers Rights

Depending on where you live, there are most likely local laws regarding an employers rights (and limitations to these rights) to deny employment. These laws may be provincial or federal.

Essentially, these laws state that an employer cannot discriminate against someone by denying them the position solely because of their criminal record unless their criminal record inherently interferes with their capability of performing the job.

For example, it only makes sense that an employer could rightfully deny a banking position to someone with a history of theft or embezzlement.

Know Your Record

Lastly, it’s important to know your record. Know what exactly your record states, which parts of it may interfere with your potential job. You don’t want there to be any surprises, and you oppositely don’t want to over share if its not necessary.

By knowing exactly what your police record will display, you know what information to share with your interviewer and even what jobs are worth applying for and what one’s you may not qualify for.

It’s Never Too Late

If you’ve been rejected previously, especially if because of your criminal record, it can be discouraging and make finding a job seem like a hopeless task – but it’s exactly that type of attitude that will stand in the way of you finding work, not your record.

It’s true that having a criminal record will make it harder to find employment, which is unfortunate for those trying to turn their lives around. However, with some preparation, practice, and professionalism there are sure to be employers out their willing to give you a chance.

The most important thing to do when trying to find work with a criminal record (or simply just trying to find work at all) is to be persistent and proactive.

A criminal record shouldn’t and won’t dictate how you live the rest of your life, especially in regards to finding work – you just need to work for it!

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