Finding a Job When You Have a Criminal Record

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These days, it's hard for anyone to find a job, but for those who have a criminal record, it's much more difficult. Although many states, like New York, have passed laws that prevent employers from refusing to hire people just because of a past criminal charge, many employers are reluctant to hire someone who had been previously convicted of a felony.


In the past, people with a criminal history would often lie about their charges and hope the employer wouldn't find out. It's estimated that almost 75% of employers conduct background checks on prospective employees, so being dishonest isn't possible. It's estimated that 1 in 5 Americans have a criminal record, so there are many people who are struggling with this issue.


Still, it's not impossible to find work, in spite of any past charges. Of course, there are certain fields, like healthcare, education and financial services, where an prospective employee must have a clean background but there are still job opportunities available.


If you, or someone you know, is trying to find a job with a criminal record, here are some tips:


Find out what's on your record – It's interesting to note that most people who have past charges aren't exactly sure what's on their record. Instead of finding out, they adopt the “crossed fingers” approach and just hope nothing terrible shows up. This rarely works. Instead, it's a much better idea to contact the courts in the cities or counties where you have been arrested and get copies of your cases. Knowing exactly what is out there is the best first step.


Determine if your charges are misdemeanors or felonies – Some employers only ask an applicant to list any felony charges, while others ask for any charge. If you only have past misdemeanors, listing them wouldn't be required unless the employer asks specifically for any past arrests.


Find out if you can have your charges expunged – Many charges can be removed from your record. Most of the time it's required that you complete any probation and community service and that enough time has passed since the charge. To find out if your charges can be removed, contact the court and ask. Generally, there are several forms to fill out and a fee to be paid before a charge can be expunged.


Consider volunteer work in addition to part-time work – If you have recently been incarcerated, getting back into the workforce is considerably more difficult. The lack of recent work history and low probability of having personal references make it impossible to avoid discussing your charges. However, if possible, find some volunteer work that is important to you and stick with it. Even if you are able to find part-time or temporary work, continue to volunteer during your free time. Not only will this keep you busy and make you less likely to get in trouble again, it will demonstrate a reliable work history and provide you with a few references as well.


Participate in a re-entry program – Even if it's been a year or two since your charges, you still could qualify for a re-entry job program. Typically, these programs will help past offenders find housing and they work with employers who have already agreed to hire a certain number of people from the program. Although these jobs might not be ideal, they can give you an opportunity to make some money and build a solid work history.


Finding a job, even with a criminal background isn't impossible. It can be extremely discouraging, but there are still employers who are willing to take a chance on a less than perfect applicant.


Have you had trouble finding work due to a past criminal charge? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.


Image Source: MorgueFile


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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Wow, what a powerful discussion. It seems that many of you have found your job search hindered by a criminal background. It's such a shame because many of these charges aren't serious. Once you've paid your debt to society, you should be able to get a job and start re-building your life. No wonder people re-offend when there's no way to make a honest life.
  • William T
    William T
    I believe people do have a right to seek gainful employment, even if they have been convicted of a felony, other wise you couldn't change the cycle of being non-productive for the good
  • Pamela P
    Pamela P
    Even individuals who have been out of work for many years are really treated the same way and not given a second chance to prove their worth as a employee~This will mean many more homeless in the coming year!
  • gregory a
    gregory a
    Nice piece but still doesn't overcome prejudice of some people. Some of which just haven't been caught and convicted yet.
  • John C
    John C
       No question it's difficult to find work with a past criminal record.  I was laid off from my job through no fault of my own.  Now I find it impossible to pay even the basic living expenses for food and transportation.  The bill collectors are going to start coming after me in a matter of time.  I really do not know what to do.  I foresee massive legal and financial problems in my future.
  • Michoe G
    Michoe G
    I have found that it is extremely frustrating to obtain good employment with a record. I fell on hard times and got misdemeanor charge of conversion I have since gotten my life back together and went to school to be a registered medical assistant I cannot get a job in my ffield. I have student loans to payback for a degree that I can't use talk about frustrating!
  • Chris T
    Chris T
    I have an Aggrivated Stalking charge,which is a felony. I was wrongly convicted,my wife was sleeping with a cop who in return put me in jail every other weekend for Domestic Violence so he could be with my wife. I was getting arrested fresh off the city bus from working all day,I finally moved to another county,and my wife wrote a false email to herself from me because she had my password and it landed me in jail for a Felony,in which I was judicated guilty,because it was either plead guilty or go to jail for some years. I tried to expunge my record and I am not able. I have 2 kids and cant even land a job at McDonalds. Its very depressing to be a man and not be able to provide for ur family.
  • Keri A
    Keri A
    Yes about 11 years ago i got charged witb a misd 470(d) and a couple weeks ago i got hired at check city and it took.about two weeks after the interview to get hired so i thought i was in the clear only to go in last friday and get fired because of my background people grow up and.change i could see if i had several forgery charges but i dont i learned my lesson and never did it again but it cost me a job. Which sucks
  • Julie G
    Julie G
    I'm presently looking for work, and because of my background checks, I'm having terrible,  embarrassing experiences.

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