Of course, many employers also have misplaced fears. They may not realize that some of their biases against people with criminal records are based more on myths than established facts. So their own stereotypes can play a big role in how they assess risk and develop their hiring practices. There is a growing awareness of the many problems associated with rejecting so many people based on their criminal records.
Employers, thought leaders, and policymakers are increasingly learning that:. That's why many of America's leaders on both sides of the political spectrum are calling for comprehensive reforms to the criminal justice system. So momentum is building toward changes that would make it easier for many people to secure good employment in spite of their criminal records.
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It's important to note that ban-the-box and other fair-chance hiring laws still allow employers to run background checks and to ask certain questions at the interview or job-offer stage. So you can still be rejected for having a criminal past. But such laws at least provide more opportunities to explain your story and promote your best qualities, which can increase your odds of getting hired. There are probably many jobs you can get with a criminal record if you have enough knowledge to develop a good plan of action. So don't give up on your dreams. The following suggestions are aimed at helping you achieve a more stable future.
This step is crucial. After all, knowledge is power. You need to understand the rules of the game. The first place to start is the department of labor for your state. Call the department and ask for information about all of the pre-employment screening laws that apply to people with criminal records in your region. Depending on where you live, you may be able to take advantage of some of the reforms mentioned above.
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Here's a shocking fact: About half of all FBI background checks turn up out-of-date information or fail to show whether or not arrests actually resulted in convictions. That's why it's essential to check your own record before employers have the chance to see it. You might discover that it contains false information. If it does, you can probably submit a request to correct the inaccuracies. Of course, you may need to submit multiple requests since criminal records aren't just maintained by courts and law enforcement agencies. They are also made available to various third parties such as commercial vendors.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to check your record is to hire a private investigator. For a small fee, many investigators will gather all of the public records that can be accessed about you. Many states have laws that make it possible to get some or all of your criminal record erased i. But this possibility only exists for certain kinds of offenses—usually minor ones. If you have a felony conviction, then your chances of getting your record expunged or sealed will be low.
Since , more than 20 states have expanded their expungement laws. Get the advice of an attorney or contact the criminal court in the county where your offenses took place to learn about the possibilities. In many cases, getting your criminal record expunged or sealed means that you can legally say no to an employer's question about whether or not you've ever been arrested or convicted of any crimes.
One thing you need to be aware of, however, is that arrest or conviction records for federal criminal offenses cannot currently be expunged. Federal laws simply haven't yet caught up to state laws in this regard. It's much harder for employers to turn you away when you have the skills they need. That's especially true if you have skills in an occupational area with a shortage of qualified workers.
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By getting fast training at a trade school or vocational college , you can often develop abilities that are in high demand within your region. Obviously, not all vocations will be open to you with your criminal record. However, you still have a lot of options to choose from. And some of them even offer the potential of being your own boss. For example, consider the possibility of training for a career in:. One of the benefits of pursuing this type of training is that trade schools and vocational colleges tend to be much less likely to conduct a criminal background check on you.
The exceptions are sometimes those that offer programs in areas like healthcare or law enforcement. That's often not the case with other kinds of colleges or universities. Plus, did you know that you might qualify for financial aid even if you have a criminal record? It's true. Even if you don't qualify for federal assistance, you still might qualify for aid from other sources, which is often based on the information that you provide on the FAFSA. The main things that could limit your eligibility for federal student assistance are: Even if you're having trouble finding stable employment, you should always look for ways to add to your resume.
The main idea is to stay active and be able to show prospective employers that you have a strong work ethic and the determination to succeed. For instance, maybe you have skills that a charity or non-profit organization could use. Why not volunteer your services? Not only will you gain experience, but you'll also establish professional connections that could provide good references or help you find jobs that aren't being advertised.
What to know about job hunting when you have a criminal past
Depending on your particular skill set, you may also be able to find freelance work. Many people with criminal histories have gained employable abilities by starting their own small businesses and building a positive reputation client by client. Almost every major city is home to local agencies and private charities that offer services geared toward helping ex-offenders.
Many smaller communities have helpful organizations as well. So it's possible to find programs that provide assistance with job training, finding employment, and developing life skills that lead to success. With affiliates across the country, it provides free job skills training, placement assistance, and a variety of other support services to disadvantaged and formerly incarcerated individuals in the inner city. In some regions, you can also find subsidized employment programs that help ex-offenders. When employers hire participants of such programs, they receive help in paying the new employees' wages for a trial period of time.
That way, employers have more incentive to provide opportunities to people with criminal histories. You can find additional help through the National Reentry Resource Center , which provides a directory of resources in each state.
How to fill out applications with a criminal record | Snag
You can greatly increase your chances of finding good employment if you make the effort to meet several professionals who work in the industry that you'd like to enter. Many industry associations hold regular meet-and-greets. And a lot of business groups hold networking events that are open to anyone. By dressing sharply, smiling, and showing interest in other people, you can generate a lot of contacts who may be able to help you.
After all, you never know where a great job lead might come from. Building a profile and participating on LinkedIn is another way to start making contacts. Even maintaining a Twitter account can lead to new professional contacts. It's also a good idea to ask for references from some of the people who already know you well and can vouch for your character and work ethic.
Even friends or family can make good references if they are working professionals and have good communication skills. It's never a good idea to lie about your criminal history. You need to take responsibility for it. But you don't need to mention your criminal record unless you're asked about it by an employer that is legally entitled to do so.
And if you are asked, it's often best to limit your answer to only those details that satisfy the question. For example, an employer might only ask whether you have any felony convictions. In that instance, you're under no obligation to disclose any arrests or misdemeanor convictions that you might have. Read or listen carefully so that you only answer what's being asked. Also, when filling out job applications, it's perfectly acceptable to use the truth to your advantage.
For instance, maybe you had a prison job while you were an inmate within a state correctional facility. In that case, it might be technically correct to list the state as a past employer.
How to help people with criminal records break barriers to employment
Your criminal record doesn't have to be the focus of conversation when you interact with potential employers. In fact, it's always best if you can steer more of the attention toward your skills and positive characteristics. If an employer presses the issue, try to emphasize what you've learned from your past experiences. And point out all of the evidence related to how much you've changed, how long it's been since your interaction with the criminal justice system, and why you would make a great employee. Also, never forget how powerful it can be to make a great first impression.
Before going to interviews, job fairs, or networking events, always make sure that you have a tidy, professional appearance. When in doubt, choose clothing that's conservative. And keep your hair trimmed and neatly styled. Another thing that can help you stand out from the competition is a video resume. Find someone who's good at making quality videos to help you.
With just a one- to three-minute video presentation, you can put your enthusiastic personality on camera and talk about what makes you a great candidate for hire. By sending your video resume to hiring managers, along with your written one, you can demonstrate that you're willing to put in the extra effort to succeed.
This step is ignored by a lot of job seekers.
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But it can make a huge difference between success and failure. Basically, it's always a smart idea to follow up with prospective employers after submitting your application or being interviewed. It's especially essential after interviews. Be sure to send thank you cards or emails to each of the people who interviewed you.
And restate your desire to work for their organization. The same is true for the professionals that you meet through your networking efforts. Don't just take their business cards and put them aside. After a few days, or few weeks at the most, get in touch with them, reiterate your interest in what they do, and offer your assistance for anything that they might need help with. Now that you have a better understanding of how to find a job with a criminal record, it's time to take action.
Achieving your ambitions is possible. So don't give up.
Remember the tip about vocational training? One is to apply for an official pardon. But if you your record is still visible, being upfront — with a compelling explanation — can be your best approach.
They may also request personal references. In addition, an employer could do a background check. The search may include details of your credit and financial status, driving abstract, criminal record, and civil litigation documents are you suing someone or being sued? Doing so will prevent it from being visible to most employers. You can apply to the Parole Board of Canada to have your record sealed.
It takes either five or ten years for a pardon under current legislation. Certain employers and positions do require a deeper investigation of your history. After obtaining a pardon, employers may still inquire if you have a criminal record. What should you say? He has some forthright advice on this matter. However, you may choose to disclose that you have obtained a pardon, which is proof you are a law-abiding citizen. The best answer I can give is that nothing happens at all.