Dealing with a criminal history while looking for a job

Posted in: General, Career Planning, The Hiring Process, The Local Market, Success on the Job

Dear Career Coach,  My past has not been stellar.  I am what is termed an ex-offender.  Since my release, I have had a hard time finding a "good" job.  How can I apply for jobs with my past record and do I need to put this on my work history? Thanks, Goin' Straight Dear Goin' Straight,  I will first answer your second question.  Normally, all work histories or resumes exclude any and all negative data.  As you would not tell a prospective employer what you cannot do; you would not make your negative life experience part of your advertised values.  This is because your work history is actually your selling ticket for the product - you - and the negative information would lower the prospect of being called in for an interview. Do you really have to put this information in?  This is something you really need to find out.  Your research will need to find out if the company has a clear stand on the issue such as they will not employ individuals with a record or their policy may be that if you have a record, it should be readily mentioned with sufficient detail. If there is no such policy with the company you are applying to, you may choose to not include this as part of your past history.  However, if you think it is likely that they might discover your "colorful" background sooner or later, it is better to be honest right from the start.  Actually, it seems that whatever you need to hide has a terrible habit of crawling out into the light at the worst possible moment completely embarrassing you in the least, or possibly devastating you and costing you your job.  It is best then not to really try to hide it. Inaccurate personnel information can and generally will leave you open to firing if you are "discovered" by the employer.  Do not risk being discovered as it brings daily tension, which will interfere with your efficiency at your job. When looking for a job, first, try to find employers that are ex-offender friendly.  Your local "One-Stop" such as Frederick County Workforce Services, maintains such a list.  Next, best is to try to choose jobs where having a record is not a great minus point (remember, do try to kid yourself that being an ex-offender is not a minus point).  Avoid applying for jobs such as an accountant, bank teller, or cashier.  Also, avoid jobs which will offer you temptation as you might repeat the crime with disasterous (for you) consequences. In fact, your choice of profession may gain you a second lease on life - so choose wisely.  Choose something that will definitely not put you in situations where you are tempted to repeat the last mistake and/or make new similar ones.  Having a criminal history is not really an issue unless it is perceived as a danger to the job you are being hired for.  For best results, choose jobs which do not have a bearing on your criminal record and as far as possible, inform the employer right at the beginning about this part.  There are ways to address your record in your resume without it being an impediment to getting that interview.  Check with your Career Specialist about your resume development.  Remember though, you might show that you have changed a lot since the last time you were caught and today you are putting your best foot forward to start a new responsible and productive life. Unless your record is for something drastic, such as murder or rape, most employers are willing to give young people a second chance to start their lives.  Your resume, however, should closely reflect this fact and also take extra care to match perfectly your own skills with the prerequisites of the job. It is not the end of the world if you have a record and want to apply for a job.  You can always start your life again.

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