Ask an Expert: I Have a Criminal Record and Nobody Will Hire Me

Criminal Record

Every day, we get questions from people seeking special assistance with their job searches. One common theme is job searching with a criminal record. How much should you disclose and when should you disclose it? How do you explain your criminal record and still land a job? How do you address it during an interview?

There are so many variables that make finding a job even more complicated if you have a criminal record. And in a challenging job market, many feel like they don't have a chance against job seekers with clean records.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 2009, more than 7.2 million people were under some form of correctional supervision including probation, prison, jail, and parole. More than 97 percent of all U.S. prisoners are eventually released, and communities are absorbing nearly 650,000 formerly incarcerated individuals annually, according to a report by the Council of State Governments.

Lisa Pollan, site coordinator at LIFT-DC, works with more than 1,000 clients annually, largely in the area of employment assistance. Pollan says LIFT-DC encourages all of its clients who were formerly incarcerated to collect "evidence of rehabilitation." This evidence should prove to employers that the client has changed since their offense and is now a responsible member of society. Evidence of rehabilitation can include:

  • letters of recommendation from employers or advocates
  • proof of training program completion/certificates (including from period of incarceration)
  • participation in a mentoring or support group

In terms of filling out job applications, LIFT-DC counsels clients to do the following:

Only answer what is asked: If a question asks if you have been convicted of a felony, you can say no if you only have misdemeanors. If a question asks if you have been convicted of a felony in the last seven years, and you were convicted 10 years ago, answer no.

Answer truthfully: A company may hire ex-offenders but have a policy of terminating anyone who lies on an application.

Demonstrate change: If you answer a question about your record by writing, "Yes, but I got my GED while I was incarcerated," you show that you are educated, focused and want to make positive changes in your life. You can also attach a written explanation of your situation, and proof of your rehabilitation.

LIFT-DC spends time crafting scripts with clients that they can use on applications and in job interviews to explain their period of incarceration and the steps they've taken to change. (E.g.: "I was arrested for a drug-related offense. Since my conviction, I have not used drugs for 10 years. I completed a 1,000-hour substance abuse treatment program. During my period of incarceration, I obtained my GED and HVAC certification. I even taught HVAC courses to my peers after I received my teaching certification. I am now looking for a position where I can utilize the education and skills I've gained.")

We realize this is just the tip of the iceberg on this issue and we hope to tackle more columns on this issue including resumes and interview questions for those with criminal records. If you are in this situation, be advised that employment laws and regulations, regarding those with criminal records, vary by state. Check with your state's Department of Justice regarding expunged records and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission regarding your local hiring regulations.

Related Stories from CNN Money

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

I have 2 dui's and a disorderly conduct.I was discriminated against for a kitchen job at an assisted living place.I filed a complaint with the equal rights division in my state.I now have a case and a lawyer who is getting them to settle for about 30,000,the equal rights sided with me so far and will have a hearing.if they don't wanna hire me that's ok but you better have a good reason and in my case they ddint so I will be getting a substantial amount of money.I will keep doing it if other places do it also.i could underatnd if it was driving around people but to say that I cant have a job washing dishes,cleaning floors and taking out garbage because of my convictions is downright illegal.They may een get a substantial fine through the state.So if anyone is having problems do what I did that is the only way things will change.i don't feel bad and im getting a lot of money.Im sick of being discriminated against for dumb and wrong reasons.

June 16 2014 at 1:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

she now has tattoos and informed me she is pregnant and dropped out of school. I lost everything in my storage unit because I could not pay. My own family has nothing to do with me because they seem to think that I am liar and I had to have done something more terrible than just arguing. I have lost friends. I no longer go to AA . I had to demit from my Lodge because I cannot pay my dues. I even had friends call me lair, a mooch a lazy person who is not even trying to get a job. I need a job to comply with the court but the court has taken away my right to work. I have been marked as criminal and a violent person. So now I am faced with comply or go to jail. Catch 22 here. I need my restored to get a job. I have nothing. I cannot even get hired at a Walmart or a convent store. I am tired of being discriminated against for something that I was framed for and this person still continued to harass me. To top it off last year I shattered my leg in four places. I had to have surgery to implant a steel rod and some screws. I am in chronic pain and I have blood clots in my leg and no way of getting the meds I need. As you know blood clots do have the potential of going into the leg or brain causing death. As a single person I do not qualify to get my meds for that. A treatment of cumandin and a twice daily injection of Levenox. No access for pain med or treatment, high blood pressure and antidepressants or psychological counseling. I could have all these things if my rights to work are restored. I voted for these programs to help people. The state of Az has no right to take everything away from me. My job my home my car my family my daughter and then throw me out on the street with no hope and threaten me with jail time and fines. I find it ironic the state cares not for my health but offers food stamps and Obama phones. So here I am asking for help to get my rights restored. I want to go work, my record cleared, my health taken care of and hopefully repair my relationship with my family. This is very Orwellian to erase a person over an argument. I ceased to exhist as human being. So I decided to hunger strike. I will not eat the food that came from the same government that has taken everything away from me.
In parable it is like this. Let me take away your horse, your knife , your rifle, and your teepee. Now go out into the wilderness and bring me a buffalo robe. If you return empty handed I will put in a cage and demand 200 more robes and continue to slander your good name. How is this right by me? Or to anyone else? I refuse to fall into the traps of desperation like robbing a bank, burglarizing a home, snatching a purse or drug dealer to make money to please the courts. I am asking for help here and want my rights I will not eat until this is satisfied.

October 19 2012 at 7:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am writing to let you know I am in need of legal help. These last four years have been something of nightmare for me. I am currently on hunger strike and am over 80 hours into in. I feel that strongly about my rights. I also know there many others in the same situation as myself. There are many issues here It is hard for me to know where to start.
About four years ago I was in relationship that went South. I had a good job great benefits bonus and commissions. Before I was laid off the entire was notified that the owner would not pay out our bonus and commissions so I was cheated out of 7,200 that was due me. That money I had planned to spend on my house that I was buying on a lease to buy option. Not that even if I did get my bonus the owner was pocketing that money and the house went onto foreclosure. I had used my entire savings and my 401k to keep my home not knowing what the owner was up to. But during that time I had been scrambling to find a job to save my home or at least have an option of a place to go.
That relationship I had we broke up because I discovered she was an affair with a married person. So we argued back and forth to a fro for a while over this. She decided to make a report I was charged with Harassment by Communication. A misdemeanor. The judge would not let me enter into a change of plea. I felt I had to take the deal under dourest by the prosecutor I was in no mental condition at that time make any choices. I was looking for work , I was a full time single father, no money, had roommates bail in the middle of the week owing me money. I was told to take the deal or go to jail and pay excessive fines. I was only thinking of my daughter and knowing that I can parent from jail I took it. However I even told prosecutor that my ex was still calling emailing and texting me she did not want to hear it. I even told the Judge of my exs behavior but there is nothing he could do. Several months later I was in a new relationship my ex then again stalked me and found my new interest on FB and harassed her. Thus being a deciding factor in ending that relationship. I told the detective about that and he said the matter is closed and there is nothing he was going to do about that. The judge also knows of this. Again when I was Montana because I had nowhere else to go my ex contacted me again. So who is bothering who and who is manipulating the law to get revenge?
This now leads me to the fact that I have this stupid argument on my record thus making me unemployable. Hiring managers have told me they cannot hire people with felonies. Even when I explain NOT A FELONY it is still a deciding factor not to give me a job. The only thing they see is Domestic violence and anger management. Not understanding domestic violence because we did not live together and the issue of the argument was electronic. So here I am four years later with out my house, my truck reposed, my daughter living with her mother

October 19 2012 at 7:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For the people who think someone who has a criminal record is called a con or has tattoos and piercings you watch too many movies. lol I have two misdemeanor convictions that were actually felony charges, and I never spent more than a night in jail. It's possible for anyone to have a criminal record. It;s like Jesus said:' He who is without sin cast the first stone". We are all sinners and most people believe in God and in the bible it says to forgive and not judge.The people who judge someone with a criminal record doesn't care because it does not affect them, and they only care about themselves. I am clean cut, never had a tattoo, or a piercing in my life. I don't use drugs I don't drink . but I do have a criminal record. Really petty stuff but I have one.

April 21 2011 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

False allegations are very common and will indeed get one arrested, finger printed etc. Plus a record even when it does not even go to court and is indeed a false allegation. Women make false allegations against men all the time. How can this be removed from ones record????

March 25 2011 at 5:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I feel sorry for ex-cons that cant get work. I choose a life in the straight and narrow, never chose to commit crimes. Many others did the same as me, or I did the same as they did. Still, as an employer, I have many resumes to look over. Tattoos, multible piercings and criminal records go to the round file. I have too many others that didnt commit crimes or dont look stupid applying for jobs. Sorry

February 22 2011 at 7:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here's a good solution to this problem. Don't commit any crimes and you won't have to worry about explaining a criminal record to anyone.....plain and simple!!!!

February 22 2011 at 6:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The only place that I see hiring convicted felons is the NFL on a regular basis.

February 22 2011 at 6:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Hi am Brian for those who have a record the big thing employers are looking for that would have a major disqual is theft second any sex related offenses
rember data bases go back 10 years and 10 years and only major organizations do 10 year background checks that is high positons within the goverenment ie even tsa has some bad apples but the govenrment looks at honesty rather then the past an example if you apply to a police organization or a govenment organization they ask if you file bankruptcy in the past 7 years and you said no and it cameup that you did it is very most likely that you won't get the job but if you are honest in answering the questions on the background check qustioner then most likely you will get the job another example is if you were in prison or jail for 3rd degree murder you have a better chance getting a job then somebody that has a 2nd or 1st degree murder I would hire somebody that was convicted of 3rd degree murder then a 1st degree murder
but I will never hire anyone with a major or minor sex offense the only exectipon is statury rape which I consider minor offense because of the circumtances sournding the charge initself and it is highly unlikely it was perdations or have any perdatory influence. but the bottom line is if it is not ask if you have convicted don't answer but if not certain of any criminal record at hand you can request send for a request at the FBI it is a fee of 40 dollars or can apply to major organizaions such as major police department
and find out ie for those 10 years and beyond ask for a copy
don't let dwi dui and real minor offenses felony or not keep you from getting a job major sex offenses and major domestics and thef are your main holding blocks just to let you know you can be an indenpendant bussiness owner of Amway... no background check you can own your own bussiness you can own your own franchise so there no way to be uneployeed number1 rule look after yourself be your own boss and do what you can honestly do

February 22 2011 at 5:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In all fairness, people who screwed up do need a second chance. Of course HR people should not allow a thief to handle cash, or a pedophile to work in a daycare. If we want people to rise above the wrong things they have done- we have to give them a chance. Otherwise, they will return to crime, and we will have to pay for their keep in prisons.

February 22 2011 at 5:00 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Picks From the Web