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How to Handle Criminal Convictions in an Interview

by Bronwyn Timmons

If you've been convicted of a crime and you're trying to find a job, it's natural to worry that potential employers will react negatively to your criminal past. Employers frequently ask applicants about their criminal histories in interviews, and you may feel unsure about whether or not you should answer honestly. Knowing how to appropriately handle criminal convictions will help you prepare for a job interview, and help you secure employment despite your past.

The Law

For most jobs, you aren't legally required to disclose past criminal convictions unless the employer asks you about them. However, some fields require reporting, such as education and law enforcement. If you're applying for any position that requires a commercial driver's license and have been convicted of driving while intoxicated or under the influence, you need to disclose that information. If you have convictions that have been expunged from your record, you are under no obligation to mention them in your application or in the interview. In some states, you aren't required to mention minor drug convictions. If you're unsure of reporting laws in your state, consult your parole or probation officer or meet with an attorney. Any of these professionals can provide you with guidance and an overview of state reporting laws to aid you in your job search.

Disclosing Convictions

It can be scary -- and even embarrassing -- to disclose your convictions during a job interview, but it's typically considered the best thing to do for ex-offenders trying to get back into the workforce. Many employers run criminal background checks on potential candidates, so a hiring manager might already know about your convictions before the interview. Be up front and honest about your history. Take responsibility for your past actions and use the interview as an opportunity to show that you've been rehabilitated and are a motivated. According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, being honest about convictions in an interview could stand out to potential employers in a positive way.

Hiding Convictions

Lying about past convictions or attempting to hide them isn't recommended, and can actually jeopardize your chances of getting hired more than being honest. For example, if a potential employer ran a background check and you lied about your criminal history during the interview, he may see you as dishonest and untrustworthy, and choose not to hire you as a result. If you lie and you're hired, the employer could later terminate you if he finds out you lied. It's much better to be truthful when the topic is approached during your interview.

Tips and Considerations

Prepare an explanation of your offenses before the interview, and know what you plan to say if asked about your criminal history. If you're struggling to secure interviews, take advantage of resources and organizations that offer job placement services to ex-offenders. Your parole or probation officer may be able to provide you with a list of employers in your area that are known for hiring ex-offenders, and you may feel more comfortable applying for and interviewing with these companies as your rebuild your work history following your convictions.

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