Background Checks


There is a generally held presumption on the part of many job seekers that having a criminal record is going to be an automatic bar to finding employment.  As a result, many job seekers who have been convicted of a crime often take the chance that no one will check and, essentially, lie about their past – hoping they won’t get caught.
A recent study of over 2,000 hiring managers by CareerBuilder shows that more than half of all those employers have hired job applicants with criminal records!  So, having a criminal conviction isn’t necessarily a bar to landing a job.

There are several factors to keep in mind, however, that will influence whether a job offer is made or not.   One consideration will be the nature of the job and the nature of the conviction.  If the conviction took place several years ago and the candidate has otherwise been a good citizen, the chances of being hired increase dramatically.  On the other hand, a recent conviction for theft will probably have an impact on hiring prospects for some types of jobs – a bank teller, for example.

From the standpoint of the job seeker with a criminal conviction, the best strategy, and one we have recommended for years, is, first, to be honest about it rather than try to conceal the conviction.  Second, the job seeker should be prepared to explain honestly what lessons were learned from the experience that will assuage the concerns of a hiring manager.

EEOC guidelines strongly suggest that a criminal conviction should not automatically disqualify a job seeker from employment; furthermore, latitude is allowed when it comes to establishing a hiring policy that defines what sorts of crimes will preclude employment, along with the rationale for the policy.

Hiring managers, after all, are looking for candidates who possess the qualifications that match the requirements of the job to be filled.  If a prior criminal conviction has nothing whatsoever to do with either the candidate’s qualifications or the job’s requirements – and if the candidate has demonstrated that he or she has learned from the mistake, the chances are good that the candidate will be hired, in spite of the conviction.

Time is also an important factor hiring managers will take into consideration.  The longer the period since the conviction took place, the better the job seeker’s chances of being hired.  If a candidate can say something like, “I made a serious mistake several years ago, but I certainly learned my lesson about being responsible for my own actions and the importance of being seen as a trustworthy citizen,” it’s difficult to imagine a hiring manager disqualifying that person from serious consideration for employment!

In summary, a previous criminal conviction shouldn’t discourage anyone from seeking employment.  A previous conviction, in other words, should not be viewed as a locked door that can never be opened.