Looking for Employment with a Record

Have you ever been convicted of a crime? What about arrested for one? In regard to employment, do you know the difference? What do you have to disclose? Do you know someone struggling to find a job for this reason? Some of these questions were asked to Elarie Consulting after a recent Facebook Live stream

As you may know, Elarie Consulting does Facebook Live Q&A session for job seekers regularly. We really do want to help, so we open it up for anyone to ask questions related to job searching, hiring, interviewing, employment, promotions, and career development.

So how did we answer? 

I'll first add a general preface that all of our answers are in relation to employment law.

Second, all states have different employment laws above and beyond the federal laws.

Furthermore, laws may vary based on sector, public (schools, police, etc.) or private (restaurant, retail, etc.), and also the type of industry you are seeking employment in.

You can always call the Department of Labor or visit the website to find out more about labor laws and discrimination.

What is the difference between an arrest and conviction?

In America, you are innocent until proven guilty, and that is a huge fact that hiring decision makes must remember when interviewing candidates. If a potential candidate has been arrested, it usually means squat. Nothing, Nada. In a general background check, it probably will not even be a blip on the radar, and shouldn't be considered if it is.

There is an exception to this, however. Some states do allow employers to ask if the arrest is related to certain industries such as real estate or banking. For example, if you have been arrested for embezzlement, some states allow these employers to ask about the incident.

But generally, if you have been arrested, it should not be considered, nor does it have to be disclosed, during your application process. We do believe, however, that a conviction should be disclosed to your employer. In many cases, the application process will prompt this information.

Will they run a background check? Will that hurt my chances?

For any organization we have worked with or for, we can say with certainty they will run a background check. It is a smart move for the organization, and if you are seeking employment with an organization that does not I would run the other way. 

The second part of the question is also why we advise on being honest during the application and interview process. If you have been convicted within a certain window (based on crime and law) it more than likely will appear on your background check. 

If you get all the way through the job acceptance process and this pops up, I can imagine the hiring manager may be displeased that you would be willing to hide a potentially significant issue just to get in the door. 

How do I talk about my past without ruining my chances?

Being fortunate enough to work in many different tiers of management, I can tell you that a common goal for organizations is continuous improvement. By talking about where you have been and where you plan to be, an employer can have an opportunity to see you as a person focus on continuous improvement.

Another quality that organizations a desperately searching for in their future talent (and leaders!) is the ability to identify when you have made a mistake and learn from it. Being in HR and seeing the struggle for talent management in developing future leaders, I can tell you this can work greatly in your favor. 

I currently cannot drive myself to work due to my conviction. How do I work around that?

Legally, a potential employer cannot ask you if you have a vehicle or license unless it is absolutely required to do the job. For example, you are working for a taxi company and have to supply your own vehicle or you are going to be transporting product and must drive a company vehicle. 

They can, however, ask you if you have reliable transportation. Whether or not you are willing to do whatever it takes to show up every day is up to you as an employee and a person. But if you do have reliable transportation (bus, bike, taxi, Lyft, Uber, etc.) then you simply answer "yes" to this question. 

Does that mean I'll get the job?

Just as with any of our clients or readers, our advice cannot guarantee any type of employment, promotion, interview or similar offers. However, we do try our best to reach out to various industries, talk to decision makers, and provide you with the best guidance we can find.