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Career Advice

Strategies for Successful Job Searching with a Criminal Record

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated November 3, 2017

If you’ve ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, then you know it can put a bit of a wrench into your job search. You may have a harder time landing that first interview or face reluctance from hiring managers. However, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on finding the job that you want and that helps you fulfill your potential. It’s possible to overcome this challenge with good information, access to the right resources and a targeted effort.

Carisa Miklusak, a careers expert and the CEO of tilr, outlines the seven things that you need to know for successful job searching when you have a criminal record.

Jobs and job fields where restored citizens tend to succeed

With the labor market in a rapid evolution, employers are under pressure to recruit from new talent pools, and they’re increasingly becoming more open to and practiced in hiring restored citizens, or those with a criminal record. Likewise, restored citizens are excelling across a number of industries and roles.

While some organizations have loosened background check policies to expand their talent pools, others are proactively working to incorporate restored citizens into their talent strategies because they believe they’re dedicated and have an excellent work ethic.

Some of the job positions where I’m seeing restored citizens being placed with good success include logistics, manufacturing, graphic design, counseling, driving, painting, landscaping, cooking, tech and engineering, sales and marketing, and certain government jobs.

 More challenging job fields for those with criminal records

Certain fields can be tougher to enter depending on where you live. Many states have rules that restored citizens with specific prior offenses may not work with children, be first-responders or hold public office. Some states extended this to attorneys. It is important to look into what the laws and regulations are in your state when you’re looking for a job to understand what’s definitely off limits.

Companies that tend to hire from this demographic

A number of companies are known to hire restored citizens, and they typically have specific recruitment, onboarding and management programs to ensure a successful and positive employee experience. A few that come to mind in three popular industries are Kohl’s, PetSmart and Ace Hardware (Retail), Denny’s, Chili’s and Olive Garden (Hospitality/Food), Xerox, Sprint and Manpower (Business Services).

These are just a few examples, and the list of companies that will consider employing people with records is growing. It makes a lot of sense for job seekers to focus on entry-level roles as a way to break into companies that help restored citizens grow, develop and accelerate through their organizations.  

Sidenote: Here is a recent list of major companies that hire restored citizens:


Know your rights as a job seeker

Rights for restored citizen job seekers vary by state, so you should spend some time familiarizing yourself with your local policies and laws. In New York, for example, the Fair Chance Act is working to make it illegal for employers to ask about criminal record until a job offer is made. Only then can the background information be disclosed and the decision made. This forces employers to focus on qualifications and creates a balanced playing field for restored citizens. However, this is not true in many states.

You absolutely have the right to:

  • Feel proud and know that you offer valuable skill-sets
  • Feel comfortable in the process, given that the hiring of restored citizens is becoming a common and accepted practice.
  • Interview the same way a job seeker without a criminal record would interview.
  • Focus on your skills, the job and how you can contribute to the company.

Resources available to those with criminal backgrounds

There are job programs and grants that focus specifically on helping job seekers find stable employment, housing and more. The Second Chance Act (SCA) helps to provide funds to various programs across the country. Examples of these programs can be found in cities such as Chicago (CTA Second Chance Program), and nationally with resources such as the National H.I.R.E. Network. It’s also worth noting that a number of colleges not only accept but also have initiatives to attract and support restored citizens.

How much to elaborate on an application or during an interview

It’s important to include anything that will appear on your background check. In fact, you should consider running your own background check so you know what an employer sees. It’s always better to proactively discuss your situation with an employer, rather than addressing it once they find from your background results.

Of course, before disclosing information, confirm that a background check will be run. When filling out an application, read questions carefully and do not offer information that is not requested. When discussing your past incidents with an employer, be confident and focus on your learning lessons and your commitment to prove you are a restored citizen with great value to offer.

You are not required to disclose anything that is not on your formal criminal background. For example, if you were accused of a crime but then ultimately not charged, or falsely arrested and then cleared, you are not required to disclose this history. You are also not required to share details that are not asked of you directly.

Advice to persevere on your job path without getting discouraged

Not all companies do background checks. They require verifications of your identity, but may not conduct a background check. For those that do, they are looking for specific types of offenses that they have decided are not tolerable to their business. This does not mean that they are screening out all candidates with a criminal background. Furthermore, there are a number of companies that are specifically looking to recruit restored citizens and have launched purposeful programs to do so. Perhaps most importantly, the market is becoming more open to the idea and practice of hiring restored citizens. Not just because the traditional talent pool is decreasing, but also because employers are realizing that restored citizens offer an engaged, loyal, disciplined worker ready to grow with the company and contribute to their success.  

As president and CEO of tilr, Carisa drives the strategic vision and day-to-day execution with a relentless passion for the new workforce marketplace, which results in innovative and sustainable solutions. Prior to founding tilr, Carisa was the founder and CEO of tMedia, a digital media and training firm that she conceptualized and grew into a $5 million company with many Global Fortune 500 clients. Carisa honed her digital recruitment skills at CareerBuilder, where she spent more than seven years building multi-million-dollar business units that resulted in new profit streams for the company.


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