Be Honest Without Revealing More Than Required on Job Applications (Justice Involved)

Be Honest Without Revealing More Than Required (Justice Involved)
Despite your rehabilitation and having paid your debt to society, your criminal history may undermine your reentry efforts. Job applications typically ask about one's arrest and/or conviction history, and many employers conduct criminal background checks. It's frustrating and unfair, but it's a reality you'll need to accept and handle appropriately if your job search is to be successful.

You may be tempted to lie about your past, but DON'T! Employers can easily uncover the truth, and your deceit can be grounds for a rescinded job offer or even termination. Denying employment or firing workers on the basis of a criminal record, on the other hand, is illegal in most cases.

While honesty is important, be sure not to "overshare." Avoid providing unnecessary details when completing job application questions about your criminal history. Here are some helpful steps to ensure that you answer appropriately.

  1. Make a list of your arrests and convictions, including the offense, level, and date of each.

  2. Think through whether there may be others and add them to the list.

    • It’s possible to have a conviction on your record even if no jail time was served. Have you ever been on probation, paid fines, or done community service for offenses other than those you’ve listed?

    • Tickets or fines for certain motor vehicle incidents may actually represent criminal convictions. Have you ever been charged with reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, driving under the influence, or some other serious driving-related offense?

    • It’s common for a person’s original conviction to result in additional related ones. Have you ever missed a court date, failed to make restitution, or not done everything required of you with respect to an original conviction?

  3. Check your RAP sheet. You may have other convictions about which you’re not even aware (or have forgotten about). It’s also possible they include errors that need correcting. Be sure to request copies of your FBI RAP sheet ("identity history summary") as well as any state-specific RAP sheets. In addition, credit reports, sometimes called consumer reports, include a criminal history section. Read Questions and Answers about Credit Reports to learn more.

  4. Understand the laws in your state. Laws regulating whether employers can request and/or use information about arrests and convictions in hiring decisions vary from state-to-state. Check out State Laws and Their Impact on Use of Criminal Records for Employment Purposes for details.

  5. Familiarize yourself with different ways that the criminal history question can be worded on a job application. For each job application you complete, it’s important to carefully read the arrest/conviction question so that you fully understand what you’re being asked. To ensure that you answer “yes” only when necessary, you’ll also need to be very familiar with the dates and levels of all your offenses.

  6. Consider supplementing your job application with a Letter of Explanation. This is especially important if you’re submitting an application before being asked to interview, as they are often used as a screening tool. In this situation, if the way the question is stated relates to you, simply answer “yes,” and refer employers to the attached letter for further details.

We hope that this post and the referenced online resources help you to effectively answer job application questions about your arrest/conviction history. A previous post provides tips for answering questions at a job interview.

Preparation and commitment are the keys to overcoming the employment barriers you may face as someone who has been involved with the justice system − putting a successful job search well within your reach!

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