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9 Ways to Get a Job with a Criminal Record

Updated on August 8, 2018
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Fingerprint with Magnifying Glass | Source

Do You Have an Arrest or Conviction and Need a Job?

If you have been arrested and/or convicted of a crime, I think you’ll agree that having a criminal record is quite possibly the most challenging career scenario of all; however, take heart…all hope is not lost. With a realistic outlook and a sound strategy, sprinkled with a generous side of patience and determination, you can land a job in spite of your criminal record.

With so many people having a criminal record, employers and the Federal Government have joined efforts to address this issue by allowing restored citizens the opportunity to work productive jobs that pay a decent wage so that they can support their families.

So, you may be asking, “What combination of elements could possibly form a sound-enough strategy to increase the likelihood of a successful career search in spite of a criminal record?” Well, hold on and I’ll tell you.

  1. Have a realistic outlook – Acknowledge that you may be disqualified from some career fields because of the nature of the crime you committed. For example, you will likely not be able to work as a financial advisor if you robbed a bank. You also may find it difficult to get hired into the education or healthcare arena if you committed acts of violence.
  2. Start Early – If you know that you are going to be in prison for any length of time, you must keep mentally active by determining what career field, trade, or skilled craft you are interested in. Research your field of interest to learn about the knowledge, skills, and abilities are required to be successful in the field.
  3. Have a background check run on yourself – If you are no longer incarcerated I strongly recommend that you have a criminal background check run on yourself. A good investigator will comb through public records in jurisdictions where you have lived to compile a report of your criminal background. Study the report so that you know exactly what is being reported about you. You can also access to get this information on your own. (source:
  4. Know your state’s laws – Know what you are required to disclose to employers regarding arrests and convictions. Be honest, but only provide the required information.
  5. Enroll in training courses – If possible, find and enroll in courses related to your area of interest. If you need to complete your GED or HS diploma, work towards that while you are being detained. Each step that you take towards making yourself more marketable is priceless. Another great way to increase your marketability is to build your technology skills. I can’t think of an industry that does not rely heavily on technology these days, so research the types of software your particular field of interest utilizes and learn as much as you can about them. Also, don’t forget to practice your reading, writing, and speaking correct English. This will help you to make a great first impression to employers.
  6. Work your way up – Understand that you may start at the entry level and have to earn the employer’s confidence before they feel comfortable allowing you to move up in the organization.
  7. Be Strategic – Try to stay away from the social media sites during your preparation to avoid having someone post anything on your timeline that indicates that you are/were incarcerated since many employer’s check social media for candidates’ online activity. Remember, you want the opportunity to present your qualifications without any preconceived bias in the employer’s mind. Instead, conduct a search of your field of interest on Linkedin to learn about organizations who need someone with your knowledge, skills, and abilities and to identify related professional organizations.
  8. Learn where resources are – City-based job programs like Chicago (CTA Second Chance Program) and national resources such as the National H.I.R.E. Network. focus specifically on helping restored job seekers find stable employment, housing and more. Many colleges not only accept, but also have initiatives to attract and support, restored citizens.

CareerOneStop, which is sponsored by the US Department of Labor, has published a guide filled with career, training and career search information for ex-offenders.

During an interview, Carisa Miklusak, CEO of tilr, told Glassdoor® that, she’s seen restored citizens being placed with good success in logistics, manufacturing, graphic design, counseling, driving, painting, landscaping, cooking, tech and engineering, sales and marketing, and certain government jobs.

Additional resources can be found at:

9. Know which companies employ restored citizens – Here’s a link to a list of major companies and higher education institutions that have signed the Fair Chance Business Pledge and are hiring on Monster:

Check out the full list of businesses that have signed the Fair Chance Business Pledge.

Know Your Rights and When to Share Information

Know your rights – Research if you possibly qualify for expungement where your criminal history would be removed from background searches.

Know when to share information – Remember, timing is everything. Recommends, give the interviewer an opportunity to like you and be impressed with your professional qualifications. If you aren’t a match for the role, criminal record or not, you aren’t getting hired. There is no need to share information too early if the interview isn’t going well. Once you see signs that you are a good match for the role and will be asked for a second interview, it might be time to speak up. If you have a felony or a more serious misdemeanor, you should bring it up before accepting a second meeting.

Be encouraged. Your second chance is out there.

© 2018 Cynthia B Okonkwo


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