Applying for jobs when you have a felony/criminal record can often be a stressful and frustrating experience.
You are constantly worried about your background affecting your chances and if that will hold you back. You also have to deal with the feeling of being judged.
In this article, we will go over how to navigate the application process and overcome some of the more difficult aspects. These steps will help you improve your chances of getting the job with a felony.
So, let’s get into it.
What Jobs to Apply for with a Felony
When you are in the process of applying for jobs mostly apply for jobs where the work is not relevant to your charges. This will significantly boost your chances of getting the job as compared to randomly applying for any job out there.
For Example – If you have a driving related charge like DUI, you may want to avoid applying for driving jobs as the work here is relevant to the charges you have on your record.
Likewise, if you have violent charges on your record, you will find it difficult to get a job that involves interacting with the public. For example – Server, Cashier, etc.
In this case, you could look for jobs that are more isolated such as truck driving, warehouse jobs, construction jobs, etc.
If you have a charge like theft or robbery, you should avoid applying to jobs where the nature of the job involves handling money or merchandise. For example – Stocker, Cashier, etc.
Job Application Process
Now that you know the kind of jobs you should apply for depending on your charges, let’s look at how to navigate the job application process.
It is important to be honest and tell the truth about your criminal record while filling out the application form and throughout the hiring process.
Since you are in the process of looking for a job and have a felony on your record, you are probably used to the question of –
Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?
This question is usually followed by a section asking you to list all the charges along with the dates they occurred.
Do not lie on your job application about your record. Most employers run a pre-employment criminal background check on potential employees as a part of the hiring process and they will most probably find out about your convictions.
So, if you try to hide your convictions on the application but later the record appears on a background check, they will most likely disqualify you and no longer consider for the job because you lied on the application.
They might even take back their job offer even though you might have done well in the interview and they had decided to offer you the job.
However, you need to make sure you read the question carefully on the application and only provide relevant information.
For example – Is the question requesting information about all convictions or just felony convictions? If they are asking only felony conviction but yours is a misdemeanor, you would select NO.
Refrain from providing unnecessary information that might lower your chances of getting the job.
Ban the Box Law
Depending on the state you live in – the above question may or may not appear on your job application. The reason is Ban-the-Box law.
Ban-the-Box law makes it illegal for employers to ask applicants about criminal history on the initial job application. They need to wait until after they have conducted an interview or till the conditional job offer is extended before asking about criminal history.
More than 35 states and over 150 cities have already passed some form of Ban the Box law at the state or county/city level.
Some states still allow this question on the state level but on the city level, they have made it illegal to ask questions about criminal history on the application.
It becomes important to research if your state or county has adopted this law. As a felon, knowing your state and local laws will help you immensely in your job search and life in general.
Interviewing for a Job with a Felony Record
As a felon, you are probably aware of how intimidating job interviews can be. You have to nail the usual interview question as well as explain your record to the interviewer.
But there are certain steps you can take and tips you can follow that will help you do really well in the interview and get the job you desire.
1. Know Yourself
Job interviews are not only about finding the person with the best skills for the job, it is also equally if not more about finding people with the right attitude that know themselves really well.
They are clear about their future goals, what are their strengths and weaknesses, what value they bring to the company, what drives them, etc.
Employers ask behavioral questions to judge your leadership skills, your ability to work in teams and solve problems, how well you receive feedbacks and improve, etc.
You need to really know yourself to answer these questions. So, take some time to work on this if you haven’t really given much thought to it.
2. Know the position
You’ll be amazed how many people go for job interviews and don’t know much about the position.
You will have an edge if you are more prepared than other applicants that interview.
Read the job description thoroughly multiple times to figure out what skills and qualities are the employers looking for in a candidate.
Learn more about the company, their culture, the job position, etc. This will help you immensely while answering the interview questions.
3. How to explain your criminal record
This is the most important and the tricky part of the hiring process for someone who has a felony on their record.
It is better to prepare your story before going into the interview and explaining your record. It is also crucial to know how and when to bring it up during the interview.
You need to start by explaining them the circumstances of the crime, take responsibility for your actions and then focus on how you have turned your life around since and made positive changes in your life.
Don’t blame someone else or make excuses. Start of by explaining the circumstances in your life during the time which got you in trouble with the law and ended up with a criminal record.
But you understand that it was your decision and you take full responsibility for it. It was a bad decision and you really regret doing it.
Now you need to highlight all the positive changes you have done since to turn your life around and move in the right direction.
You need to let them know how you’re not the same person anymore.
You can talk about things like your volunteer experience, any training/certification programs you have completed, etc.
When to talk about your record – It could happen that the interviewer may not ask you about your record. In that case, you need to bring it up on your own. It is better you be upfront and tell them about it rather than them finding it out through a background check.
4. Dress properly and be on time
It goes without saying that you need to dress appropriately for the interview and always show up on time.
Most of the large companies and employers will run a background check on potential employees while making a hiring decision.
This pre employment background check is conducted to verify the information submitted by the applicant on the job application form.
A background check may include a person’s employment history, education history, criminal records, driving records, credit reports, etc.
How thorough and extensive the check is will depend on the job position and the type of background check being conducted.
What charges and felony convictions shows up on your background check will largely depend on the state you live in.
In some states, employers can only look at convictions from the last seven years – any charges older than that won’t show up. You want to check and see if your state has any laws like these as they may affect how you go about your job search.
In many states, when employers run a background check they can see all of your past convictions regardless of the time that has elapsed after it occurred.
You can run a background check on yourself using a background check service to see what shows up on your report. This will help you better prepare for interviews and explain your felony record.
Remember, employers consider multiple factors before making a decision whether to hire a felon or not.
Some of those key factors are – the nature of the crime, the time that’s elapsed since the crime and the nature of the job, prior work experience, etc. Having a felony on your record is not an instant disqualifier.
So, just because an employer runs a background check doesn’t mean you will not be considered because of your background.
Depending on the nature of the charges and the state where the crime took place you may be able to have the charges expunged.
Expungement is a legal procedure which permanently removes charges from your record. Once a charge is expunged, it won’t show up in background checks.
Every state has their own laws of what can and can’t be expunged and some of these can get pretty complicated.
Make sure you really spend some time researching the laws of any states where you may have charges in order to find out if yours can be expunged.
Felon Friendly Industries
Some of the most felon friendly industries where convicted felons find jobs are:
Restaurant and Fast Food Chains
Truck Driving Jobs
Finding a job with a felony is often a difficult and frustrating experience.
You might get rejected several times due to your record. However, by being resilient, applying to the right jobs and knowing how to explain your record will help you in your search of securing a well paying job.