by Goodwill Easter Seals ReEntry Services
A criminal record will make some parts of the job search different than it is for job seekers who don’t have a criminal record. Your record will come up at different points during the search, including during a job interview. The following tips will help you practice how to disclose your criminal background if asked about it by a potential employer.
- Application. Many companies ask about your criminal record on the job application. Read this question carefully before answering. Often the employer will ask about your criminal history within a given time frame. For example, the question may be “Have you been convicted of a felony within the last seven years?” If your conviction was more than seven years ago, you can simply answer “no.” If it was more recent, do not answer “yes” because it will increase your chances of getting screened out before an interview is offered. Instead, write something such as, “will discuss in interview.” This may spark the employer’s curiosity and give you the opportunity to verbally explain your offense in an interview.
- Take responsibility. When an employer asks about your criminal background during an interview, do not blame others for your actions. Instead, say something such as, “In the past, I made a poor decision.” Be honest and brief, but do not mention specific details of the offense. You could also soften the offense. For example, instead of plainly saying you were convicted of robbery, say something like, “I took something that was not mine to take.” Avoid the term felony.
- Stay positive. Explain what constructive changes you have made in your life since your conviction. It could be something like completing an education program, doing volunteer work, or having more positive relationships.
- Lesson learned. Convey regret for your actions and discuss what you have learned from your experience to show that you will not repeat your actions. For example, use phrases like, “I’m not proud of my actions, and…,” or “At the time my priorities were not right; however, since then…”
- Focus on goals. Clarify your goals for the future, how you are moving forward, and what you are doing to accomplish them. Explain how a position at the company you are interviewing for will help you accomplish your goals.
This article is a part of the STEP AHEAD Workbook (pdf), a collaboration of Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota and ISEEK. STEP AHEAD helps job seekers with felony convictions and other criminal charges know their work options, set goals, get training, and be successful in their job search.