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Job Searching With a Criminal Record

How a Criminal Record Effects Employment


Handcuffs and fingerprint sheet
Comstock / Stockbyte / Getty Images

How can you find a job when you have a criminal record? It's certainly not easy. Not only can a criminal record impact your employability, but the time out of the workforce is an additional challenge when seeking employment.

Criminal Record Legal Issues

Laws vary on checking criminal records when hiring. Some states don't allow questions about arrests or convictions beyond a certain point in the past. Others only allow consideration of criminal history for certain positions. There is no federal law regulating criminal records and hiring, so it would depend on state law in your location.

In addition, employers are also concerned about hiring responsible employees and are concerned the possibility of negligent hiring lawsuits where employers can be held responsible for damages or injuries caused by an employee.

Job Search Strategies

  • Get help. If you're on probation, the probation officer may be able to assist you with employment. Check with your State Department of Labor to see if they have employment programs. There are also non-profit organizations that may be able to assist with finding a job, job applications, resume writing, interview skills, and interview attire.
  • Be flexible. At this point, because of the difficulty in getting hired, almost any job will do. Be open to taking a job that you might not have considered in the past. That first job will be a building block to help restore your work history.
  • Dress for success. Regardless of the job you are applying for, dress appropriately, neatly, and tidily. When you apply for a job in person, the first impression the employer will have will be based on how you look, so you want to make that impression a great one.
  • Tell the truth. If you're not truthful on a job application, it can disqualify you from employment and you could be terminated in the future - not necessarily because of what was found, but because you were dishonest when you applied.

When You Apply for a Job

Zachary Hummel, Partner in the New York office of Bryan Cave LLP who represents employers in all aspects of labor and employment law, shares his perspective on the best strategies for job seekers when it comes to employment applications:

  • Know your rights. Be a knowledgeable applicant. Visit your State Department of Labor web site and review what an employer can check.
  • Read the job application. Read the application carefully, so you are informed as to what will be checked.
  • Disclose only what is asked. Only disclose the information you need to, based on the employment application.
  • Be honest. If you're asked about credit or your criminal record and have issues, explain the circumstances. The employer will value an explanation upfront, rather than discovering that there is a problem when they get your report.


The private web sites, and the information linked to both on and from this site, are opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only.

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