4 Tips for Job Hunting With a Criminal Record

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Jun 20, 2018

Jun 20, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

Are you one of the more than 70 million Americans with a criminal record?

Sure, having a criminal record isn't the worst thing that can happen to your life, but it can turn out to be a huge pain in the ass. Even though specific consequences vary from state to state, people with a criminal record typically face significant difficulty accessing credit and getting housing. And if you're on the hunt for a job, you'll quickly realize getting hired is, in itself, one hell of a job.

While we can't help you access loans or housing or work around other consequences you're facing, we can help you get a job! Read on for a detailed lowdown on how to find jobs with a criminal record.

1. Understand the Nature of Your Record

In the Bible, there's mention of no sin being greater than another. Under the law, however, crimes are not equal. The consequences of murdering or sexually assaulting someone, for example, are far more severe than, say, running a red light.

As such, the first step to increasing your employment prospects is to understand the nature of your criminal record.

In some states, there are jobs you cannot hold if you're an ex-felon. For example, you cannot pursue a law enforcement career. Actually, most of the time, nothing short of a squeaky-clean record is required to hold any job that enables you to carry a firearm.

Also, positions that work with children, the disabled, seniors, and other vulnerable groups are generally not open to ex-offenders.

With a good grasp of the nature of your record, as well as the relevant laws in your state, you'll know the kind of jobs to strike off your list. There's no benefit chasing a job you're legally barred from holding when you could be focusing on positions where you stand a fighting chance.

2. Know Your Rights

It's a fact: Applicants with a criminal record routinely get disfavored by employers. It's also a fact that ex-offenders who belong to minority communities face even poorer recruitment odds.

In light of this, policymakers across the country have been taking steps to expand employment opportunities for people with a criminal record.

In fact, as much as employers have the right to use fingerprinting and background checks and other methods to establish your criminal record, it's in breach of anti-discrimination laws for an employer to deny you a job solely because of your criminal record - unless the record makes you're a liability in that position.

Knowing your rights places you in a greater position to fight for jobs where a criminal record doesn't legally make you ineligible.

When you've reason to believe an employer refused to hire you based on your criminal record, nothing can stop you from hiring a licensed labor attorney to pursue your case. It's not unheard of for courts to order an employer found guilty of discrimination to hire victims of unlawful discrimination. And just like that, you could land a job. See, knowledge is power!

What if you know zilch about your rights? Likely, you could have let the opportunity go, laying blame on your criminal record.

3. Leverage the Power of Technology

LinkedIn gives you the tools to grow your professional network and connect with employers. But if you've spent some time behind bars, your career will lag behind. Colleagues will quickly move on. You'll have no employer to list on your profile and no colleague to add to your network. Some people don't even want to be associated with a criminal.

The good news?

New platforms designed with ex-offenders in mind are emerging. 70 Million Jobs, for instance, enables people with a criminal record to find jobs - jobs posted by employers specifically looking to hire people like you.

Surprised there are organizations looking to hire ex-cons?

Well, there are organizations that believe life gives us second chances. In fact, they believe having a criminal record doesn't make you irredeemably unfit to pursue a career and make an honest living.

Use such tech platforms to your advantage.

4. Play to Your Strengths

Even though the stigma of a criminal record stays with you for a very long time, let's make this clear. Yes, it does bring your personal character to question, but it doesn't necessarily make you any less competent. An artificial intelligence engineer who went to jail for dealing drugs is still an AI pro, no?

With the phenomenal growth of the Silicon Valley, a new breed of employers is emerging. Google, for instance, gives more focus on how potential employees think than it does grades and transcripts.

This shows there are employers who might not give much attention to your criminal record, especially if you can demonstrate you're a quick thinker, a problem solver, someone who can drive results.

Fans of the popular TV show, Suits, will recall Harvey Spector, an experienced corporate attorney, hired Mike Ross- a small-time drug peddler who'd never seen the inside of a law school - to be his associate.


Mike demonstrated his legal genius on the spot! Never mind his briefcase full of weed that flipped open during the interview.

The point here is, when you receive an interview offer, show up and step up. Prove your competence. Show you're a go-getter who isn't defined by the past. Throw your interviewers a curveball. Leave them pondering why they shouldn't overlook your record and bring you on board.

Getting Jobs with a Criminal Record: It's Not a Herculean Task

Every day, thousands of people make mistakes that end up on their criminal record. Whether you're convicted or not, a criminal history makes it harder to find employment.

However, getting hired is not an impossible mission. With the tips fleshed out here, you're in a stronger position to step into the labor market and find jobs with a criminal record.

More power to you, and don't forget to keep learning!