Career Advice

Can Someone With a Criminal Record Obtain a Job?

Many people who have run into legal troubles in the past wish to move past the incident and become productive members of society by finding profitable jobs. Having a criminal record, however, can frequently seem to be a barrier to finding employment, particularly given that many employers run background checks on applicants.

In this post, we’ll look at how to acquire a job despite having a criminal record, what kinds of positions you could apply for, and how to get ready for background checks.

Can Someone With a Criminal Record Obtain a Job?

A lot of firms are receptive to hiring applicants with a prior criminal record. Your criminal record and the kind of employment you are seeking may have an impact on whether it matters. It can be easier for you to find employment if it has nothing to do with your prior conviction. For instance, you could have a better chance of finding employment as a mobile application developer than an auditor if you were found guilty of embezzlement.

Each state has different laws and rules. How thorough a background check can be is subject to limitations in some areas. Several “ban the box” legislation prohibits inquiring about a person’s criminal record on job applications. Employers are sometimes prohibited from inquiring about arrests that resulted in no conviction. Some laws could forbid employers from evaluating specific sorts of offenses or any criminal activity older than five years.

Do I need to reveal my criminal record?

Nobody is required by law to disclose a criminal record while looking for jobs. Except when specifically requested to do so or when applying for particular sensitive positions or professions, you are not required to disclose a conviction on your resume. It may be preferable to create a functional CV that highlights your essential talents instead of a chronological CV that details your whole professional history if you need to explain a job gap on your resume because you were incarcerated.

Never give in to the temptation of lying on your resume. As you will inevitably be revealed, this could have considerably harsher long-term effects and won’t do you any favors in terms of your ability to find employment in the future. There is no point in attempting to conceal convictions because many roles need a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check, which discloses any convictions.

Tips for getting ready for a background check

According to the Clean Slate Initiative, background checks are performed by nine out of 10 employers. If you happen to have a criminal record, you can get ready for the background check in the following ways:

  • Verify your criminal history. Make sure you are familiar with your record and look for any mistakes.
  • If at all feasible, have your criminal record erased: You might be eligible to have specific records wiped depending on the legislation in your state. This implies that they might not show up on a background check.
  • Make a prepared response. During an interview or after receiving a conditional offer, questions concerning your criminal history could be raised. Ensure you’re ready to talk about it. You could wish to discuss how you have developed and evolved since the episodes, depending on the subject matter of the record. Perhaps you gained invaluable life experiences as a result.

Where can someone with a criminal history work?

Even if you have a criminal record, there are numerous locations you can obtain employment. Many “fair chance” legislation and regulations mandate that companies hold off on conducting background checks until provisional offers have been made, and if they do so, they must evaluate any criminal record given its significance to the position and other factors, such as the amount of time since the event, before making a decision. Certain employers might not even run any background checks. Consider the following employment categories:


It may be possible to gain employment in an IT division or a technology business through your programming knowledge, particularly about mobile applications or site development and design. Smaller technological companies might choose not to run background checks on potential workers, although some large organizations will. Due to the high demand for excellent developers, employers are more probable to pay attention to your résumé than your criminal record.


Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and roofers are among the professional personnel that construction firms are constantly on the lookout for. These are abilities you’re able to learn or already possess that can make you a solid living based on your level of expertise. By enrolling in courses to advance your knowledge or by pursuing licenses or certifications, you can raise your chances of landing a job. Be advised that some states need a background check if you want to pursue a journeyman license. This hasn’t stopped anyone with a criminal record from finding employment in the construction industry, either.


You might be able to get work delivering parcels, furniture, or other goods if you have a spotless driving history and a current driver’s license or commercial driver’s license (CDL). Legal assistance is accessible to assist you to get your license back if you lack a spotless driving record. Both small-town delivery firms and long-distance trucking companies are constantly on the lookout for great drivers, to the point that they frequently forgo background checks to select suitable candidates for employment. The necessary training and exams, if you are yet to obtain a CDL, only require a few weeks to finish.


Many manufacturing sectors appear to be open to hiring individuals with criminal records. These positions typically involve working on production lines, packing, or running machinery. You may make more income as a maintenance professional installing and maintaining machinery on the production floor with some extra training.


Small eateries, cafeterias, and restaurants sometimes accept new hires without doing a background check. Even though quick food outlets and large chains may have stricter standards, it’s still worthwhile to apply. Despite their criminal records, many individuals have been successful in landing jobs as prep or line cooks. You could even be able to pursue a career as a chief cook or chef with enough experience and education.


You might choose self-employment if you already possess marketable abilities or if you’re prepared to pursue the training required to acquire those skills. Although running your own business might be challenging, there are numerous benefits. You don’t need to run a background check, you may set your hours, and depending on the kind of business you run, you might make more money than the average employee. You should take into account job categories including app development, pc repair, auto care, and landscaping.

Once more, a lot of firms are willing to hire applicants with a criminal record. The best career for you will rely on your interests and capabilities.

How to find employment while having a criminal record

  • Be aware of the rules. Be aware of any state or municipal laws that may forbid employers from denying your application based merely on the existence of a criminal record. Last but not least, be sure you are aware of when a background check gives you the option to explain your past.
  • Search for employers who are willing to hire applicants with a criminal record. Search for businesses or positions that offer “fair opportunity,” “second chance,” or “open recruitment.”   Moreover, “fair chance” will be marked on position descriptions. (This designation is based on data from job descriptions and has not been verified by companies.)
  • Volunteer your time. Volunteering is an effective approach to acquiring worthwhile experience that you’re able to highlight on your CV and discuss in interviews. Spending time volunteering for neighborhood non-profits displays your desire to make a difference in the community.
  • Attend a course. Think about investing in training if you lack some of the abilities required for the career you desire if you want to increase your chances of landing it. Training not only helps you get ready for employment, but it may also improve your candidacy.
  • Get references. Create a list of individuals who are willing to serve as your references. This can give a prospective employer more faith in your dependability and competence. References that can attest to your character include previous employers, management of organizations in which you’ve volunteered, past teachers with whom you remain in touch, and religious or local organizers.
  • Use your inside contacts. Those who work with the employing company may be able to speak up for you if you know them. Ask whether any of them will be able to provide the potential employer with a recommendation letter.
  • Bring up pleasant topics in discussion. If you’ve had a criminal record, the interviewer may bring up your previous transgressions unless local laws forbid it. Consider how you might divert the subject from your history to the advantageous lessons you have learned before the interview.
  • Be sincere. It is preferable to be upfront about whatever background checks the employer may have conducted.
  • Be prepared to restart. Depending on your situation, you might need to reconstruct your resume to convince potential employers that you are dependable and prepared to work. This may require you to accept positions for which you’re overqualified. Employers may see this as an indication of your dedication if you are willing to do it.
  • Ask for assistance from organizations. There are nonprofit groups that assist persons with criminal records who are looking for work. They are familiar with the legislation and the difficulties you encounter, and they can assist you in navigating the employment market to locate employers who are ready to hire individuals despite their history.

A Guide to Job Hunt for Those with Criminal Records

Convicted individuals confront a number of the most challenging obstacles when starting a job hunt following incarceration. Since there are over 700,000 people who are released from prison each year and return to their homes, the value of second-chance employment goes beyond only ensuring one’s financial stability; having a job helps one reintegrate into society. Around 70 million Americans possess a criminal record yet haven’t been jailed, in addition to people who are rejoining society. That amounts to 1 in 3 persons who encounter significant difficulties during their job search.

Ticking the box

While applying for jobs, people with arrest records or other criminal records may feel disheartened when asked to check a box indicating their criminal background in an early stage of the application process.

Those with criminal records may be hesitant to disclose them if they don’t know whether doing so will immediately disqualify them from the position. According to one study, applicants who disclose having a criminal record are substantially fewer chances of getting a callback throughout the recruiting process, and 76% of unequal treatment that happens during this stage is due to discrimination.

Locate the states that have “Ban the Box” laws. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) reports that more than 35 states, as well as more than 150 towns and counties, have passed legislation requiring employers to prioritize an applicant’s qualifications over any criminal convictions or arrest records.

Professional experience is limited or non-existent.

One of the additional difficulties that persons with convictions encounter could be starting a job hunt after incarceration without much or no work experience. According to the CEO, of one of the biggest organizations that work to place people with criminal records, 56% of the clients they work with had never held a job before. If you have had the opportunity to work while incarcerated, emphasize this experience on your CV because jobs within the jail system might be difficult to obtain.

Consider including on your resume any experience you’ve had while incarcerated. Using your experience to market yourself and your abilities will help. Consider adding the region or municipality in which you served jail time rather than the name of the prison to convey the experience you earned while attempting to avoid bias.


Nevada National Librarian, Cedar Town, NV Jan 2018 through Jan 2021

Employment gaps

First and foremost, you should be aware that there are others like you when you experience a gap in your career history as a result of being detained. 90% of Americans have experienced unemployment at a certain point in their professional careers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Remember that employers are most interested in your most recent 3-5 years of employment; therefore, if the break happened over six years ago, you might not need to include it anywhere on your resume.

Employ a resume structure that puts more emphasis on your accomplishments and talents rather than arranging your work history chronologically. Consider writing a resume that combines your abilities and specializations, or a functional resume that includes dates for your employment.

By categorizing skill topics like project management or customer support, you can include elements like a career overview statement and notable successes. This approach emphasizes your resume squarely on your talents and abilities. The job section can then be included after your resume.

Explain the cause of your career pause at an interview, and then bring the conversation back to your qualifications and passion for the job. A standard formula for discussing a career break in an interview is to start with the reason you weren’t working, then list any upskilling you did while you were unemployed and underline the good changes you’ve made, before concluding with a line about how eager you are to start working again.

Exclusion from specific professions or occupations

Every individual with a criminal record has a different experience choosing a field or job for which to apply. Job options may differ according to the subject matter of the record. For instance, certain offenses may bar an individual from working with weapons, in the banking industry, or in a field that deals with vulnerable people like children and the elderly. For more information, consult the fair opportunity laws in your area.

Using the Nature-Time-Nature principle when applying for jobs that you’re interested in is a smart move. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) advises companies to consider the circumstances surrounding the crime, and the amount of time since the crime, and then relate those factors to the nature of the work tasks when determining whether an individual with a conviction is a good match for the position.

The details of your criminal history

Companies may not inquire about a candidate’s criminal background on a job application due to ban-the-box regulations, but they may do so during other stages of the recruiting process, such as the job interview or after a conditional job offer is issued. For someone with conviction, this can pose further difficulties because answering this demanding inquiry might feel like being interrogated.

First, if you’re not sure what the regulations in your area are, consult the NELP’s Ban the Box Fair Chance State and Local Guide to find out. Consider preparing your response if the recruitment process includes a question about your criminal record (If you’re attempting to get a job in a state where such questions are permissible).

The second piece of advice is to look for second chances and fair opportunity positions with companies that recognize your contributions. By including “fair chance” in the “What” box on Indeed’s search page, you can locate fair chance employment. Moreover, “fair chance” will be marked on position descriptions. (The employer has not verified this designation; it is determined by data gathered from job descriptions.)

Why? Many firms are aware of the significant advantages of employing job seekers who have experienced injustice (criminal record holders).

Many workers, not just people who have been affected by the criminal justice system, anticipate fair chance hiring practices from their employers. According to a recent Indeed study, the majority of participants would value working for an organization that uses fair chance hiring methods when assessing potential employers.

Putting transferrable skills into practice

Individuals who have received a conviction may find it challenging to convert the abilities they learned while behind bars into transferable skills or abilities that apply to a different profession or business. Although it may seem natural, there is value in the abilities you acquired that can be used in a variety of vocations. Consider emphasizing your solid work ethic and dedication to improving yourself by working in a position that helped you be ready to rejoin the workforce once you are released if you held employment while you were imprisoned.

Having transferable talents makes it possible to find work while detained, which is a helpful hint. Think about your abilities and how they relate to the position. To determine the qualifications (both soft and hard skills) the businesses are seeking that fit your skill set, read the position description for the positions you’re applying for.

Here is a short list of typical jobs people have had while behind bars, along with the transferrable skills they developed:

Prison assistance

Doing tasks including cooking, cleaning, office work, washing, or maintenance

  • Acquired abilities that are transferable: Gained transferable abilities include cooking, keeping records, maintaining buildings, carpentry, plumbing, maintaining kitchens, and providing laundry services.


Former inmates may have learned how to grow livestock or assist with the upkeep of farm machinery if the prison offers an agricultural program.

  • Acquired abilities that are transferable: Gained transferable abilities include vehicle upkeep, animal care, farming, construction, and forklift operations.
  • Production: Manufacturing jobs include making furniture, signs, or number plates, computer repair, clothing, food processing, or learning metal fabrication.
  • Acquired abilities that are transferable: Gained transferable skills include print press operations, receiving and shipping goods, welding, antiques refinishing, hand/machine stitching, steel fabrication, warehouse management, and carpentry.

Informational resources for those with criminal records

There are numerous options available to help match justice-affected individuals with Fair Chance Employers. The Fair Chance Pledge, a national initiative calling for companies to make investments in their neighborhoods and remove hiring restrictions for persons with convictions, has been signed by numerous organizations. These are two federal incentive-based initiatives that aim to lower job obstacles for individuals with crimes in addition to pledging:

The Basics to Work program at Indeed

The Basics to Work program from Indeed strives to give resources necessary to job applicants when they most require them. Across the country, Indeed is assisting network operators like the Texas Fair Defense Project, East Bay Community Law Center, and the Goodwill Industries of Kentucky in offering free legal aid to those who qualify for record sealing and record clearing.

Consider Comcast’s Internet Essentials service for $9.95 monthly plus tax if you require a cost-effective way to stay connected to the web at home.


Once you understand what information about your conviction you are obligated by law to provide and what you are allowed to withhold, it’s time to begin your job hunt. Improve your chances of succeeding by volunteering, enrolling in relevant courses, and demonstrating your willingness to work your way up the ladder if necessary. Volunteering is particularly helpful because it’s a wonderful opportunity to pick up new skills, adds to your resume, and demonstrates your want to make a difference in your community. With the help of these resources, you can begin to transform your Resume into a polished, thorough document that you’ll be proud of.

Frequently Asked Questions on Can Someone With a Criminal Record Obtain a Job?

  • Should I reveal my criminal record while searching for a job?

A potential employer may only request information about your record from you. Many companies will eventually inquire, and if your charges are still pending, you are required by law to reveal them. If a hiring manager asks and you do not disclose, they can later withdraw the employment offer or fire you.

  • What kind of criminal background check is typically used by employers?

The most popular type of criminal background investigation is a county check for criminal past. Employers can obtain reports from local county court records using these searches.

  • Can a potential employer inquire about a criminal history?

If you have ever been convicted of an offense for which your record has been suspended, an employer might inquire. They might decide against hiring you due to your criminal history. An employer cannot inquire about a crime for which you have received a record suspension if you were found guilty of the offense.

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