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If You Have a Criminal Background

AUTHOR: Darlene Zambruski
POSTED: July 1, 2008 at 7:20 am

by Darlene Zambruski, CPRW, SME

Initiating a successful job search and creating an effective resume if you have a criminal background will depend upon several key factors.

1. Was your offense recent or well in the past?

The laws governing employer inquiries into a candidate’s criminal past vary from time to time and could vary from state to state. If your offense was well in the past (15 or more years removed), and there have been no new offenses, and your work history since that time has been consistent, then your resume should be no different than one provided by a candidate without a criminal past.

2. Was your offense classified as an infraction, misdemeanor, or a felony?

Infractions and misdemeanors (eg: speeding tickets, disturbing the peace, etc.) will not alter your professional history (unless your speeding tickets resulted in a license suspension and you need a driver’s license to work). Therefore, your resume should be no different than one provided by any other candidate.

However, if your offense was for a serious felony, and you were convicted, there will be an employment gap on your resume. If the felony was well into the past and no criminal activities have occurred since that time, the professional history on your resume can begin after time was served. Another option is to create a functional resume where your skills and qualifications are presented first, while a listing of your employers is placed last. Such data organization helps to minimize gaps in employment that may have been caused by incarceration.

3. Was your offense substantially related to your past or projected career?

Convictions for offenses that cause disbarment, removal of licenses, etc., will substantially alter your chances to again work in that field. For example, if you were an accountant convicted of embezzlement, your best option is to transition to a new career in which your analytical and math skills are useful, but you will not be handling funds. Again, a functional resume format stressing capabilities, your intent of entering a new career field (in which you can use your past skills), while minimizing gaps in employment, is best.

4. Did you have consistent work history and performance before the offense?

If you were a valuable employee with numerous accomplishments, these should be showcased. Again, a functional format emphasizing skills and abilities is best

5. Are you about to be paroled?

Generally speaking, parole is contingent upon available employment. If you’re seeking parole, your resume should list work history before incarceration and any training or coursework taken while incarcerated. A reverse chronological format or a functional format is acceptable as your criminal history will be known to the potential employer.