Don’t Let a Criminal Background Lock Down Your Job Search

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Job interview | Cornbread Hustle

A criminal record doesn’t have to slow down your job search.

If you’ve ever been arrested, or lost a previous job because of substance use, you might be worried about finding work now that you’re ready for a second chance.

While it can be tougher to get hired with a background, here’s good news: many companies are now eager to hire people with a criminal record.

First of all, remember you are not alone: as many as 1 in 3 American adults have a criminal record. That’s prompted many employers to reconsider automatically refusing to interview or hire people who made a mistake in the past.

Here are three things you can do to increase your chances of getting hired with a record:

1. Know your record, and check it for errors.

Honesty and transparency are key if you’re going to get any job, and that includes applying and interviewing when you have a criminal past.

If you served prison time for offenses when you were much younger, you may not remember the exact dates and offenses. That’s why it can be helpful to obtain a copy of your criminal record to review it yourself.

When doing so, it’s important to make sure everything is accurate. For example, your record might still show charges that were cleared or expunged. You’ll want to get those cleared up, so you can be confident you know the score when sharing your past with a prospective employer.

A great place to start is with the criminal justice department in the state where you were arrested. For Texas, the Department of Public Safety has this guide and this online database. Arkansas lets you check online.

Be up front with your record to any prospective employer. You don’t want them to be surprised by something they find in a background check.

2. Take extra time to prepare for applications and interviews.

You’ll want to do more prep work at the start of your job search, to ensure you don’t waste time applying at companies that can’t or won’t hire you. Make sure you understand what kinds of jobs will disqualify you because of specific offenses on your record. This kind of information isn’t always publicly listed, so call the prospective employer ahead of time and ask to talk to a human resources representative about second-chance hiring.

Next, get your references in order. Rather than just the typical references, like former managers, you will want highly-credible, respected community members who can vouch for your character. This could include spiritual leaders, like your pastor, priest, chaplain, rabbi, or imam. Mentors and program leaders with whom you’ve worked to rejoin society are also good choices. You can build your reference network further by volunteering while your job search continues.

When you make it to the interview stage, be prepared for tough questions about your past. Employers will want to know what you’ve done to turn your life around and demonstrate your commitment to staying clean and out of the justice system.

3. Know your rights.

In some states, it is illegal for employers to ask about criminal records on a job application. Texas and Arkansas, the two states where Cornbread Hustle operates, do not have a so-called “ban the box” law, meaning employers can ask about past convictions or arrests before the interview. In most cases, employers have wide latitude to run criminal background checks on job candidates, regardless of whether they asked about a record on the application.

Generally, there are no laws that prevent hiring discrimination against people with criminal records or a history of drug / alcohol abuse. That said, if you believe you were wrongfully denied a job, you may want to contact your state’s department of labor to learn what rights you have. You may also want to consult with an attorney, with many free legal help services available.

Cornbread Hustle can help

Here’s some great news: Cornbread Hustle can help you find a job, even if you have a criminal background, at no cost to you. Our job placement services are 100 percent FREE to all applicants, and always will be. Fill out an application today to get started on your job search!