How to Get a Job With a Criminal Record:

How to Get a Job With a Criminal Record

I was recently asked how far back a criminal background check can go. The candidate had unfortunately been convicted of a DUI almost twenty years ago and wanted to know how long it would be on her record. The real answer is that there is no limit on how far back companies can check criminal history. But I started thinking, I suppose many people worry about how to get a job with a criminal record.

In my research to answer this question, I found that The Carlson Law Firm wrote an article stating that according to the New York University School of Law, nearly one-third of the adult working population has a criminal record.


In my experience, most company HR representatives try not to discriminate against individuals with a criminal record. However, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Federal law does not prohibit employers from asking about your criminal history.

So they can ask about your record…

…but they can’t discriminate because of it?

The EEOC does allow employers to consider criminal records when they make a final hiring decision. However, the hiring entity cannot treat people differently because of their race or national origin. Meaning, that if two individuals apply and both have convictions, it would be considered discrimination to hire the lesser qualified candidate due to their race (or ethnic background, etc).

A company can, and should, assess a person’s criminal history as it relates to the risks and responsibilities of the job. In the case of the CRA who received a DUI conviction almost 20 years ago, it is highly unlikely this one-time offense would prohibit her from obtaining a new position.

However, the type and seriousness of the offense has to be considered. As an example, if this gal had multiple DUI convictions, it most likely would impact her future employment because travel is a key part of the CRA role.

I should also note that companies discriminate when they reject everyone with a conviction from all employment opportunities.

Being arrested is different than being convicted.

When considering how to get a job with a criminal record, note that being arrested is completely different than being convicted. After all, an arrest isn’t proof that a crime has been committed. However, the EEOC does state that companies can ask the applicant about the arrest. The company can then make a hiring decision based on the candidate’s explanation of the conduct that led to the arrest.

Be Prepared to Explain

The answer to ‘how to get a job with a criminal record’ is always to be honest about your circumstances. If the New York University School of Law is correct and nearly one-third of the adult working population does have a criminal record, then there are a lot of folks lying to us!

And you should know this: it is rare for us to reject a candidate due to a criminal conviction. But we will always reject candidates if they are dishonest about their criminal history.

Hiring managers appreciate honesty. When it comes time to explain the circumstance, lead with a truthful statement of what happened and what you learned from it.

And if you need advice, let us know. We are here to help.