What to Do If You Have a Criminal Background: 2 Simple Steps

What to Do If You Have a Criminal Background: 2 Simple Steps

When I started applying for jobs 15+ years ago, my parents and teachers drilled into my head that if I did anything criminal, I would not be able to get a job. All companies ran background checks, and any criminal convictions would stay on my background report for seven years. I am sure you were also told that if a company runs a criminal background check, they only go back seven years, therefore, you only need to tell employers your criminal history for the last seven years. I’ve interviewed a number of people who think that convictions older than seven years magically “go away”. But where does it “go”? Unfortunately, your criminal history never “goes away”, but I’m here to help if you do have a criminal background with two simple steps.

Step #1 – Be honest!

A criminal record might sound like something negative, however, it’s becoming a lot more common among U.S. citizens. When filling out an application, a good majority of employers have background check consents to sign. At this point, you should inform your potential employer of any items that may show up on your background check. If there’s a misdemeanor or felony on your record, it’s easy to understand why you would hate to volunteer these items. However, it’s always best to be upfront and honest, regardless if it was last month or 15 years ago. Yes, most employers only go back 7-10 years with a background check, which is where I think candidates get confused and think that their record just “goes away”. I would rather have a candidate be honest with me and explain so that when I do a background check on them, I don’t have something come up, and then I’m questioning their honesty.

A criminal record could be a make-or-break deal on whether you get the job or not. I’ve had a handful of candidates not tell me about something on their background and it ended up costing them the job. Each employer has different knock-out factors, so just make sure to be truthful with what happened and offer an explanation. If you show that you’ve grown and learned from it, they’re more likely to see the positives in that.

Step #2 – Know the Rules!

Employers know the questions they can and can’t ask throughout the interview process. First off, they can legally ask any question that relates to your criminal background. They can go back as far as they feel necessary and can do so for either felonies or misdemeanors. The rules companies must follow are that they must handle all criminal background checks and outcomes exactly the same; they must be fair to every potential employee that interviews; and they must be careful with how they ask certain questions.

When I interview a potential candidate and bring them in for a certain client, I know what their knockout factors are. We explain the knockout factors to the potential employee and ask if they would like to proceed. It’s at this point you should be 100% honest with your answer. Also, it’s important for candidates to know that juvenile charges don’t carry over when you become a legal adult and can’t go against you.

Bottom Line

If you do have a criminal background, and your future employer extends an offer and you accept knowing what’s on your background check, give it your all. Make sure the company realizes that you do appreciate them giving you the job, even with whatever may be on your background. This may also help you get over your past and look to the bright future you have with that company.


What to Do If You Have a Criminal Background: 2 Simple StepsKristi Elet

Kristi started her career with Celebrity Staff as an Account Manager in July 2013. Her career has evolved through the years and she currently is the Recruiting Manager. In her role she supports the recruiting team in all four Celebrity markets. In her spare time, Kristi enjoys spending time with her daughter, Julia, as well as the many family and friends she has in Omaha.

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