job interview

Getting Hired with a Criminal Background

Having a criminal background isn’t an automatic sentence to working at a dead-end job. We’ve talked before about getting over your past and getting started in a new career – with the first step being to find help for your issues. But once you’re clean, focused and ready to work, how should you go about finding a career that suits you?

We talked to our FastForward Career Coaches, who talk to students every day that have a criminal background, to find out what considerations students should take when it comes time to finding career training that’s right for them.

Length of time and severity

Vicki Marrs, from Wytheville Community College, gets the question, “I’m a felon, do you know if they’re hire me?” To that, she responds, “For the companies that hire felons, each person is looked at on an individual basis,” she says. “The type of crime, how recent the crime occurred and what the individual has been doing since are all considered.”

Honesty is the best policy

There are many companies out there that conduct background checks, but that doesn’t mean they automatically disqualify candidates with a past. Students often ask FastForward Career Coach Debbie Huntsinger from Germanna Community College how they should respond in an interview situation. “I support answering and responding to interview questions honestly and directly,” she says.

“If the interview doesn’t allow for sharing this information, and an offer is extended, you could approach the company by saying, ‘When I applied, I saw that hiring felons was not a problem for your company. I hope this is still true and that you will allow me to prove my ability and work and excel at your organization.’”

Know your options

When it comes to the healthcare field, for example, there are barrier crimes that will prevent you from working in the industry. By knowing your options before enrolling in career training, you’re setting yourself up for success from the beginning. Coaches like Renee Michelle Chalmers from Central Virginia Community College and Constance Peay from Rappahannock Community College recommend career fields like the culinary arts, construction, customer service, information technology, carpentry, plumbing and other skilled trade areas as industries to look into first. Additionally, students who get career training – with a little bit of business savvy, could become their own boss by going the entrepreneurial route.