How to Tell Employers When You Have Been Arrested

Don't let an arrest stop you from finding a job.
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Just because you've been arrested doesn't mean you automatically won't be able to find a good job. It's not the arrest that might hinder you from getting the job. It's what happened after the arrest that's important. Before telling a prospective employer about your arrest, determine if it's really necessary.

Past Arrests

    Some employment applications ask if you've ever been arrested for any reason -- others ask only about arrests that led to a conviction. And some states have labor laws that prevent employers from asking about past arrests that didn't lead to a conviction. It's a good rule of thumb to always be honest on your application, so answer accordingly ... within the law. To determine whether or not your state prohibits employers from asking about past arrests, contact your state's department of labor.

Past Convictions

    There's a difference between an arrest and a conviction. An arrest is simply getting handcuffed and hauled off to jail. Though arrested, you are innocent until you go to trial and a judge pronounces you guilty. Once pronounced guilty, you are officially convicted. Most job applications will ask about past convictions. Be honest. The employer is likely to discover the truth anyway if she runs a criminal background check. The good thing is that there is usually an “explanation” section that allows you to explain the details of your conviction.

Type of Convictions

    There are two types of convictions you can receive ... a felony and a misdemeanor. Some job applications ask about both types of convictions, depending upon specific state labor laws. Other applications ask only if you have been convicted of a felony. Felonies are more severe than misdemeanors and often include prison time. If the application specifically asks about felony convictions, you are not required to disclose information about your misdemeanor.

Explaining the Incident

    If you have a past conviction, it doesn't mean there is no hope in finding suitable employment. The key is to look for employers who are more likely to hire you. For instance, if you were convicted of theft, don't look for employment at a bank. Instead, look for a job that does not involve money handling or financial transactions. When you disclose your conviction information, offer the employer an honest explanation. Don't be nervous when giving your explanation -- you're not on trial, you know. If you have changed for the better, explain how you've changed. The employer might just offer you a job in spite of your past. If she turns you away, the world won't end. You'll still live to see another day and another potential employer.

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