Ask Our Experts: I Can't Expunge My Record, How Can I Get a Job?

Each week, we ask our experts to answer a career question on behalf of our readers. This week’s question is from a reader who can't get a job because of an old mistake:

"I can't expunge my record of a misdemeanor that happened decades ago. So, whenever an employer wants a background check, there it is. I can't throw away my past, as much as I want to, but if I don't, I fear I will end up homeless. Any suggestions?"
Here’s what our approved career experts had to say:

Be Honest From The Beginning

"You know that it is going to come up on a background check," career expert Bruce Hurwitz says. "Just tell the employer,'When I was x years old, I screwed up. You will see the misdemeanor on my record. It was a great learning experience. What happened was… I learned from the experience… and this is why it has actually made me a better person or employee – not that I would recommend that course of action to anyone!'"

Make Sure You Bring It Up First

"An employer will only do a background check if they are interested in you, which means you should have had several interviews for the position," says career expert Don Goodman. "Since you know they will discover it, you need to be proactive and bring it up first and position it accordingly."

Realize It's Too Old To Really Matter

"As a recruiter, I was not concerned with a misdemeanor that happened decades ago," says career expert Stacy Harshman. "I was concerned about felonies that happened within the last 10 years and mainly those that involved violence and theft. Admit to the misdemeanor and include the date but don't be worried about it because it is way too old to really matter."

Turn It Into A Story

"Why not make a story out of it since it no longer represents who you are?" career expert Shell Mendelson says. "There is nothing like a positive spin that rings true for you. You can weave your story into the interview in advance and offer full disclosure. Points will always be taken off if this type of information is not initially forthcoming. If you are true fit, a misdemeanor should never deter an employer."

Only Talk About It When Asked

"Don’t bring it up, but if asked, be straightforward about your situation," says career expert Bud Bilanich. "Mention that it was 30 years ago, and was a misdemeanor which wasn’t prosecuted. An arrest is different from a conviction. Focus on your accomplishments over the past 30 years and why you are an excellent candidate for the job for which you’re interviewing."

Apply To Smaller Companies

"You need to pursue professions or jobs where the need for background checks doesn’t exist," career expert Dorothy Tannahill-Moran says. "Usually only larger companies do background checks because they are costly which means you need to pursue positions in smaller, 'mom and pop' businesses. The next criteria is to get qualified for positions where your background is of lesser concern like in the trades (plumber, electrician), restaurants, or bakeries. You should eliminate any of the high tech companies, government, banks or where money or children are involved as part of your job search in addition to larger companies." Record can't get job image from Stock.xchng

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