Dear J.T. & Dale: I am 29 years old, with a history of success in past jobs. My problem (I think) is that I have a felony (due to be deleted from my record in about a year). My question is, Should I be totally honest during interviews? – KJ
J.T.: When applying for jobs that require background checks, it’s wise to be the one to tell the employer about the felony.
DALE: Your impulse may be to “get it out of the way” early on, but resist that. The more interviewing you go through, the more likely they are to feel they can take a chance on you.
J.T.: Work to get to the point where they are asking for the background check as a condition of a job offer. At that point, tell the person in charge: “I have a lot of respect for you and the organization. Because of that respect, I wanted to tell you personally that when you do the background check you will see a felony. The only upside is that it taught me how important it is to have a clean record. If you hire me, my goal will be to make sure you are very glad you chose me.” They’ll respect you for having the courage to tell them yourself.
DALE: They’ll want to know more, of course, so you’ll need to be able to discuss the conviction openly but concisely. Get comfortable talking about it, because you’ll need to do it now and long after a year from now. I’m sorry to tell you that there are no more magic disappearing felonies. I used to urge people to try to get their records expunged, but last year an attorney friend informed me that that has become a false hope.
In the digital age, getting a conviction set aside merely means that a new entry is added to your court history, saying it was set aside, while earlier details remain. Don’t let that discourage you. One study puts the number of adult Americans with a felony at one in 40, which means your story won’t be a shock to most employers.
If yours was a violent crime that makes you a hiring risk, you may have to build a new job history by doing temporary or consulting work. Yes, it’s an added burden, but it’s a chance to turn your past into the prologue of a story about resiliency.
© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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