Dear J.T. & Dale: My daughter recently graduated from college and got a great job offer. Our excitement turned to dismay when our daughter called and said the offer had been retracted. Unknown to us, she had been arrested two years previously for shoplifting. She went through pre-trial diversion and the case was dismissed, which she thought was the end of it.
However, a background check alerted the company, and HR called and asked for more information. When she started to explain, HR said the job offer was no longer on the table. What advice can I give her for the future? – Wendy
DALE: When I got your question, Wendy, I turned to an old friend, Mark S. Williams, an experienced defense attorney in Phoenix. I know these things vary by state and by court, but I needed an attorney to explain to us how a dismissed charge still would show up in a background check.
Mark said this: “When a case is dismissed, they don’t take a digital eraser and remove the case history. It just means that the last sentence of the court’s documentation will be something like, ‘State’s motion to dismiss case was granted.'”
But, I insisted, there must be some way to get out that digital eraser – via expunging, perhaps. He replied: “If you were arrested and charged, that history remains and is routinely available even if the conviction is set aside, or, as some jurisdictions call it, ‘expunged.’
That merely becomes another entry on the record, although it allows you to check ‘no’ when asked ‘Have you been convicted of a crime?'” Mark suggested that anyone who has any kind of past criminal history go to the website of the relevant court and see exactly what’s there. At least you’ll know what you are dealing with.
J.T.: Next time, when your daughter gets to the part in the process where they tell her they want to make her a job offer and they need to do a background check, she should say something like: “I am so excited about this opportunity and am thrilled that you want to hire me. I have enormous respect for you and the company, and so I want to be totally honest with you. Please know this is extremely difficult for me to say, but I’d rather you hear it from me than a background check.”
She’d insert a brief explanation of what happened, then add, “I know this can be a reason for a reputable company like yours to want to pass on hiring me, but I hope to have the chance to prove how reliable and trustworthy I am.” I can’t guarantee that they won’t still reject her, but I know that applying this technique has proven successful for several of my coaching clients.
Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at [email protected] or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
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