Job Search Tips If You Have a Criminal Record

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Seeking Employment

  • There are still employers who will hire those with criminal histories. They are fewer and harder to find, but they do exist.
  • Know up front that you will have to submit many more resumes than someone who does not have a criminal history.
  • Smaller, private employers are more likely to hire persons with criminal histories than state offices and larger companies.
  • Pay attention to how your charges read to an employer. If you have a theft charge on your record, any position that requires handling money or small merchandise may be less open, whereas warehouse, food service, or construction may be more open.
  • Be willing to go door to door rather than relying on the internet and fax machines.

Completing the Application

  • Take with you: information (names, addresses, and phone numbers for previous employers and references), pen, and white-out (to fix mistakes).
  • Dress professionally, speak politely, and be on time.
  • Answer every question. If the question does not apply to you, you can put N/A.
  • Read over your application carefully before turning it in.  Make sure it is neat and easy to read.
  • Ask how you can check back for information on the status of your application.  You will need to be persistent.

Answering the Criminal Background Question

  • Get a copy of your criminal history and review it to be sure it is correct before applying for jobs. Remember that arrests and convictions do not “come off” after a certain number of years.
  • Do not write “will discuss at interview.” Many employers may consider this a waste of their time and not consider your application.
  • Answer everything they ask but ONLY what they ask. If they only ask about convictions, do not tell them about any arrests that did not lead to convictions.
  • Be truthful. Always assume that the employer will run a background check.
  • Remember that you do not need to include juvenile cases.

Writing a Separate Statement

  • If the application asks about criminal history, consider writing a statement that outlines the nature and circumstances of your criminal history.
  • Submit this statement on a separate piece of paper from the application, resume, and cover letter.
  • Consider beginning with, “I would like to explain the information you will see on my criminal background check.”
  • Keep it brief, simple, and focused on you. Show how the person who was arrested is different from the person applying for the job. Include information about lessons learned, treatment programs, and how you are taking responsibility for your life. Do not talk about how your case was unfair. Employers are looking for people who take responsibility. 
  • You can also attach relevant court dispositions, like documents showing that a case was dismissed. This is especially helpful if your record shows that a pending arrest has been resolved.
  • Only use this extra sheet when you feel comfortable or feel that it will help you.

Employment Services and Agencies

Workforce Development Offices (Call to find out about orientation and eligibility)

  • 818 Pollard Blvd, Atlanta – (404) 658-9675
  • 320 Church Street, Decatur – (404) 687-3400
  • 4842 Old National Highway, College Park (Youth 21 and Under) – (404) 612-9084

GA Department of Labor (Ask about TOPSTEPP Program, which helps people with criminal records)

  • 2536-14 MLK Jr Dr, Atlanta – (404) 699-6900
  • 2943 N. Druid Hills Rd, Atlanta – (404) 679-5200
  • 3879 Covington Hwy, Decatur – (404) 298-3970

Atlanta Urban League

  • 100 Edgewood Ave, Suite 600, Atlanta – (404) 659-1150