A pre-employment background investigation is commonplace with even the smallest business. If you have a record of misdemeanor convictions, you must expect the records to be located by your prospective employer. Although a criminal record will limit your job opportunities, you can still get a job if you are prepared to disclose your record during the job application process. Knowing how and when to disclose your record is important and, above all, be completely honest when you disclose the information on your record.
Go to the clerk’s office of the courthouse where your misdemeanor convictions occurred and inspect the case file to ensure that you have the correct information about your convictions, such as the state laws you violated and the details of your sentence and probation, if any. Verify that the information is correct. For example, if your case was originally filed as a felony, but you were promised it would be reduced to a misdemeanor upon completion of your probation, you need to verify that this occurred. Court clerks and probation department employees make mistakes, and you want to make sure the records are correct before a background investigation company reports the case as a felony.
Do not disclose your criminal record until you are requested to provide information about past misdemeanor convictions. Because any prospective employer will have to pay for a background investigation on you, this is unlikely to occur until you have been interviewed and are seen as a desirable person for the job. Use the initial interview to discuss your qualifications for the job and take the opportunity to make a good first impression.
Provide only the information you asked for on the job application. Because federal law requires the employer inform you that a criminal background investigation will be done as part of the hiring process and to obtain your written consent to do so, the job application will include this information as well as ask you to provide information about your criminal records. If the application only asks you to provide information for felony convictions, do not include information about any misdemeanor convictions.
Disclose the information about your misdemeanor convictions in a concise and accurate manner. State the law you were convicted of violating and the sentence. A brief description shows that you are not preoccupied with your past record and ready to focus on your future.
Some states permit misdemeanor convictions to be expunged from your record. If expungement is provided for in your state, you should avail yourself of this remedy to clean up your record. (See Reference 3) The law regarding reporting of criminal records by background investigation companies differs from state to state. For example. California prohibits reporting of criminal convictions more than 7 years old. Therefore, if you consent to a background investigation for a job in California, you cannot be asked to disclose criminal convictions over 7 years old. (See Reference 4)
Even a misdemeanor conviction on your record can disqualify you for life from some jobs, typically law enforcement related. For example, in Texas, one Class A misdemeanor conviction means a lifetime disqualification for employment as a peace officer or jailer. (See Reference 5)
- Misdemeanor Guide: Can I get a job with a misdemeanor?
- Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut: Is Your Criminal Record Keeping You from Working?
- FindLaw: Expungement and Criminal Records: State-Specific Information
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: What Cannot Be in a Background Check Report?
- Texas Commission on Law Enforcement: FAQs