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Job Hunting With A Criminal Record

Job Hunting With A Criminal Record


By Mark Swartz
Monster contributing writer

So you’ve made a mistake in the past, one that left you with a criminal record. Now it’s hurting you as you hunt for a job.
Many employers, especially mid-sized and large companies (non-profits too), conduct police clearance searches as part of a background check. If your criminal record pops up the employer may think twice about hiring you.
There are several ways to handle this. One is to apply for an official pardon. This will eventually seal your record so that it won’t appear in a background check. But if you your record is still visible, being upfront – with a compelling explanation – can be your best approach.
Background Checks vs. Reference Checks
When you apply for a position with a new employer, it’s likely you’ll be asked to provide references. The employer may want to contact some people you’ve previously worked with. They may also request personal references.
In addition, an employer could do a background check. It’s basically a search to find if there are any skeletons in your closet. Mostly they’d look for negatives that might affect your job performance. The search may include details of your credit and financial status, driving abstract, criminal record, and civil litigation documents (are you suing someone or being sued?).
A Pardon Seals Your Criminal Record
If you have a record that hasn’t been sealed, it’s very likely to show up in a criminal background check. As such, it’s in your best interest to get your record sealed. Doing so will prevent it from being visible to most employers.
Let’s say you’ve stayed out of trouble with the law since your criminal case was completed. You can apply to the Parole Board of Canada to have your record sealed. It takes either five or ten years for a pardon under current legislation.
Once a pardon is granted, there’s usually no reason to volunteer that you have a criminal past. Certain employers and positions do require a deeper investigation of your history. If, for instance, you’ll be handling large sums of money, or dealing with private information, your record may be revealed anyway.
Should You Reveal Your Criminal Past If Pardoned?
After obtaining a pardon, employers may still inquire if you have a criminal record. What should you say?
Michael Ashby is Co-Founder and Communications Director for the National Pardon Centre. It’s a for-profit firm that assists people in getting their record sealed. He has some forthright advice on this matter.
“You cannot deny the fact that you were once convicted of an offence. However, you may choose to disclose that you have obtained a pardon, which is proof you are a law-abiding citizen.” When asked if you have a criminal record, “The correct response would be: ‘Yes, I have been convicted of a criminal offence for which I have been pardoned.’”
Then again, once your record is sealed, it can’t be discovered during a typical background check. Therefore, adds Ashby, “If I choose NOT to tell about my pardon, then what happens? The best answer I can give is that nothing happens at all.” He is quick to point out, however, that lying on a job application is grounds for dismissal after you’re hired. Check with a lawyer for specific advice on your options.
What If Your Record Will Be Visible?
You needn’t list your unsealed criminal record on your resume. Yet you may need to deal with it on employment applications, during the interview, or when receiving a job offer.
Be ready with an honest, contrite explanation. Admit your fault in the incident, show how you rectified the problem, and point out your recent history of law observance. Then bring the conversation back to why you’re right for the current position.
Here are several more ways to do damage control:
·         Agree to Let Potential Employers Check References:Refusing to do so is a red flag that you have something to hide. Experts say denying access to your background information is probably more of a disqualifier for a job than any information the employer might find.
·         Check Yourself Out:Review your social media profiles. Delete any questionable material if you can and/or tighten your privacy settings.
·         Look at Your Province’s Laws: Provinces may have more specific laws than the federal government in determining what employers can’t ask.
If these strategies don’t work, consider seeking work with a firm that doesn’t do background checks. Small firms and temporary agencies are better bets. Some temporary agencies and smaller organizations conduct less-thorough background checks or do so when you go from temporary to permanent. By that time, your employer should like you and may be inclined to overlook indiscretions if you’re honest about them.

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