Getting a Job with a Criminal Record — Is It Possible?

Finding a job is often an arduous task. Some employers make you jump through so many different hoops just to get an interview. Some job seekers never even get the benefit of an interview in the first place. There are a variety of different reasons for why someone may struggle to gain employment. One reason is that the employer found something alarming on the application. This may be the presence of a criminal record. Getting a job with a criminal record may seem impossible. While there is increased difficulty, hope is not all lost. Follow along for some helpful advice on how to find a job if you are in this situation.

Why is finding a job so difficult?

The criminal justice system can be a scary experience. Finding a quality attorney at law, paying bail, and navigating the court appearances are just some of the issues plaguing people in this situation. In America, up to 33% of people face an arrest before the age of 23. Not all of these arrests result in a criminal conviction and they are all not indicative of a life of crime. Getting a job with a criminal record features several barriers. When someone wants to turn the corner, finding a job is a big step forward in that regard.

Many employers are noticeably apprehensive when hiring someone with a criminal record. Whether someone has been convicted of state or federal crimes, the presence of a criminal record is likely to give them some pause. They want someone who is a good worker and will hopefully stay with the company for a long time. Most importantly, they want an employee that they can trust. Someone getting a job with a criminal record may feel like they are up the creek without a paddle. Fortunately, there are a number of available options.

Explaining your history

getting a job with a criminal record

When someone is getting a job with a criminal record, they will have to answer some questions by the potential employers. The application may include a question asking whether you have been convicted of a felony. Your work history will likely include at least one significant gap. You will need to find a way to explain your history to the employer. They then may be willing to give you a chance.

One great way to explain yourself is through a cover letter. In your cover letter, you can highlight any useful skills and strengths. This can also give you a chance to explain what happened that lead to your arrest. If they hear your side of the story, they might be willing to give you a shot. It is important that you are upfront and honest. The employer will eventually find out about your criminal history. There is no sense in hiding it.

Working for a temp agency

When someone is interested in getting a job with a criminal record, they have to face the scrutiny of the employer’s distrust. Many applicants think that “If they just give me a chance, I can prove to them that I’m a good worker.” Sadly, many people are not afforded that chance. There are options where someone can prove their worth at little risk to the company. Working through a temporary employment agency can be one of those great options.

Temporary employment agencies can be a great resource for companies. They might utilize them if they need some extra help during their busy season. Let’s say that a company with remodeling contractors is in the midst of a plethora of projects. They may be looking for a whole crew to tackle a house or building remodel. They might contact an employment agency to supply them with workers. The company may not be so concerned with your past as long as you are a good worker.

getting a job with a criminal record

Seasonal jobs are often searching for workers during their busy times. Paving contractors, for example, work outside. Their busy season will be during the warmer spring and summer months. During this time, it will be “all hands on deck.” You would be wise to seek out employment in one of these industries at this time. While work may dwindle down as the weather grows colder, these types of jobs can give you some valuable experience and a fulfilling paycheck. This can help you in getting a job with a criminal record.

Companies may also use these agencies to seek out future full-time employees. They can take on a worker on a temporary basis. Should any issues arise they will have a convenient “out.” Once you get in on a temporary basis, the ball will be in your court. You can work hard and become an exemplary employee. Even if they do not keep you on full time, you can still gain some valuable skills that can help you find your next job. A temporary employment agency can get you well on your way to gainful employment. These agencies can be beneficial in getting a job with a criminal record.


Just because you made some mistakes in your past, it does not mean that you must give up on your dreams. You may not just want a job, but a career. To find your next career move, you can consider the apprenticeship route. Careers such as plumbers often start off as an apprentice. The apprenticeship lasts three to four years typically. Much like a temp worker, companies may be willing to take on someone in an apprentice capacity.

When you start an apprenticeship program, it is up to you what you do with it. If you impress enough, you can stay on full time afterward. You can utilize both the temp worker and apprentice routes. Use the temp work experience to pump up your work history. Much like applying to school, not everyone gets into the apprenticeship program. Use the valuable experience you received from the agency jobs.

When pursuing an apprenticeship, think about what interests you. As the old saying goes, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” These interests can help spur your career choices. Maybe you enjoy electrical work and want to pursue a career as an electrician. You can try to seek out an electrical company to inquire about a possible apprenticeship. You are not just getting a job with a criminal record. You can also pursue a lifetime career to help get your life back on track.

Paying off debts

When someone is involved in the justice system, they are likely to face a fair number of financial setbacks. Fines, lawyer’s fees, lost wages, and bail services are just some of the costs that someone in the criminal justice system will incur. This makes seeking a job ever so important. You will not only need a job for all of your daily expenses. There may also be several debts that you will need to pay off. Adding insult to injury is the fact that outstanding debts may be a barrier to your job prospects.

getting a job with a criminal record

Depending on the type of job you are searching for; the employer might decide to run a credit check on you. When you are behind on payments, your credit score will take a hit. A poor credit score may raise some red flags for the potential employer. This is especially evident if you are looking for a financial type position. You might be behind on your payments to the bail bond agents that you used during your court case. It is important that you take care of these outstanding debts. If you are struggling to pay them, consider contacting the company about setting some kind of payment plan.

When someone has been paroled, they are looking to start their life over. They are ready to leave that dark period of life in the past. When someone has been released from prison, they will be working with their parole officer. The parole officer’s job is to help their client rebuild their lives after prison. This will involve getting a job with a criminal record. Your parole officer can be a valuable resource.

Parole officers are tasked with helping their parolees adjust to life outside prison. They can help provide some “tough love” when it comes to finding a job. They will make sure that their clients are not just sitting idly by. You should talk with your parole officer and ask for any advice that they may have. They can offer some interview tips as well as helping to secure employment. They can also help you pick out a wardrobe for your interview and first days on the job. An experienced parole officer has likely been down this road before and knows the ins and outs of gaining employment. As you are preparing to turn your life around, parole officers can be a valuable resource.

Talking to others in the same situation

Sadly, millions of Americans are involved in the criminal justice system right now. Some, who are convicted of the most serious crimes, may spend their entire life behind bars. Most, however, need to adjust to life outside of prison. You are likely not in a unique situation. There have been numerous individuals in the exact same boat as you are in right now. They can be helpful to you in this trying time.

If you served time in prison, you likely saw several fellow prisoners eventually get released. If you have contact information, you might want to seek them out for advice. Ask them how they adjusted to life outside prison and job-hunting tips. You can also ask your parole officer for recommendations. Any advice they may offer can prove to be beneficial. One important question to ask is “How can I explain my criminal past to the employer and convince them I won’t be a liability?” You should also seek out advice from a variety of different sources. With the right advice, you will be well on your way to getting a job with a criminal record.

getting a job with a criminal record

Some employers actively seek out workers looking for a second chance. While some may shy away from an employee with a criminal past, others embrace it. You might find it difficult to find one of these companies. Someone who has been through this process before can help point you in the direction of one of these businesses. Even if this is not your dream job, it can help get your foot in the door. It is easier to find a new job when you already have one to begin with.

Legal concerns

When seeking out new employment, it is important that you know all of your rights. Although being an ex-convict is not a protected class, it is important to note whether you are being discriminated against. Getting a job with a criminal record is bad enough. Throwing in discrimination will add insult to injury. If you feel that you have been discriminated against, you would be well advised to contact an employment attorney.

A quality law firm is made up several specialized lawyers with their own unique job descriptions. An employment attorney is an essential member of that firm. There are many different forms of discrimination that an employment attorney will take on. Employment decisions that discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, based on sex and gender, age, disability, and more set off major red flags. Unfortunately, they can be difficult to prove at times. If you feel that you have been wronged, your attorney will likely advise you of securing evidence. Talk to other workers at the company. See if there’s a pattern of behavior by this employer. Current employees may be reluctant to speak out for fear of losing their own job. Consider contacting former employees. Your lawyer may also want to research past litigation involving this company. Sometimes there may not be enough evidence, but discrimination is always a fight worth taking on.

getting a job with a criminal record

Getting a job with a criminal record is no small task. Unfortunately, some employers will avoid these applicants like the plaque. There are, however, some significant glimmers of hope for those in this predicament. You may have made some mistakes. That does not mean that you cannot provide value. With the right amount of due diligence, you will find the right job for you.

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