Job Search and Networking: Background Checks with a Criminal Record

Lesson 9: Background Checks with a Criminal Record


Background checks with a criminal record

A computer monitor displaying a background check.

When it comes to getting a job, having a criminal record can make things difficult, as most employers require a background check before hiring someone. A background check is a report that includes things like your previous employment, education history, financial records, as well as your criminal record, which is what we’ll be focusing on.  

To learn more about background checks with a criminal record, watch the video below.

What appears on a background check?

In most states, when employers run a background check, they’re able to see all of your past convictions. However, there are a select number of states where employers can only look at convictions from the last seven years; any charges older than that won’t show up. You’ll want to check if your state has any laws like this, as they may affect how you go about your job search.  

A ten-year timeline of various convictions for a job applicant.

But what if you were charged with a crime but never actually convicted for it? Believe it or not, the charge will still appear on your criminal record. So even if you weren’t found guilty, employers will still be able to see it.

Avoiding jobs relevant to your charges

All of the information a company finds can be used in deciding whether or not they hire you. This means you might want to avoid applying to jobs where the work is relevant to your charges.

For example, let’s say you have a violent crime on your record; you may want to keep away from jobs that involve interacting with the public. Instead, you could look for jobs that are a bit more isolated, like a truck driving position. Or maybe you have a charge like robbery or theft; in that case, you’ll want to avoid applying to jobs dealing with money or retail products. Something in the manual labor or food service industries might be a better fit.

A job applicant with a robbery charge considering jobs that do not handle money.

Getting a charge expunged

Depending on the state where the crime took place, you may be able to have the charge expunged. Expungement is a legal procedure that permanently removes charges from your record, meaning they’ll no longer appear in background checks. Every state has its own laws about what can and can’t be expunged, and some of these can get pretty complicated. Make sure you spend time researching the laws of any states where you may have charges, and find out if yours can be expunged.

A person looking at a clean criminal record.

Criminal records can make it more difficult to land an interview and find a job, but now that you know the basics, you’re better equipped to deal with the challenge ahead. Be resilient, and continue to make positive changes, and hopefully, you'll get the job you want.