When applying for a job, you may worry about how to answer questions about your criminal record. While employers can ask about and consider criminal histories to an extent, there are also legal limits on what they can use against you.
Knowing what employers can and cannot ask is key to putting your best foot forward.
What can they ask?
In most states, employers can ask if you have any criminal convictions. They can also run background checks to verify your record, so you should always be honest if directly asked about convictions. Lying could be grounds for termination.
Employers may also ask about pending charges not yet resolved. However, they cannot ask about arrests that did not lead to convictions. An arrest alone is not proof of criminal behavior.
What are they not allowed to ask?
While employers can ask about convictions, they cannot ask about minor offenses, such as traffic tickets. They also cannot ask about sealed or expunged records. If a record is officially cleared, you can legally answer no to having a conviction. Employers also cannot ask about juvenile records, since you were underage at the time. In addition, they cannot ask about your family members’ criminal histories or use those against you.
Statistics show that 30% of those with criminal convictions remain unemployed. Some may hesitate to apply out of concern that their record could hold them back. Even with a conviction, many jobs remain open to you. Be honest about your history, focus on your qualifications and know your rights during the application process.