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How to Safely Navigate Job Application Felony Questions

Are you one of the 8% of Americans with a felony on their record? If so, looking for a job might be daunting.

As a convicted felon, there are some jobs that are automatically barred, and you’re not allowed to participate in them at all. This will vary from state to state, but there are a few blanket rules as to which occupations you can’t hold once you have a felony on your record.

If you’re looking for a job and you have a felony, don’t lose heart. It may make things more difficult, but definitely not impossible. Read on for tips on how to answer job application felony questions both legally, and to your advantage.

What Jobs Are Felons Barred From?

As we mentioned in the introduction, if you are a convicted felon, you’ll be barred from some types of employment. Unfortunately, this means if this was your career before you obtained a felony, you’ll have to find a new course for your life.

Convicted felons are not allowed to work with the Department of Public Health, especially in jobs that give them access to pharmaceuticals.

There is also a ban on most jobs that require you to hold a license, though this may vary depending on the state. In most states, you cannot hold a real estate license nor can you work in insurance, embalming or in pest control.

Some states may also ban felons from becoming personal trainers, working as dentists, psychologists, massage therapists, veterinarians and social workers.

In some states, however, if your felony is over a certain number of years old, you can return to your line of work. For example, some states may allow you to work in a school after a felony, providing the felony is over 10 years old.

As you rehabilitate into life after your felony conviction, it is worth finding out if your career, or career aspirations, are on the line due to your felony.

Can an Employer Discriminate Against You Due to Your Felony Status?

The short answer is both yes and no.

While in the United States, there are laws that protect individuals from being discriminated against based on their religion, sex, race and other defining characteristics, it is legal to discriminate against someone based on their felony status in many states.

Some states, such as New York, however, state that it is illegal to do so unless it directly relates to the job. For instance, someone with a drug conviction may not be allowed to work as a pharmacist, but there is no reason why they cannot be employed as a server.

Other states have similar rules. This is because there is often a stigma attached to having a felony, and therefore, it is unfair for employers to deny you a job simply based on your felony.

In the states where they are not allowed to discriminate against you on the basis of your felony alone, they must have another reason to turn down your application. Unless directly related to the job, they cannot deny your application just for having a felony.

Job Application Felony Questions

Many job applications will ask you if you’ve been arrested, convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor. They may also ask if you’ve served time in jail or prison for your offenses.

Before you hit the pavement for your job hunt, be aware of your offenses first so you know how to answer the question. While this may seem obvious, not everyone knows how to answer questions relating to their criminal record.

Speak to your lawyer or someone in charge of your case about what exactly you’ve been convicted of. You may even want to take a few job applications in to your lawyer or social worker to help you answer the questions honestly, but so they also reflect the actual status of your criminal record.

There is no need to disclose things that the application didn’t ask for because you misunderstood the question. Read everything and know exactly what you’re saying before you’ve signed.

If you’re still confused as to what your exact charges were, you can typically get a copy of your police records from your police department.

Do some research on your charge before answering any questions about them.

Learn more here about what you might face with a drug trafficking offense, and how it may affect your future career.

Answering Questions If Your Record Has Been Expunged

If your record has been expunged, meaning it is no longer valid, you do not have to answer any questions about it on a job application. You may answer that you do not have any criminal convictions, as this is truthful at the time.

Clearly, this wasn’t truthful previously, but once the state has fully expunged your record, it is now.

If anyone you’re working for knows anything about your criminal history, it cannot be used as a reason to decide not to hire you.

For all intents and purposes, you no longer have a criminal record.

Background Checks

Companies may perform background checks on individuals before they even bring them in for an interview. While this may seem unfair, it is common practice. And it is even more so if you’re dealing in a job where you’ll be in contact with vulnerable populations or people. It may also be a factor in jobs where a high level of secrecy is necessary.

Other companies perform background checks for every employee, regardless of the role.

If a company does a background check and discovers you have not been honest about your felony convictions, this could be grounds for you not getting the job.

In some cases, a background check may also reveal things like bankruptcy, misdemeanors and other issues that you may have faced in your life.

While this may sound daunting to have to face a potential employer to discuss these situations, you can always turn them into a positive.

The Interview

If you’re a convicted felon, you’ll most likely be asked about it during your interview process. This is why it is so important to know your charges and the penalties they carry. Not every person working in HR will necessarily know the ins and outs of the penal system, so you may have to explain a little bit.

Most employers will ask you to discuss the nature of your charges. You may have to explain the circumstances surrounding what happened that led to your felony conviction. Be prepared to discuss this candidly and be as open as needed.

If your potential employer asks you any questions about what occurred or how much time you have served, be prepared to answer fully and honestly.

Remember, this is a time for your employer to get to know you. While he or she is judging you on your suitability for the role, they would not have asked you to come interview if they didn’t like your resume in the first place. If you get that far in the process, pat yourself on the back.

Address the Positives

Getting arrested and having a felony on your record is no picnic. And it can severely limit your choice of career. But you’ve likely also learned valuable lessons on the way and you’ve likely also learned things about yourself.

If you’ve been convicted of a felony, think of ways this has positively impacted your life. Has it made you more accountable for your actions? Has having a child made you want to be sure you’ll never get arrested again? Did you find God in prison? Did you learn a new skill while you were serving time?

All of these are fantastic points to bring up to your potential new employers. Most people appreciate a redemption story, and if they can be part of you turning your life around, they may want to do so.

Showing that you’ve changed and that your felony or felonies no longer define you as a person is huge when you’re searching for a job post-conviction.

Going for the Job

Don’t let job application felony questions stand in your way of landing an honest job. Having a job is a great way to establish a new routine and help you get on the straight and narrow after your conviction.

Be sure that you’re ready to speak about your experiences, but don’t forget to highlight your good qualities.

Click here for a sample to help you create a fantastic resume that a potential employer won’t pass up.