Dianne LaValley is the Spokane director for Accountemps, a professional placement company that’s a division of Robert Half International. During the current economy she sees many job candidates concerned about how DUIs and criminal records will impact their job search.
Q. When does a criminal record show up during a job search or interview?
A. It would start with the application. Nearly all applications ask: “Were you ever convicted of a crime?” Some will only ask about felonies.
Q. So how should the person filling out an application answer there, on the form, about past convictions?
A. Be honest. Lay it out, but be brief. If it’s a serious crime add: “Will explain in detail if requested.” Also, if you are dishonest about your criminal history, that almost always will disqualify you.
Q. Should you list everything you have on your record?
A. You really should know beforehand what the background check will produce. You only should list what a background check will find.
Q. How do you determine what the check will find?
A. Go to an insurance company or your bank and ask them to do a background check. You really need to be prepared and know what the check shows.
Q. How thorough are background checks? What do they search for?
A. It varies. But they all look for criminal records, education history and work history. Some add other details such as credit history. They all search for sex offender records.
Q. Can the applicant find out ahead of time what the company will be looking for?
A. Yes. It’s OK for the applicant to ask the company doing the hiring: “What is it you’re checking in your background check?”
Q. Then in the personal interview, what should the applicant say when the interviewer asks about a crime or conviction?
A. When or if it comes up, just be brief. Be specific if requested. If they ask for more about (the record), you can say: “How much detail do you want?”
But don’t get emotional and never get defensive. Don’t try to pass blame on someone else.
Q. Should the applicant prepare an answer in reply to questions about those criminal records?
A. Absolutely, and be prepared for the question to come up. If it’s something serious, like a DUI or a felony, make sure you say something along the lines: “I was in college; I acted stupidly. I’ve changed.” Your goal is to show your record is clean now and you haven’t made any poor choices since then.
Q. What crimes or records are big red flags to employers?
A. Multiple offenses, such as two or more DUIs. And for our company (providing staff for professional jobs), the big three are moral misconduct, dishonesty and theft.
Q. If I lost a job due to some court action, can I leave that off my resume?
A. I counsel all our applicants to never leave out any of your job history. A background check will find the gap, and the company will be sure to ask about that. It’s better to list all your job history.
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