Job hunting is hard work under any circumstances, but nearly 70 million U.S. adults face an additional challenge: convincing an employer to hire them when they have a criminal record.
With technology making background checks easier and cheaper for employers, more and more job seekers are finding that their criminal histories—even long-ago histories—are presenting a barrier to getting hired.
The good news is that a strong national movement to reduce those barriers is seeing success: the National Employment Law Project reports that 17 states and over 100 cities and counties have taken steps to remove barriers to employment for qualified workers with records. Still, in most cases, even qualified job seekers with a record have to work harder than those with no record to land a job.
So what can you do if you’re one of those 70 million? First, remember that it is possible to move past your record: there are employers who will hire people with criminal convictions. Many employers believe in second chances, and embrace the opportunity to help others. It’s your job to find those employers, and then show them why you’d be a great hire for them—despite your criminal record.
Here are three steps you can take to increase your chances of being hired:
1) Contact a local community organization.
- There are hundreds of local service providers across the country who specialize in helping ex-offenders find work.
- Different local service providers offer different services. Some place workers in jobs with local employers. Others offer training and resources to help with your job search.
- Find a community organization that works with ex-offenders near you.
2) Try several methods for connecting with employers.
- Talk with family, friends, counselors, and others about the kind of work you’d like, and ask for job leads.
- Contact employers in person, by phone, and online to ask about job openings in your field.
- Apply to jobs you find in online job banks.
- Attend job fairs and introduce yourself to different employers.
- Visit employers in your community to apply for jobs.
3) Tell employers about the benefits of hiring you.
- Be prepared for interviews with these tips for talking about your conviction.
- Tell employers about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which gives tax discounts to employers who hire low-income ex-offenders. You might want to print this WOTC brochure to bring to interviews.
- Tell employers about the Federal Bonding Program, which is insurance for employers concerned about theft or dishonesty by an employee. Employers can call 1 (877) US2-JOBS to get more information.
Want more information? CareerOneStop offers Job Search Help for Ex-Offenders.