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Working Wise - Job Hunting With Criminal Record

Dear Working Wise,

I lost my sales job a year ago due to theft. I’ve learned my lesson and will never do it again, but I haven’t been able to find a good job since. How can I get a good job and move on with my life?
Signed, Frustrated

November 9, 2016

Dear Frustrated,

A criminal record can handcuff your job search in a lot of ways. It can create gaps on your resumé and limit the types of jobs that you are eligible for.

You can apply for a Record Suspension (Pardon), but not for between 5 and 10 years—depending on the offence. Don’t lose hope though—the following tips can help you overcome these challenges and get back to work.

If you have a significant gap in your employment history, you may want to organize your resumé by skills. Check out the Choose a Type of Resumé article on the ALIS website to see examples of functional and combination style resumes, which emphasize your skills and experience instead of your work history.

To tell or not to tell—You do not have to disclose your record if you are not asked and you will likely clear a criminal record check if you were: charged, but not convicted; pardoned; or referred to alternative measures.

If a job application asks about a criminal record, you can:

  1. Fill in your name and contact information and attach your resumé.
  2. Complete the application, but leave the criminal-record question blank and talk about it in the interview
  3. Answer “yes” and add, “Let’s talk about it in the interview”.

Remember, your goal in filling out the application is to get an interview. The best time to talk about your record is face-to-face with the employer. Many career consultants suggest not disclosing your record up front with employers until they have had a chance to get to know you first. But, if you are asked, you should tell the truth. If you lie and your employer finds out, it will damage your credibility further.

Job fairs are a great way to talk with employers face-to-face and make a good impression before they even see your resumé. When asked about your record, focus on what you have learned since, steps that you have taken to change, and why it will never happen again. Some employers may look at the nature of your offence and how long ago it happened and decide that your record isn’t an issue.

Credibility is the key to searching for a job with a criminal record. This includes working hard, building trust, and developing good relationships with all your past employers. A good reference might help make the difference.

For more tips, read these ALIS articles

For help with your job search

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/nico blue

Working Wise is a syndicated newspaper column prepared by the Government of Alberta to answer work-related questions from Albertans. Do you have a work-related question? You can send it to Charles Strachey (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca), a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services.

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