Disclosing Criminal History During Job Search
October 4, 2017 8:43 AM   Subscribe

At what point is it considered appropriate/ethical/professional to let potential employers know that I have a criminal background during the application process?

I am a person who is a licensed professional counselor intern and has a Masters in Counseling. I am currently looking for employment. However, I also have a criminal history - I received two prior DWIs in May 2013 and June 2012. I've been sober since May 2013, and I completed a treatment court with no issues. Many of the jobs I am qualified for are working for the city and/or in case management. I am wondering at what point I should disclose. I work in a city that has "Banned the Box," and so for most jobs, criminal history investigations occur later in the process. While this is good for me getting interviews, it's really demoralizing to get rejected late in the process due to a criminal history that would've disqualified me, and I don't want to waste anyone's time. What's the best way to approach this that doesn't harm my prospects any more than they already are by my previous choices but also is ethical? Thank you for your help.
posted by socktothepuppet to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Often the criminal checks are done by HR and the person doing the interviewing is not informed of what is disclosed. They just know whether you passed your background check or not. So I don't think I would disclose at all until required to. I'd just be honest on any paperwork that asked.

Congrats on 4 years sober.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:00 AM on October 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agree with cjorgensen. Don't volunteer any information. At all. However, when asked, answer questions honestly.

Be sure to read the questions carefully, b/c often, but not always, they are asking if you have committed a prior felony, not a misdemeanor which your DWIs most likely are under normal circumstances.

I'm am recovering alcoholic too with prior DWIs, and what I have done in the past is wait for the background checks to be run, and let the questions be asked (which they never have). Now my priors happened back in the early 1990's so it was a long time ago, but the stuff still stays on your record from what I've been told. Anyway, my attitude is that if it ever comes up, I will tell the truth that I made a couple of stupid mistakes when I was younger and I don't live a life like that anymore. If someone doesn't want to hire me, so be it. Next. YMMV.

Still sober 13+ years later. Congrats on 4+ years yourself. This will work itself out. Good luck.
posted by strelitzia at 9:35 AM on October 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

If driving is not required for your job, do not disclose unless asked to do so, or something turns up on your back ground check. A good hiring manager will use this as an opportunity for you to share the circumstances and how you have grown/ changed since you got sober and to make your case for why this will not happen in the futre.
posted by JennyJupiter at 9:44 AM on October 4, 2017

We use GoodHire to run background checks on candidates when we think we're close to making an offer. We have to ask permission to do so, and in that request we say "Is there anything you'd like us to know before we do this?" We hope people will use that opportunity to explain anything that we'd find in the search, and that the info provided will help us proceed happily forward on the offer.
posted by olinerd at 10:03 AM on October 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm sure you thought of this, but applying for a position in substance abuse might mitigate the nature of your background considerably. There's a big push toward peer to peer support in that world.
posted by crunchy potato at 10:53 AM on October 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you haven't already, look into what options might be available to have your records sealed or expunged. This varies widely across jurisdictions, and depending where you live it might be relatively easy or impossible.
posted by cribcage at 11:01 AM on October 4, 2017

One of the issues that comes up in hiring (even in a ban-the-box jurisdiction) is whether there is a locus between a criminal history and the job in question. For instance: if someone was jailed for committing fraud, they could not then be hired as an accountant. Someone convicted for child pornography could not be hired to work with children or other vulnerable populations.

So: are the positions you are applying for the sort of thing where a history of DUI would intersect or interfere with the job duties/responsibilities? An ethical hiring manager who wants to give you a second chance might consider that, and maybe you should keep that in mind in deciding what positions to apply for -- so that if the question comes up, the answer doesn't necessarily throw you out of the hiring pool.
posted by suelac at 12:03 PM on October 4, 2017

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