Searching for a job with a criminal record

Dear Working Wise: I lost my job as an electronics salesperson a year ago due to theft.

Dear Working Wise: I lost my job as an electronics salesperson 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 and I think it’s my record that’s holding me back. How can I get a good job and move on with my life? — Frustrated

Dear Frustrated: A criminal record really can handcuff your job search in a lot of ways. It can create gaps on your resume and limit the types of jobs you’ll be eligible for.

You may be able to apply for a pardon, but this process can take up to five years from the date you complete your sentence.

Don’t lose hope though — the following tips can help you overcome these challenges and get back into the workforce.

• Start with your resume — If you have a significant gap in your employment history, you may want to organize your resume by skills.

Chronological resumes are the most common, but they are not always the best option for someone with a gap in their employment history. Check out the Resume Types tip sheet on to see examples of functional and combination-style resumes, which emphasize your skills and experience instead of your work history.

• Where to look -— Some jobs will be easier to get than others because they do not require a criminal record check. For example, construction and retail rarely ask for a criminal record check while a check is mandatory in the health-care and child-care fields.

Electronics sales is an industry that’s likely to ask about a criminal record and so you will likely have to look at other fields, at least in the short term.

One option might be to look for work with a staffing agency. Some staff who are hired through a staffing agency are hired on permanently later on.

Working as a “temp” may give you a chance to build a relationship with an employer and demonstrate that you can be trusted.

• To tell or not to tell — You don’t 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 such as community service, anger management training, etc.

If the question appears on the application form, you can:

• Fill in your name and contact information and attach your resume;

• Complete the application, but leave the criminal record question blank and talk about it in the interview; or

• Answer “Yes” and add, “Let’s talk about it in the interview.”

Remember, your goal in filling out the application is to gain an interview. The best time to talk about your record is face-to-face with a potential employer.

Many career consultants suggest not disclosing your record up front with employers until they have had a chance to get to know. However, if you are asked, you should tell the truth. If you lie and your employer finds out, it will damage your credibility further.

When you do talk to your employer about your record, focus on the positive aspects, such as what you have learned since then, 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.

Am I bondable? Bondable means that an employer can take out insurance against the possibility that you might steal. The insurance may be expensive or hard to get depending on the nature of your conviction, but having a criminal record does not necessarily mean you are not bondable.

Credibility is the key to searching for a job with a criminal record. This includes working hard, building trust and developing a good relationship with all your employers, plus cultivating good references.

The Red Deer John Howard Society helps Albertans, with or without criminal records, build better lives. For help overcoming your criminal record, applying for a pardon, or searching for a job, contact the Red Deer John Howard Society at 403-343-1770 or visit their website at”

Working Wise is compiled weekly by Charles Strachey, a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. Work-related questions can be sent to him at Working Wise is provided for general information only. Help with specific situations is available through Alberta Employment Standards by calling 1-877-427-3731.

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