|The following post is written by Michael Klazema. Michael has been developing products for pre-employment screening products and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for a background checks blog and community. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.
You can connect with Michael on LinkedIn.
These days, background checks are a critical task when employers hire new workers. No longer can they really take a chance on hiring someone based just on the information placed on an application or resume. A food-service job might not go through it, but even they will likely have a box asking if you have ever been convicted in court or arrested.
Some teens and young adults may look at that box and swallow hard. Crimes they may have committed as youths would have to be reported. Even an arrest that led to no conviction might have to be reported. Will a little “fun” that went wrong now haunt all your job applications and resumes for the rest of your life? The answer is “It depends.”
Why Do They Screen In the First Place?
The truth is, companies simply cannot afford not to do background checks, especially if they are a small business. Did you know that according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 30% of small business failure is due to employee theft? Workplace violence and drug use are additional reasons that companies prefer to check out their potential employees before making a hire. Performing a background check also protects businesses from legal liability.
The only types of businesses that don’t perform some sort of screening process either trust their employees very strongly, and probably have a false sense of security as a result, or they don’t fully understand the legal liabilities. It is totally possible for a business to be held liable for an employee’s actions. This can devastate a company from a financial and reputation perspective.
How Can I Get My Record Clear?
Now that background checks have become so ubiquitous, it is good to know that it is possible to get convictions and arrests sealed or otherwise made non-public, so you do not have to report them to employers when they ask about past criminal records. This process is called expungement. The laws for expunging old arrests, criminal records and even convictions vary from state to state and from offence to offence. You probably will not be able to expunge any record that you are still paying the consequences for. However, once you have satisfied the legal system with whatever requirements they have placed upon you, you can ask about record expungement. Here are the questions you should ask:
- Is my offense eligible for expungement?
- When am I eligible for expungement given my offense?
- What does the process involve?
- What records do I need to provide?
If you committed your offence when you were a teenager or if they were drug-misdemeanors such as possession of a small amount of marijuana, you may be able to get them expunged easier. Many times it is possible to get juvenile records expunged once you have turned 18. And even if you were only arrested, but later found completely innocent of a crime, you should consider getting that criminal record expunged as it could still show up as a part of a common background check.
If I Can’t Expunge My Record?
If you cannot clear your record, your best bet is to be completely honest with your potential employer about what happened. State what occurred in a calm and professional manner. There are only a few criminal offense types where an employer absolutely must legally bar you from employment, such as sex offenders working in a job involving children. Otherwise, it’s completely up to company policy and their individual assessment.
This may seem very unfair to you, especially if you are young. Unfortunately, the human resource team has to protect the company, and you’re at the mercy of hiring managers. The older your record gets, the less likely an HR team is going to have a problem with it. Many times a criminal record check won’t go beyond 7-10 years, depending on state laws.
So don’t despair if you’re trying to enter the work force with a past criminal conviction or arrest. Make a clear start and seek expungement of the record and continue building your skills where you can. Be honest with employers in the meantime and keep your nose clean!