Filling out applications for employment opportunities, apartments, or other similar major milestones can be difficult when you have a criminal record on your background check. An arrest record can greatly limit your career opportunities and lifestyle, but legal issues shouldn’t prevent you from moving forward in life. If you are looking to thrive in a rewarding career despite your arrest report(s), here are some tips on how you can craft a strategic plan to survive background checks, no matter the situation.


1. Review Your Own Background and Understand How It Can Impact Your Potential Occupations

Unless you know exactly what your arrest records show, it’s a good idea to conduct a background check on yourself and see exactly what shows up on a public database. While you will see that all of your arrest records, personal information, and other public information are available to those who conduct their own search, the most important thing to look for are any wrong statements on file. Your personal criminal record will still show up, but misreported information can create further issues that make it harder to land your desired job or living situation.

Next, take a look at your report as a whole and imagine how your information would appear to an employer who is looking over applicants. For example, if your arrest records are limited to one trip to the sheriff’s office a decade ago for a minor crime, this is going to be perceived far differently than someone with a colorful criminal record, especially if some of your crimes have been committed recently or if you have a convict or sex offender status. Remember, you goal isn’t to try to convince employers of your innocence, but to realistically assess what options you have at your disposal when you send in an application.

2. Be Prepared to Explain Your Record to Potential Employers

In general, you are going to have a difficult time finding job opportunities if your criminal record is directly related to your chosen career. For example, if you have been involved in serious financial crimes, you are most likely not going to be able to land a financial role with large corporations, regardless of your professional experience. Even if you were to apply to small companies for a driving position, a DUI on your criminal record can have the same impact.

If your crimes are minor or if they are unrelated to the role you are applying for, be prepared to explain to the hiring manager exactly what the situation was and why you are still a great candidate for the job. While a criminal record will make it harder to get in the door, it shouldn’t prevent you from looking for your ideal occupation. If you do have a past that makes it hard to land most jobs, look for jobs where it may not have such an impact. You may also want to look for entrepreneurship opportunities and remote online offerings where you won’t have to deal with a full-time role at a physical location.

3. Make an Effort to Place a Greater Emphasis on Your Achievements

One great way to sweeten the deal (if your criminal record doesn’t automatically exclude you) is to amaze your employer with your achievements. Crafting an excellent resume that features your educational experience (whether you attended a physical school or received an online education, such as receiving your online HR management degree), your job history (including internships and volunteer roles), your real-world experience working in similar positions that may have required certain skills like employee development and strategic management, and your overall career development throughout the years will make it easier to convince your employer to consider you despite existing criminal record.

If you are not yet in a position where businesses would consider you an asset, make sure to focus on career advancement by:

  • Replacing your public school experience (high school diploma or general education) on your application with higher education, which may come in the form of an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s degree. Keep in mind that online degrees such as online bachelor’s degrees and online master’s degrees are accepted as well. Make sure to focus on business courses and major courses that will really give you an upper hand in your field.
  • Proving your competency within a certain field by seeking out new job opportunities to build upon your work experience, building the skills needed in your specialty (even basic ones like critical thinking and knowledge of common computer programs), and taking online classes to continue your professional growth.
  • Becoming a greater asset for a company by learning business strategy, organizational leadership, conflict management and conflict resolution, the principles of marketing, and other best practices required within your chosen industry, especially if you are looking to land a leadership role.

If you can show employers why you are the best choice for a position, they may be more willing to overlook undesirable background check results, which improves your chances during the employee-selection process.

A poor background check can put a strain on employment relations, but your criminal record shouldn’t prevent you from reaching your professional goals. Instead of allowing it to stop you from moving forward, use the guide above to help you reach your career goals and land the occupation that you truly desire.