For many job seekers with a criminal background, there is nothing more daunting than getting asked to describe their criminal record by a potential employer. But this does not mean having a criminal past is a complete deal-breaker.

There are numerous things to worry about before a job interview, such as feeling judged, how your record may impact your chances, and more. Still, you can use your tenacity to turn a perceived negative into a positive by demonstrating how you have made changes, discussing your talents, or overcoming a perceived difficulty. Here’s what you need to know about preventing your criminal record from affecting your job interview:

Understand your record of arrests sheet

Since employers cannot access a candidate’s record of arrests sheet through a background check, you can review it in advance to understand its contents and prepare yourself with answers. For instance, if an employer wants to know if you have ever committed a felony, there is no need to disclose that you have committed a misdemeanor. Or, if the employer is asking about convictions from the past five years and you were arrested or convicted when you were a minor, then you are not required to disclose it.

Be confident

You may share information about your work style and how you get along with others. Explain to them why you want the job and what you would do if hired.

Follow the Employer’s Lead

Not all employers will ask you whether you have a criminal background. So give your interviewer all the information they need, but be cautious not to give out more than is required.

How to talk about your record

You may hope that questions from your past do not come up during the interview, but there is always a likelihood that they will come out eventually, so being upfront about it at the start is always the best move.

You must address your past and provide a context for your prior harmful acts. Avoid making excuses for your actions and behavior. Be as honest as you can and focus on the changes you have made to your life since the conviction and how it has propelled you to make positive life changes. Talk about how much you value your life, the freedoms it has provided you, and how aware you are of your decisions.

You can even memorize what you want to say to avoid feeling flustered. Be sure to discuss what you bring to the table and how it will benefit the company.

Describe What You Learned

Not all employers will judge you for your criminal past. But you do need to explain to them how you have changed since and the positive decisions you have made. The interviewer is just another human being, so talk about how your conviction or arrest made you realize what you want to do with your life. As a result, you have chosen to walk away from people or break free from something that did not positively impact your life.

Have your resume ready

Ensure that your resume looks professional and that your skills and work history are well-described. Be sure to include extracurricular interests and activities to help you stand out. You can also tell the interviewer how you will perform in the job you are applying for.


Many prospective employers value honesty, so if asked if you have a prior conviction in person or on an application, do not pretend or lie; candidates found doing so are usually dismissed as dishonest. Think and plan how to explain your past methodically. Remember, qualification, drive, and honesty are the pillars that will help you stand out in a crowd.

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