Job Interview Question & Answer: Have You Ever Been Arrested or Convicted?
What To Do When Asked About Criminal History
Already a nerve-wracking experience under normal circumstances, interviewing for a job often becomes even more of a challenge for candidates with criminal records. Effectively responding to interview questions about criminal history requires honesty and poise. Resist the temptation to lie or withhold relevant information, as employers can easily find out about criminal convictions via background checks. In most cases, interviewers care more about the lessons learned from the situation rather than the details of the crime committed. Applicants convicted of crimes must therefore demonstrate accountability, remorse, and personal growth during the interview.
The first step in disclosing criminal convictions at a job interview involves taking responsibility for the actions. Admit the mistake without making excuses or seeming resentful. Accepting personal responsibility demonstrates an understanding of the gravity of the situation to employers and helps lessen the concerns commonly associated with hiring convicted criminals. Interviewees must also walk the fine line between admitting responsibility and sharing too much information. To avoid oversharing the potentially detrimental details of a crime, focus on answering the question briefly and directly before moving the conversation back to job-related topics, like experience and skills.
Show Positive Progress
In addition to accepting full responsibility, interviewees with criminal convictions need to go a step further and show a track record of personal growth resulting from the unfortunate situation. Employers not only want to see accountability from the applicant, but also evidence of maturity and wisdom acquired as a result of the criminal conviction. Acknowledge and alleviate the concerns of the interviewer by reframing the situation as an opportunity to learn and grow. Make sure to highlight any specific examples of personal growth, such as going back to school or pursuing a professional certification, in order to show how the criminal conviction brought about changes for the better. Then, demonstrate closure by moving on and reemphasizing possession of the skills necessary for the job.