Do you have a criminal record? Are you worried about how it will affect your future job search?
Unfortunately, having a criminal record can still feel like a barrier when seeking employment. Many employers will ask about the presence of a criminal record in the application or interview stage, and almost all employers will conduct a criminal record check before officially hiring an applicant.
That being said, having a criminal record should not deter you from seeking employment.
To maximize your chance of securing employment with a criminal record, here are some tips to keep in mind when job searching:
1) Be aware of your record. It’s important to know what employers will see when they request your criminal record. You have the right to access your criminal record anytime under the Privacy Act of Canada and can do so by contacting your local RCMP office. You should also know whether you are bondable or not, as this is often questioned by employers in the application process. Being bondable essentially means that an employer can trust you, and this decision is often made based on the existence of a criminal record. Most often, if you have a criminal record, you are not bondable. This is because, depending on the nature of your crime, the insurance the employer purchases will often be more expensive or harder to attain than if you did not have a criminal record. However, simply having a record does not necessarily mean that you aren’t bondable. That’s why it is important to check with your local RCMP office to find out how your criminal record affects your bondability.
2) If you are eligible, apply for a record suspension. A great way to make your job search easier would be to remove your criminal record all together by applying for a record suspension or record destruction. A record suspension or pardon will seal your record so that it will no longer appear when a criminal record check is requested. In Canada, depending on your conviction, you can usually apply for a record suspension 5 years after you have completed your sentence. You may also be able to apply for record destruction, but only if you were charged but never convicted or found guilty of the crime. To see if you are eligible for a record suspension or record destruction and to learn how to apply, please visit the Government of Canada website here: https://www.canada.ca/en/parole-board/services/record-suspensions/before-you-submit-your-application.html.
3) Try applying for occupations in which you are most employable. While you can apply for any occupation you want with a criminal record, it’s important to know that some occupations are much more likely to hire you than others. For one, any role that is directly related to your criminal history might be out of bounds. For example, anyone with a criminal history of financial fraud is very unlikely to be hired as an accountant. Furthermore, there are simply some occupations, regardless of your particular criminal history, that are more likely to overlook a criminal record. For example, based on a 2002 survey of employers, public policy experts Holzer, Raphael and Stoll note that “among employers willing to hire ex-offenders, manufacturing firms are disproportionately represented, whereas establishments in the finance, insurance, and real estate sector and the services sector are underrepresented.” Furthermore, a 2008 research paper published by the Urban Institute – Justice Policy Centre indicated that “the most common types of jobs [among ex-offenders] were construction or general manual labour (27 percent), maintenance (12 percent), and assembly line or factory jobs (12 percent).” Therefore, while it is encouraged that everyone applies for occupations that they are passionate about, if you are simply looking for work, positions in labour or manufacturing might be a good place to start.
4) Disclosure is all about right time, right delivery. When asked about your criminal record, it is almost always in your best interest to be honest. If you don’t, employers will usually find out if you were lying, often by a criminal record check, reference checks, or even after you are hired, which will ultimately lead to your termination. If you do disclose, it is important to do so at the right time. When applying online, a question asking if you have a criminal record may appear. If it does, respond in a way that allows you to remain honest while creating an opportunity for an in-person explanation. For example, your response could be: “Yes, and I would like a chance to further discuss it in the interview.” Then, in the interview, if it has not already been brought up by the employer, the best time to discuss your criminal record is in the middle of the session. That way, it isn’t the first or last thing they remember about you. When you are disclosing, be honest and keep it general. Start by telling the employer that you wanted to be fully honest with them since you know they will be conducting a criminal record check. Briefly explain your conviction in the most general terms possible. If your conviction was a long time ago, remind them of this fact and let them know of the steps you have taken to grow and move forward since the incident. Once you have explained yourself, always bring the conversation back to why you are applying for the current role and why you would make a great fit.
5) Remember, times are changing. Nowadays, employers are getting more and more open to hiring individuals with a criminal record. Most modern employers will take the time to consider the nature of crime and how long ago it happened before making a decision, and if it is not related to the job at hand, they may decide that your record isn’t an issue. In fact, the Canadian population as a whole is starting to shift its view of what a criminal record means in terms of one’s ability to participate in the workforce. According to a survey conducted by the John Howard Society in 2020, “three-quarters of those surveyed agree that having a police record does not tell you much about what a person will do in the future or how well they will perform at a job” and “82% of those surveyed agree those with a record should give back to society as an employed citizen.” Therefore, while job searching with a criminal record may feel especially challenging, keep in mind that most people in today’s world want you to find work just as much as you do.
Written by: MacKenzie Verhelst, BAPsych, CCVE(P)
MacKenzie Verhelst is a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant for Creative Therapy Consultants. MacKenzie is a Canadian Certified Vocational Evaluator with provisional status (CCVE(P)) and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from McGill University. She demonstrates expertise in vocational evaluation, vocational assessment, resume/cover letter development, interview preparation, active job search support, and job sustainment services. MacKenzie is passionate about helping others reach their utmost potential and advocates for finding joy in work. To learn more about Vocational Rehabilitation services, please visit click here.
1. Holzer, Harry; Raphael, Steven; & Stoll, Michael. Discussion Paper: Will Employers Hire Ex-Offenders? Employer Preferences, Background Checks, and Their Determinants. Institute for Research on Poverty. January 2002.
2. John Howard Society of Ontario Launches Online Tool to ... (n.d.). Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://johnhoward.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/FINAL-JHSO-Press-Release-July-27-2020-Employment-Tool-Launch.pdf
3. Whitefield, Harold. Occupations at Case Closure for Vocational Rehabilitation Applicants with Criminal Backgrounds. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin. 53 (I), Page 56 – 58.