Job-Hunting and a Criminal Record

Marcus writes:
What should do if you have a high GPA some solid references from your school
and previous jobs but also have a criminal record from when you where 17-24?
I never went to jail but I did get a suspended sentence for some felonies and had
a couple of misdemeanors during that time period as well. Since then however I
have really excelled being on the dean’s list in my school and am sought after by
several companies who are unaware of my criminal past or my bad credit. Any advice?

The Career Doctor responds:
I have lots of advice for you but overall let me stress do not ever lie about your
past when asked about it. Having criminal and credit issues are problems enough
without compounding it with lying about it. What you want to do instead is show
how you have learned from your past mistakes.
Unfortunately for you there is a growing trend among employers to do complete
background checks — including criminal and credit checks.
So what can you do? First never bring these issues up in the early phases of the job
hunt. Do not mention these indiscretions on your resume or cover letter. Do not offer
the information in the initial interview — sell yourself first so that the employer’s view
is an extremely positive one of you. As you move to a and move to
being one of the finalists for the position then it may be time — before the employer
does the background check and discovers the information — to come clean.
But remember to come clean in a way that shows the MANY lessons you have
learned since those days and how you are a completely different person now.
And of course if the prospective employer has you complete an application that
asks if you have a criminal record you will need to list it — and you will be forced
to discuss the issue in that initial interview which will be a much tougher sell.
Remember that you will have solid credentials… a college degree earned with a
high GPA work experience (including internships in your field I hope) and good
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