Have a Criminal Record?

criminal_record_photo1What You Should Know When Applying for a Job

Finding a good job can be hard for anyone. If you have a criminal record, getting a job might be even harder. It’s not impossible though. A lot of people with criminal records have found good jobs. There are things you can do to be successful and find a good job. Be patient. Finding that job might take extra time and effort.

Here are some questions you might have:

I just got out of prison. I don’t have much work history or experience. What do I do?

The best thing to do is start small and work your way up. You might have to take less than your dream job right away. You can build your work history with a minimum wage or part time job. Don’t worry too much if you are overqualified for the job. The goal is to get a solid work history with good references. After 6 months or a year, you can work your way to better paying jobs. Eventually your work history will count more than your criminal history.

I have an interview. I am afraid the employer is going to ask about my convictions. Should I lie?

Do not lie about your convictions! You should prepare yourself before the interview. Be ready to discuss your record. Be honest about your record. Be prepared to talk about the circumstances surrounding your arrest. An employer could appreciate that you were honest and open about your past.

criminal_record_photo2I applied for a job. The employer said it wouldn’t hire me because it doesn’t hire anyone with a criminal record. Is that legal?

Generally, no. A general refusal to hire anyone with a criminal record probably violates civil rights law. There are other times where not hiring a person solely based on their criminal record could violate the law. If you feel you were improperly denied a job because of your record, you should contact a lawyer. You can also file a complaint with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission at 1-800-521-0725.

Is there anything I can do to get a conviction off my RAP sheet?

Maybe. It will depend on the type of conviction you have. An expungement is when your criminal history is erased and removed from your record. If you got an expungement, you could answer NO when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime. Unfortunately, not all charges are eligible to be expunged.

Talk to your criminal attorney or the Solicitor’s Office that handled your charge to see if your charge qualifies for expungement. If your charge can’t be expunged, you may want to try for a pardon. A pardon will not clear your record, but it could help with your job search. An employer may feel more comfortable hiring someone who has received a pardon. Talk to your attorney, or see SC Appleseed’s brochure on pardons.

I’ve been looking everywhere and no one is hiring. I don’t know what else I can do.

Hang in there! This is a tough job market. There are still things you can do. Here are some helpful hints:

  • GED. Get your GED if you don’t have it already.
  • Training. Look at local technical schools for classes that can quickly prepare you for a job. Be sure to speak with a counselor at the school about your criminal record before enrolling. Some jobs might have limitations for people with criminal records. There is online training available as well.
  • Experience. If you can’t find a job, spend time volunteering. You will get good experience and you will meet new people.You can put the volunteer work on your resume.
  • Make a resume.
  • Build references. If you are called in for an interview, bring the employer letters of reference. Make sure the letters are from people you think the employer would be interested in hearing from. Letters from family members are usually not helpful. Letters from former employers, counselors, or even your probation or parole officer could be very helpful.
  • Know what is on your RAP sheet. RAP sheets often have errors on them. It might have the record from another person’s case, charges with no final disposition that appear to still be open, or charges that were dismissed but not expunged from your record. Contact SLED at (803) 896-1443 to obtain a copy of your record. There is a $25 fee for obtaining your record.
Helpful Resources:
  • WorkSC is a great online resource for job seekers. There is a job bank, tips for writing a resume, online job tutorials, information about getting your GED, and much more. They even have a section of the website devoted to helping people with criminal records.
  • South Carolina’s government website has a lot of useful employment information.
  • To find out if you qualify for free legal services, contact the Legal Aid Telephone Intake Service (LATIS) at (888)346-5592
Revised November 2012
Copyright retained by South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center. For permission to reproduce this brochure contact SC Appleseed P.O. Box 7187 Columbia, SC 29202
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