How To Disclose a Criminal Record To a Potential Employer

CONTRIBUTED BY:  David Haenel, Esq.

David Haenel, Esq. of Finebloom & Haenel is a Criminal Defense Attorney and frequent lecturer on legal issues. Find out more at

Disclaimer: This article is not intended as legal advice and does not reflect the opinions of the Law Office of James Alston. 

When searching for a job, many people with a criminal record are unsure of the best way to disclose their past. They are not sure how to present the information or how much detail they should give to potential employers.

The number of employers who are performing background checks on their job applicants and creating policies about hiring candidates with criminal backgrounds is increasing. Both state and federal laws prevent specific employers from hiring people with felony convictions and information about these criminal charges is readily available, which can make it difficult for some people with prior criminal records to land the job they seek.

Despite this reality, it is imperative that people with criminal backgrounds answer questions about their history truthfully. If an employer completes a background check and finds that an employee has lied about their history, they may be fired on the spot. The best practice is always to be truthful right from the start.

How much information should you disclose to a potential employer?

  • Read your rights. States have different regulations about the information that you are required to share about your criminal history. If you need assistance interpreting the rights for your state, get in touch with a reputable lawyer.
  • Answer questions honestly. You will be able to approach the topic of your past with an objective nature when you maintain the attitude that with criminal offenses in your past, finding a job will be tough, but not impossible.

What kind of information will a potential employer find if they run a background check?

The information that is included in a background check almost always depends on the job position and employer at hand. For many job positions, a federal or state law mandates that the employer must complete a background check. This is especially prevalent with jobs that involve working with people with disabilities, children, and the elderly.

In addition to criminal records, a background check may include records for driving, credit, education, medical, military, court, state licensing, and drug tests. Many background checks also provide vehicle registration, social security number, workers’ compensation, bankruptcy, property ownership, past employers, sexual offenses, and personal references.
How can you disclose information tactfully without compromising your chances of being hired?

  • Maintain a positive attitude. While you answer questions about your criminal background, keep the focus on how you have worked hard to change and how you have overcome any challenges along the way.
  • Take responsibility. One of the quickest ways that you can turn off a potential employer is making excuses. Own your conviction and offer a brief explanation of it.
  • Acknowledge concerns. Many people feel uncomfortable acknowledging the concerns of an employer. However, it is a clear way to illustrate that you are sensitive about the concerns and will not let your criminal past compromise your work life.

Following these tips can help a person with a criminal background land a desirable job. This process may take time and patience, but it will be well worth the effort.

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About the Author

Law Office of James Alston. serves people who need legal assistance in their Criminal Defense Cases in Texas.

Houston Criminal Lawyer James Alston represents clients in the Houston area, including Pasadena, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Channelview, Conroe, Galveston, Angleton, Richmond, Rosenberg, Beaumont, Galveston County, Ft. Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Harris County and Jefferson County in Texas.