Not a week goes by that a candidate represented by our firm reveals one of the above just about the time they are going to get a job offer from one of our clients. My sense is that probably 25% to maybe even 30% of professional job candidates have one of these issues in their background. Certainly, nobody really wants to talk about it and most candidates won’t even bring it up until the issue is either discovered by the hiring organization or they offer it up in the final stages of the interviewing process.
Most of the time, these issues stop the offer. Sometimes they can be worked around by the hiring authority and the company, but they are always problems. There are some graceful ways of dealing with them to minimize their impact but every candidate who has a ding like this knows it’s going to be a problem and they are usually scared to death of its impact.
Unfortunately, felonies are almost always insurmountable, especially in professional positions. Only 10 or 12 times in my 43 years of doing this, have I had a company hire a candidate with a felony in their recent past. The empathetic part of me realizes how sad this might be, but the business side of me realizes why companies can’t run that risk. The situations where candidates with felonies have been hired have usually been in sales environments where they potential employee does not handle cash or money. If you’re an accountant with a felony of embezzlement, you need to change professions.
DWI’s and misdemeanors can often be explained and overlooked by some firms, but it is hard. I suggest people get an attorney to find out how, if enough time has elapsed, these records might be removed from a person’s public background. Everybody has an opinion about how long these things stay on a person’s record. Don’t rely on a friend that thinks they know. Find an attorney that deals with these things all the time and find out exactly what to do.
If you aren’t sure of what is on your record, and it’s amazing the number of people who don’t really know of their misdeeds, run a background check on yourself for around $40 (that is the cheapest service) and you can see what most employers will find. Every once in a while we run into a situation of identity theft as well as the wrong identity being checked.
If there are some of these issues in your background, I’d recommend discussing them with the hiring authority if you think you are going to be a finalist for the job opportunity. And be sure that you discuss them before a background check is made on you by the employer.
Now it is very important and I need to emphasize, very important, that when you go to explain these incidences, don’t be angry or try to justify how you were “wronged” or how you had just a little too much to drink, and you got sassy with the policeman so he decided to claim that you were DWI. The best way to deal with these kind of things in your background is to be remorseful, apologetic and have a “how can we work this out?” attitude. Anything less than a remorseful, apologetic attitude simply won’t fly. I’ve seen felons get hired simply because they presented themselves as remorseful and apologetic. One guy I knew even made it a “positive” benefit.
If a company simply can’t work around the issue, be graceful and understanding. There is absolutely no sense in burning the bridge with the company or the people in it.
Bankruptcies are a bit different. Some companies don’t care; others might. We had a banking client that refused to hire one of our candidates because of a previous bankruptcy. They really wanted to hire the candidate but they had just fired an officer for embezzlement. They couldn’t take the chance. We recently placed a banker that did have a bankruptcy in his background, but the bank hired him anyway because they really liked him. Other than financial institutions, most organizations will consider someone with a bankruptcy. But they better be a really good candidate and sell themselves really well.
“Bruised” credit falls in the same category as bankruptcies. Financial organizations will usually have a rough time with it. But especially since the last recession where lots of people had bruised credit, most firms will overlook it provided the candidate is really good.
Whatever the issue, a candidate is going to have to explain it really well. Again, it’s important for the candidate to bring these issues up before the employer discovers it on his own.