Job interviews are harrowing. You’ve got to impress that potential employer, show off your sterling personality, justify your skills and competency—all while getting a feel for whether or not the work is right for you and advocating for the best compensation possible. Now, imagine doing all that and having a theft conviction on your record.
How do you bring that up? How will it affect your job prospects? It’s natural to feel some trepidation ahead of your interview, but, like any theft defense attorney will tell you, there’s a way to discuss a prior conviction while minimizing the impact it may have on your potential employment. Read on, and learn a few tips on how to broach this sensitive topic.
How To Communicate Your Conviction
The overarching theme of communicating your conviction should be to maintain honesty but refocusing the conversation on your strengths. While it might be tempting to brush it all under the rug, your employer will learn about your criminal conviction eventually, and not addressing it could be interpreted as an attempt to bury it (which could look untrustworthy).
The better strategy is to be forthright, and provide context to what happened so that your potential employer can understand (and not fill-in-the-blanks with untruths). Provide details about your past conviction, but be sure to discuss things in a way that makes it clear that you’ve learned from the mistake you made, you’re making a concerted effort to move forward on a path to success, and you won’t be a risk to the organization in question. For example:
“I want you to feel comfortable hiring me, so I’d like to provide some details about that past conviction. Five years ago, I was convicted of theft. I served time in prison for the offense, but since then, I’ve been able to turn my life around, build my skill set, and learn more about this industry that I’m passionate about. Not everyone who gets entangled in the criminal justice system learns from their mistakes, but I have, and I welcome the opportunity to show you how my experiences make me an ideal candidate for this position.”
Once the topic of your record comes up, a good formula to follow is, again, to be upfront while stressing that the conviction is a part of your past—not your present. Focus on what you’re doing now to improve your life. Talk about your hobbies and interests, and how they factor into your future plans. Make a good impression, and that potential employer will notice.
At the same time, though, you’ll want to be sure not to belabor the point or to overshare too many details. As a rule of thumb, your explanation about your criminal conviction should be under two minutes. And, because interviews are already stressful enough without the need to explain why you were convicted of a crime, consider memorizing and practicing your response in advance so you can deliver it smoothly during your interview. Stay cool, and you’ll be able to show yourself in the best possible light.