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We recently received an email from a job seeker who wondered if he should abandon his search because of a criminal conviction. He's not alone. Other IT professionals like Samuel "Mouli" Cohen --  who was sentenced to prison in April for making false statements to investors about his digital jukebox company Ecast -- will likely be wondering the same thing. It's true that if you've erred in the past, you've got a tough row to hoe. However, thanks to new guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, your prospects may be brighter than you think. In a nutshell, the EEOC says that employers can only consider work-related offenses. So while you may have a tough time overcoming recent convictions for hacking, embezzlement or fraud, you may not be disqualified for a motor vehicle conviction. Plus, applicants must be given a chance to provide additional information about criminal convictions such as:
  • Circumstances surrounding the offense
  • Age at time of conviction or release from prison
  • Evidence that you performed the same type of work, post conviction, without problems
  • Rehabilitation efforts, such as education and training
  • Employment or character references

How to Overcome Your Mistakes

First, be realistic. If you have multiple convictions or your offense was work-related, stay in your present job until your record is clear, or target small companies that may not care about your record. While employers can’t discriminate, generally speaking, they will probably offer the job to the candidate with similar experience and a clean record. Second, be honest and prepared. Failing to acknowledge your transgressions will only reinforce an employer’s fears and put you on the defensive. Instead, prove that you’ve learned your lesson by admitting your mistake and offering proof of your rehabilitation. Third, see about having your record expunged. Given the tough job market, more job seekers are taking steps to clear prior convictions. Some states will set aside or vacate convictions, seal records or offer certificates of rehabilitation, so it may be worthwhile to investigate your options.

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