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Job Searching with an Imperfect Past or Criminal Record

If companies you interview with don't use Google to dig up dirt about you, they're stupid.

Case in point: The FBI stormed into a Massachusetts business recently to arrest an employee who was apparently wrapped up in a drug distribution scheme. No one in the office saw it coming—especially the employer.

But the story gets better. The employer posted a job ad to fill the position, found a likable candidate, checked the references she provided, and hired her. Three days after the new hire started, HR did a Google search on her name and discovered she also had a run-in with the law—a fact she'd neglected to mention. She was fired the same day.

InterrogationWhat does this mean to you? I've warned job seekers to watch their Facebook and MySpace profiles carefully and make sure to hide anything they don't want employers to see. But I'm afraid that when it comes to regular ol' search engines, there are some things you can't hide (like a criminal record).

My personal and professional advice? If you have a criminal past that anyone can find from a simple web search, the best thing you can do for your career (and your would-be employer) is to bring it up in the interview.

What should you say? The principle is the same as for presenting any potentially negative information to an employer:

  1. Describe the situation very briefly and factually.
  2. Explain what you have done to correct the problem.
  3. Reassure them that there is no risk of similar problems in the future if they should hire you.
  4. Redirect the conversation back to your qualifications for the job.

Honesty can go a long way in your case for employment, and might avoid having the employer overreact later because they found out about it on their own.

Want to know more about handling criminal records in a job interview? Check out this interview guide for ex-offenders.

What do you think? Is it better to hope they never dig up the dirt, or lay it all out in an interview?

RELATED LINKS
Sales 101: Be the Solution to the Employer's Problem
Have Employers Ruined Facebook?
Collecting Unemployment? Track Your Job Search Efforts
Good Job Seeker, Bad Credit. Are You Screwed?

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