What to Say in a Job Application if You Have a Felony

by Leyla Norman; Updated September 26, 2017

Finding a job after being convicted of a felony can be a difficult process. Some employers have policies against hiring people with felony backgrounds. Others, however, may be willing to take a chance on them. Overall, being honest from the beginning with any employer is your best chance of getting a job.

If Asked

Not all applications require you to answer whether you have a felony past. Do not offer the information if you are not asked for it. It is not unethical or illegal to do so.

Time Frame

Read the application thoroughly, as sometimes an application may ask if you have been convicted of a felony within a certain time frame. If you were convicted of a felony eight years ago and the application asks if you were convicted of one within the past five years, you can answer no on the application. You are being honest and answering the question with integrity. Some questions ask whether you have ever been convicted of a felony. If this is the case, answer “Yes.”

Letter

Provide some explanation of the conviction, dates and other pertinent information on the application if you have to answer that you have a felony past. One option to help your case when you apply for a position is to attach a short letter to the application regarding your felony. State the circumstances, the outcome and what you learned from the experience. Whether the subject of your felony background comes up in an interview or in the job application, state what you learned from the experience and demonstrate that you can handle difficult situations with confidence and come out stronger. Turn any discussion of your felony into a positive by talking about what you have done to improve yourself professionally since the felony. You might also submit a letter of support from someone in the community who can vouch for your work ethic and skills.

Better Safe

It is a better idea to honestly answer any direct questions about your felony past on a job application or in an interview than to lie about it. If you get through the application phase of the hiring process by lying, and then a background check is done and your felony comes up, any job offer you received or were about to receive will definitely be rescinded. If you were already hired, you may be fired.

About the Author

Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.