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Criminal Records and Your Job Search

Employers do background checks on all potential employees, not just people with a criminal record. Knowing how and why employers look at your criminal record can help you in your job search.

It's important to know the facts about your record when you're job searching. Then you can be sure your record isn’t more of an issue in your job hunt than it needs to be.

For instance, sometimes you can have your arrest or criminal record expunged, pardoned, or sealed. Read below to see if this might be an option for you.

The information listed below is for informational purposes only. Talk to a legal professional to find out if you are eligible to have any part of your record changed.

Seeing Your Criminal Record

It is important to know what is on your criminal record. It will help you prepare for a job search.

To make sure that employers see an accurate version of your criminal record, request a copy for yourself. Review your record with a legal professional or someone from the probation or parole office. Make sure you understand the information on your record.

For Minnesota records, contact the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Visit them in person or send a written request to get a full copy of your public and private criminal record. Written requests must include your full name, any other names you have used officially (aliases) including maiden and former married names, and your date of birth. Written requests must also be notarized by a notary public. There is a small fee to receive a printed copy of your record.

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
1430 Maryland Avenue
CHA Unit
St. Paul, MN 55106
Phone: 651-793-2400

The BCA also offers an online search for criminal records. However, it might not show your complete record. Find a link to the online search in the "Other Resources" at the bottom of this page.

Changing Your Criminal Record

It is not easy to get your records expunged, pardoned, or sealed, but you do have options.

Criminal Expungement
Expungement means that the courts seal all or part of your criminal record from the public. Those items are still on your record, but employers will not see them when they do a background check.

Expungements are difficult to obtain. Less serious crimes can be expunged if you can prove positive changes in your life that makes it less likely that you will commit another crime. Serious crimes like murder, aggravated assault, driving while intoxicated, and sex offender crimes are never expunged in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Judicial Branch offers current information about criminal expungement. Their website includes information about obtaining your State and Federal criminal case history, forms for expungement, FAQ's and more.  A link to their website is in the "Other Resources" at the bottom of this page.

A pardon is the official forgiveness of fault, offense, or guilt. Pardons are usually granted to someone who served their sentence and is living a crime-free life. A pardon does not seal or erase a conviction, but it is a good sign of rehabilitation.

Pardons are granted by the Governor of Minnesota. The President of the United States grants pardons for federal crimes only.

Sealing a Criminal Record
To seal a criminal record means that a court official hides all record of the criminal proceedings from public access. An employer would not know a criminal record existed if it was sealed.

A juvenile record sealed through the juvenile court would also not show up on any type of background check. Someone with a sealed criminal record can lawfully respond to any questions about arrests, acquittals, and convictions as if they never happened.

A lawyer can help you decide if you are a good candidate for expungement or having your record sealed. You may be able to find free or low-cost legal help if you have a low income.

Types of Employment Checks

You may go through more than one kind of screening as you interview for jobs. It's good to know all the types of checks that employers might do before and after you are hired.

Most employers do some type of background check or pre-screening on all job candidates. Employers want to know as much as possible about a person before making a job offer. This helps employers know that they are hiring a person who has the right skills and qualifications for the job. They also want someone who will represent their company well.

There are several types of pre-screenings or checks an employer can do. It's common to do more than one type of check on a candidate. Some checks or screenings are done after you are hired. Employers cannot do most of these checks without your permission. Often you are asked to sign a document allowing the company to do a specific check. This can happen when you fill out a job application or submit a resume. Or they can ask you to sign the permission form during the interview process.

Not signing the form is considered a "red flag" for employers and the interview process might end if you choose not to sign. Take advantage of your opportunities during the job interview to talk about your background and address any concerns.

Employment History Checks
Your past employment is verified in several ways. The most common way is to use databases updated directly from company payroll records. This information uses your Social Security number to find your past jobs.

The hiring manager might contact a past employer personally to verify employment. They usually talk to the human resources representative at the company where you used to work.

In most cases, a past employer is allowed only to reveal the dates of employment with that company, job titles, and if the employee is eligible for rehire. Any other details, including your job performance or reasons for leaving the job are not discussed.

If you list former supervisors or coworkers as a personal reference, that person can talk about your job performance in detail. Your personal reference can say if you were a good worker, got along with people, your best skills, and other things.

Be sure to give your references a copy of your resume so they know the dates you worked, your exact job title, and other details about your past jobs.

Social Networking and Internet Searches
According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social networking sites to screen candidates during the hiring process. Social networking sites include Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. Many employers say they will not hire someone who has posted inappropriate content or photos on these sites or apps.

Employers also use search engines, such as Google or Bing, to check for questionable information on job candidates. Make sure you know what information employers can find when they type in your name. Always assume that any information you post or is posted about you online is public information -- even if it’s on a site you need a password to log on. Not all of the information found on the Internet is used to disqualify a candidate. In fact, it's a good idea to use social networking sites to help you create a good reputation and build your network.

Drug Testing
An employer may require a drug test during the hiring process and after you're hired. They are used to determine if someone has recently consumed alcohol, misused prescription medication, or used illegal drugs. According to the National Clearinghouse for Drug & Alcohol Information, employers use several types of drug tests:

  • Pre-employment tests. An employer can decide to not make a job offer based on the results of a drug test given before hiring a person, unless the finding is a prescribed medication — then they cannot discriminate.
  • Reasonable suspicion and for-cause tests. When an employee shows signs of not being fit for duty or has a documented pattern of unsafe work behavior, the employer can issue a drug test.
  • Random tests. Employers might issue drug tests to all employees at unscheduled times. This discourages employees from using illegal drugs at any time.
  • Post-accident tests. An employer may test employees who are involved in an accident or unsafe practice incident to find out if alcohol or other drug use was a factor.

Each employer has its own policies regarding drug testing. You will know if a drug test is part of the hiring process. After hire, the company will give you a copy of their employee drug policies.

Credit Checks
Checking a candidate's credit report is becoming more common. However, an employer should have a sound business reason for this. If the credit information is directly related to a job, it's OK to check. Otherwise, using credit as part of the hiring process might be discriminatory.

Employers should let you know about their policies and procedures related to credit checks. The use of credit information should be both relevant and fair. Job seekers and human resource staff should refer to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FERC) and state regulations.

Federal law requires the three national consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to give you a free credit report each year. You can access the free report at annualcreditreport.com.

Pre-Employment Screenings
Other common pre-employment screenings include:

  • General knowledge. This measures an applicant's basic knowledge of what is required to perform the job. An example is to solve math problems. If required, it is done usually at the beginning of the application process.
  • Aptitude screening. This measures an applicant's skills and the ability of the applicant to learn skills in the future. It can be a written test or a hands-on test or task related to the job.
  • Psychological screening. This measures an applicant's ability to handle the situations and environments that might be encountered on the job. An example is to ask how you would handle a difficult customer.

It might make you nervous to know that an employer gives these screenings and checks, but think of these checks as a good thing. Some of these screenings take a lot of time and cost the employer money. They are only given to people who are seriously being considered for hire. So, if you are asked to go through one or more of these checks, that might mean you are close to getting hired.

Criminal Background
An employer can ask you about your criminal record. In Minnesota, there is a "Ban the Box" law which prevents most employers from asking about your record on a job application. However, you should be prepared to talk about your record during your interview. Learn how to disclose your criminal record to your employer.


Next Steps

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