When looking for a job with a criminal record, you must always be prepared to answer the ‘why were you convicted’ interview question. Most states and federal laws allow for background checks and questions on convictions compelling ex-offenders to respond to such otherwise unpleasant questions. In addition, when an employee commits a crime that could otherwise be preventable through background checks, the employer will be liable for negligent hiring.

Although conviction questions may be unpleasant, they do not mean to make you fail in the interview. But if you are not ready for the “why were you convicted” interview question,  you will stumble for the answer and probably get it all wrong. This article seeks to equip ex-offenders with insights for answering conviction questions.

Is it lawful for the interviewer to ask, “why were you convicted?”

At the moment, no law forbids the hirer to ask conviction questions. However, the ban the box movement, which is slowly gaining momentum, pushes criminal history questions to later hiring stages.

How will you know that a potential employer is going to check your criminal record?

Fair credit Reporting act provides that potential employers notify the job applicant before conducting background checks. However, honesty is vital as the interviewer may request to check your record after the interview.  If you lie about your history, records will expose you, ultimately losing the job opportunity.

How should you respond to “why were you convicted” question?

Employers ask questions on conviction to see whether you are honest, responsible and working to avoid offending in the future. Therefore, before you even prepare for criminal record questions, you must embrace the virtues of honesty and responsibility.

When the interviewer asks about your convictions:

  • Accept your wrongdoing and do not attempt to justify committing a crime,
  • Briefly explain the sentence. For example, when I was 22 years old, I was sentenced to drug trafficking. Do not give a prolonged explanation that may otherwise be unnecessary,
  • Describe the lessons you learned after imprisonment and your efforts towards reformation, e.g., enrolling for training, counseling, support programs, and working while serving your time,
  • Be confident. The interviewer will try to read your facial expression, so you should appear relaxed and not agitated.

Can potential employers use conviction to deny you employment?

If the employer feels that you’re a risk to workers’ safety, they are entitled not to hire you. Moreover, a complainant can sue the employer for negligent hiring in case you cause harm at work.

Also, if you have a felony conviction, you will be denied employment in the education, childcare, and health industries. Again, do you expect to be hired by a bank when you have a record of shoplifting?

Wrap Up

You should prepare to answer the “why were you convicted “interview question, just as you prepare for other interview questions. When answering this question, be composed, confident, and maintain eye contact.

Also, be honest and take responsibility for the offense. Lastly, show how you have reformed and the steps you have taken to prevent offending in the future.

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