Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
JOB SEARCH / FEB. 19, 2014
version 6, draft 6

How to Find Employment Opportunities with a Felony Record

Searching for a job is hard enough, but for convicted felons, it is even HARDER.

According to federal law most employment opportunities require a criminal history background check. Unfortunately, the process has commonly made employers adamant about hiring someone who has served time in prison (although the law greatly forbids employers from discrimination). This alone can make the job hunt very discouraging for those who want to improve their lives for the better.

Additionally, most employers will not hire felons to a job that involves interaction with children, the disabled, or the elderly. In a time where marketing, sales and customer service is in high demand, chances are slim as far as becoming an employee with a business that requires people-skills.

What makes matters worst is that degrees and certifications may not save an ex-con from a "process of elimination." It is more than likely that an employer will toss a resume to the side as soon as they see the word ‘yes’ checked for committing a crime.

According to a 2010 report done by the LA Times, a scenario of a man who had a degree revealed how the job search is becoming rather unfavorable for ex-cons. Eddie Lemon had an associate’s degree and a certification in sheet metal operation, but because of his criminal record, he was unlucky at landing jobs.

However, there are other alternatives out there for those in similar situations. 

Armed Forces

The U.S. army is always accepting job applications. The military can provide a felon with the stability and respect that they need. Jobs available include construction, drivers, and clerks. 

Private Companies/Local businesses 

Private companies that hire ex-cons are usually granted tax exemptions. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program assists job seekers that fit in a certain "target group." For example, a list is available on the Employment Development Department website for those who reside in the state of California. Local businesses also hire ex-cons, such as family-owned restaurants. The pay may not be great, but it is better than nothing.


There are temp jobs provided within this field for convicted felons, especially in truck driving. However, a person could go as far as obtaining their Commercial Driving License (CDL) to become a full-time driver. This field commonly accepts those with criminal backgrounds.

Non-Profit Organizations

The Salvation Army's rehabilitation centers provide employment through work-release programs. Serving the community may also provide life-changing and healing experience. Church-based jobs are also possible, but it is just a matter of finding them.


This work opportunity might be the most convenient of the five. There are plenty of stay-at-home jobs or freelance gigs in customer service, sales, office assistance, and online writing. A person can make money from the comfort of their home without worrying about limitations set by the outside world. 

Remember, as a person with a criminal background it is always best to be transparent as possible on a job application and during an interview. An ex-convict should present his or herself as a trustworthy person with a positive attitude and a desire to move ahead in life.

Here’s a bit of advice courtesy of

1) ALWAYS accept the first offer and grab whatever job given at the moment, despite the pay.

2) ALWAYS have references because it can boost skill assets and qualifications listed on a job application.

3) ALWAYS prove to be a devoted hard worker and what the company has been missing.

4) Finally, ALWAYS prove not to fit the typical negative stereotype that everyone considers felons to be, which is "once a criminal always a criminal."

Of course, it is ultimately up to the employer to hand someone a job, but it is also the person's responsibility to make the necessary appropriate steps to obtain the position of choice. Whether the opportunity comes or not, at least a person maintains their integrity by being shameless of their past.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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