If you find yourself in an interview setting and are faced with an awkward question regarding your criminal record, it is essential that you know how to deal with questions of this nature in a calm, confident and professional manner.
As a job seeker, you have a number of rights which you are fully entitled to during the interview. If you feel as if you have been placed in a difficult or uncomfortable situation then it is essential that you are able to establish ways to protect yourself from discrimination.
How to handle being asked questions of this nature
For most employers, it is illegal to ask questions about arrests that were not followed by a conviction. For example the question:
Have you ever been arrested?
This is an illegal question under certain laws and if you are asked, you are under no obligation to respond. However, if you have been convicted of a crime then in many states it is considered legal to ask such a question.
Under most laws, if an employer asks you about any unsealed convictions then you must disclose them. Nevertheless, under many laws the circumstances differ depending on whether the case was dismissed in your favor. It is essential that you find out what the laws in your specific city, state or country are, prior to attending the interview.
How to answer questions relating to your criminal record:
Give a direct response. A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will suffice. Whatever you do, tell the truth. Though it is tempting to lie and hope that the employer will not discover your criminal record, telling lies could result in further troubles and the likelihood is that the recruiter will still run a criminal background check.
In addition, if you choose to lie and you get hired, in the event that the recruiter discovers the truth, he or she can legally terminate your employment contract without notice or severance pay.
Provided the recruiter does not probe further into questioning (e.g. What exactly did you do? What was your sentence?), then they are within their rights to ask you basic questions regarding a criminal conviction.