Court convictions generally fall into one of two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Both can follow you for years and impact your job search but a felony is often given more scrutiny by potential employers. If you have a felony record, it's important to understand if that felony can prevent you from getting a job.
Employers often perform background checks on prospective employees. The application that you fill out may require you to consent to a check of your credit and criminal history. With a credit check, an employer will view your credit report, which includes public records data such as bankruptcy, foreclosures, tax liens and judgments. The purpose of the criminal check is to ascertain if you have convictions on both the state and federal level. Background checks can go back several years, especially if the position involves employment with the federal government or any type of security clearance position.
A felony may prevent you from obtaining employment that involves working with children or the elderly and within certain professions, such as law, finance and insurance. Jobs within these fields often require a fiduciary duty toward clients and a felony conviction may prevent your licensure or certification within these fields. This is especially relevant if your conviction involved any type of fraud, theft or financial mismanagement. Don't try to hide this information. Failure to include felony information on your application does not prevent the employer from finding out about it eventually and if you were hired, it could lead to your termination.
Not all jobs will bar you from employment if you have a felony on your record. Some applications only ask you if you've had a felony conviction within a certain time period, such as the last five years. If your felony conviction is older than that, the employer might not hold that against you during the hiring process. Some states do not require you to disclose felony convictions that were erased, or expunged, from your record, so check your state laws if this applies to you.
Be prepared to explain your felony record to a prospective employer if asked about it during an interview. The employer may want to gauge if the incident was a one-time mistake and if you've turned over a new leaf. Be candid and express your desire to put past mistakes behind you and move forward. Discussing the incident may be difficult, especially if the felony involved a violent crime; however, an interview is your chance to demonstrate the positive character traits that you have and impress the employer with who you are now. If you're offered a position that may not be your first choice, or that you feel over qualified for, you may want to accept it anyway. Use that position to reestablish yourself and then seek better employment down the road.