Managing Your Job Search with a Criminal Record

It isn’t easy to find a new job and make the transition into the workforce. When you have a criminal record, it makes it even a greater challenge. We’ve put together a few tips to help you get started. For NDICA members, we also offer online education courses for soft skills that will may help you overcome barriers and stand out from the pack. Make sure to join NDICA today to take advantage of these great resources.

Step 1: Be Patient & Get Organized

Acknowledge that a job search can be stressful under any circumstances. Be patient with yourself and ask for help when you need it. It may have been awhile since you looked for a job, so go to the Dollar Store and grab a cheap notebook and get organized. Think about the type of work that will motivate you. Think about industries that excite you. Make a list of potential employers.

If you are looking to become a Social Equity applicant in the cannabis industry, there may be conditions on your parole that prevent you from working from for a company that maintains direct contact with the plant. In this case, think of other types of related businesses. For example, you may not be able to work for a growing facility but you may be able to work for a non-profit like NDICA and work in an record expungement clinic.

Step 2: Know Your Rights

Employers have a right to see your criminal record, but there are limitations. The decision not to hire someone based on their criminal record must be related to the job. In other words, the criminal record indicates that the person could be a liability if hired for the position. In most cases, an employer may not use arrest records in hiring decisions and cannot view expunged crimes.


California also has a “Ban the Box” law, which removed questions about criminal history from job applications. This pushes background checks to a later stage in the hiring process, after you are given a chance to fairly present your qualifications.


Finally, employers must provide notice when accessing your credit report or criminal record. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, a federal law, states that, in order to access a candidate’s criminal record, the employer must ensure the report is used for a permissible purpose and they must have the authorization to use the report. As a job candidate, an employer must provide you with a copy a the report and a summary of your rights. Find out more about criminal records in the workplace:


Step 3: Access Available Resources

If you need additional information or help navigating the process, reach out to experts. Here are just a few resources that you may find valuable.

  • Get professional assistance from organizations like Help for Felons.
  • Research companies that are open to hiring. Check out net for ideas.
  • Consider starting your own business. The Small Business Administration has a ten-step process and free business counseling to help you make a successful start.


NDICA also offers all of our Members a Business Development course if you would like to learn more about starting your own business or non-profit.


Step 4: Don’t Underestimate Your Network

Last but not least… network. Whether you were incarcerated for days, months, or years, you’re network is probably bigger than you think. Make sure everyone you know is aware that you are looking for a job. Make sure they understand your skills and interests. Even though you may not have held paid employment in a while, you probably have experience that you can add to your resume. Take a NDICA course and add that to your skills list. Volunteer with organizations to build up your experience. If you have a friend or family member who owns a business, no matter the size – see if you can do a 30-day internship or even take on a small project. If you don’t know anyone with a business, get out to a free networking event and start building up more contacts.

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