It is understandable that people with a prior conviction for a crime might fear that no employer will ever hire them. Thanks to the set aside law of Arizona, eligible persons may “set aside” their conviction, meaning a criminal record will show a conviction did not result from an arrest. Even so, some Arizona residents might still have to deal with their prior arrests while seeking employment.
It is important to remember that a set aside is not an expunction. An expunction wipes out a criminal record as if it never had existed. However, set asides do not go that far. Arizona applicants may still have to list an arrest on a job application or discuss it with an employer. The good news is that many employers do not automatically reject applicants simply because of a past arrest.
When employers ask about a criminal past
It may not be necessary to discuss a past arrest or a conviction since some employers do not ask about a criminal past at all. Still, as Monster points out, a survey of HR professionals found that 73% said their companies check their applicants for criminal backgrounds, and 46% said their company asks about criminal history on their initial employment application.
Some employers do not ask open-ended questions about prior arrests and convictions. There are employers who only ask about felonies. An applicant who has never committed a felony probably does not have to admit to non-felony arrests or convictions. Other employers may only ask about arrests from the past three years. If an arrest took place before that, an applicant likely does not need to bring that fact up.
Preparing to address past arrests and convictions
Many job applicants will have the opportunity to discuss their criminal past with their prospective employer, so it may help to prepare for such a conversation. One way is to look over a record of arrests and prosecutions, commonly known as a rap sheet, to find anything that might draw the attention of an employer. Applicants should be ready to tell their story, not to plead their case or reveal too many personal details, but to provide context for an employer.
Given the fact that a conviction for a crime still negatively sways some employers, anything that helps diminish the impact of a conviction, such as a set aside, may be of help. Since a set aside voids a conviction, it may give an employer less cause to reject an applicant if the employer notices it.