Phoenix posted the following question in our medical assistant forum:
“My friend lives in California an considered becoming a MA. The problem is she has a criminal record. She wants to better her life now and start over. Will anyone hire her with such a background.”
Preemployment Criminal Background Check
When potential employers and recruiters review an application for employment and they see a gap of x amount of months, or years, a red flag comes up. I know medical assistants who were arrested and spent time in jail, changed their lives but have a hard time finding employment to earn a living wage and move on.
Finding a job for someone who has legal or criminal issues is difficult, even if it was just for a misdemeanor. Many companies today run background checks and employers use standardized application forms to screen people out. If an application form did not ask for the information, it is probably not relevant to the position, however, if it specifically asks: have you ever been convicted of a felony, then the answer should be yes, and you can list the offense.
Unless the application asked specifically about convictions, it is okay to avoid bringing it up as a reason for leaving any prior employment. On the application, I would put “personal reasons.”
How to Proceed On the Application and Face-To-Face Interview
Do not add on your application: I went to prison on the application form where it asks for the reason for leaving any prior employment, but rather, and if you must, put “personal reasons”, or “will discuss at interview” and then discuss it during the interview.
During the face-to-face interview do this:
- Bring it up early
- Be upfront
- Admit to making a mistake
- Say you have learned from this
- Keep it short
- Move on
It may take longer to get an interview then normal, but once you got it, be upfront. Your discussion with the interviewer should be honest and brief! Brief answers should go along the lines that you have made a mistake and paid for it, you have learned a valuable lesson, and would like a chance to prove to yourself and the community that you are a better person than that. That’s it! Generalize rather that specify, and provide only what was requested.
“I would like an opportunity to speak to you about my past problems with the law privately.”
If the interviewer wants to know more, answer all questions politely, accurately, and without shame. Your reactions and demeanor will add to the over all impression that you fully understand the mistake you have made, intend to work hard, and not go back to your old ways. The interview is your chance to talk about your skills, discuss details of the job, and not to dwell on the ugly part of your past. Try to keep the conversation as general as possible and continue to remind the employer that it was in the past, you have made restitution, and moved on.
Everybody Deserves a Second Chance
Whenever someone is finger printed this record stays on file with the FBI for ever, even after an expungement, or when the charges were dropped the deferment will always be visible to law enforcement, the court system, and government agencies.
ORGANIZATIONS THAT CAN HELP
Many states and communities in most states have so-called vocational rehab (VR), Work Force Development, and One-Stop Career Center services, some sponsored privately, others sponsored by the US Department of Labor to assist ex-offenders and felons seeking work. Also, there often are various community self-help agencies and workshops specifically targeted toward individuals coming out of jail and trying to make a new start. My recommendation is to explore these options in your own state.
- Visalia Re-Entry Center (Turning Point, REAP Training Program) is a private company categorized under Employment Agencies and Opportunities that involves a wide network of employers who are willing to give felons a second chance.
- FEAP (Fresno Employment Assistance & Placement).
- Alaska’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development has a Fidelity Bond which offers the employer as an incentive to hire a felon. The bond protects the employer from losses up to $25,000.00 with approval from the bonding contractor.
Finally, those seeking a medical assistant job or vocational training that leads to medical assistant diploma should contact the school, or the Department of Education to find out whether they will qualify for federal educational funding, and also contact the AAMA legal department to find out if a former conviction will keep you from taking their medical assistant certification exam and working as a CMA.