Disclosing a DUI conviction when applying for jobs

Job applicants who have a DUI conviction have to answer yes when asked if they have been convicted of a crime. The trick is to be proactive.

Many employers in Tennessee ask job candidates to share a wealth of information about themselves. Some basics are required-for example, to show that an applicant is legally eligible to work in the United States. Similarly, employers tend to ask if applicants have been convicted of a crime. (Under state law, criminal convictions stay with a person for life.)

The wording of the question matters

Often, a DUI conviction is a misdemeanor, with felony DUI convictions typically reserved for repeat offenses or for circumstances such as a child being hurt. This can be good news if an employment application asks something like, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" If the applicant's conviction was, indeed, a misdemeanor, he or she can answer "no" to that question.

However, quite a few applications simply ask, "Have you been convicted of a crime?" or "Have you been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony?" In such cases, the applicant should answer "yes."

There is no need to disclose if never asked

The issue of criminal convictions simply never comes up in some job applications and interviews. If candidates are not asked about convictions, they do not need to share that they have a DUI conviction.

Background checks can alert employers

Some applicants who have DUI convictions do choose to answer "no" when they should answer "yes." Doing so could end up costing them a job they might have gotten otherwise. For example, background checks can alert potential employers that an applicant has not been forthright.

It can certainly be tempting to just answer "no," but a job candidate's best bet is usually to answer honestly, to explain the circumstances of the conviction and to detail how his or her life may have changed since then. Many applications leave space for such explanations or instruct candidates on how to explain (by attaching a sheet of paper, for instance).

If an applicant can show that a conviction was unjust or something he or she has learned from, the employer may admire the applicant's honesty, communication skills, resilience and self-awareness, among other traits. In fact, many job candidates have success disclosing a DUI conviction as if it is simply a fact of their life-and not a dark, foreboding secret that would send employers running for the hills.

The ideal in Tennessee would be for a conviction to never happen in the first place. A charge can be challenged in many ways such as questioning the reason why police stopped the driver in the first place and whether there were procedural errors. An attorney can help determine any possible grounds of challenge.