Leaping over the usual job search hurdles — computerized resume scans, scripted job interviews, routine background checks and calls placed to references — is a daunting enough feat in an ice age of hiring freezes and nine per cent unemployment.

Bury a criminal record, a youthful mishap, or even an eyebrow-arching employment gap onto that resume, and you could easily feel like the last untouchable the corporate community will ever deign to hire.

That self-skepticism, motivational coach Eric Mayo warns, is one of the true burdens of a criminal past.


“I wouldn’t rule out applying to a job you feel qualified for,” he encourages. “You may get only some of the jobs you apply for, but you get none of the jobs you don’t apply for.”

That said, some enterprises put out a softer welcome mat than others. The powers-that-hire at small businesses or independent temping agencies are more likely to shrug their shoulders at a one-off battle with the law than an HR rep towing multinational corporate policy.

But if those mom-and-pop storefronts do ask for a background check, career consultant Cynthyia Shapiro recommends the "Sign-and-Smile" strategy.

“The trick that companies have figured out is that if they put this background check form thing in front of you, nine times out of ten, you’ll confess,” she explains. “So sign it with a big smile on your face, hand it back, say thanks — and hope they don’t actually check.”

A more direct answer, however, may require a more direct answer, Mayo cautions.

When confronted about a lapse in your career history or some red ink on your police papers, he suggests the following response: “I’m glad you asked about that because I want you to feel comfortable hiring me. I’ve made some bad choices, but I’ve learned from them.”

“Focus less on the past than on what you’ve been doing since, like continuing your education,” he offers. “Be honest. If someone asks you a straight question, give them a straight answer.”