From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

September 2006
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Interview Question about convictions
Filed under: Interviewing
Posted by: site admin @ 7:53 pm

As those who read this blog know, Perri Capell is a columnist I read for background information.
A recent column “Should I tell employers about long ago arrests”
had an interesting discussion.

Now I don’t wish a conviction on anyone.  However, it can happen.  I am no judge, but I can offer some advice.
First, before the conviction.  If one is arrested, get absolutely the best attorney.  What if you don’t know an attorney?

A friend of mine got into a situation and called for my help.  I recommended that I needed to do homework.
I called a corporate attorney for whom I have a lot of respect.  (Now this is one ‘factoid’ you can store away for
the future– network with your corporate lawyers, if you can.  They can be great resources in times of need.)

Kim did not work in the court where my friend was appearing.  She recommended contacting one possible
attorney who advertized in a law journal.  In addition, she would seek out other recommendations while she suggested
I look at Martindale-Hubbell at

Within an hour, I provided a recommendation of an attorney.  She provided exceptional service and advice.  My
friend was a first time offender in a DUI and received a “continuance without a finding” dismissal.  She had to pay
penalties and expensive fees.  Insurance went up.  Points on the record.  But no permanent record.  (This means that
she will be convicted if picked up on a DUI again.)

Now, what should happen if a person received two misdemeanor convictions for driving under the influence 14 and 17 years ago and am wondering whether to exclude them on job applications. Does a person include this information, knowing that it could eliminate the person before a company has a chance to look further?

“Candidates with this question sometimes decide to tempt fate and not mention their convictions in hopes that an employer
a) won’t conduct a detailed background check or
b) if it does conduct a background check, the crime won’t show up because so many years have elapsed.

Assume you don’t disclose the DUI convictions and land the job. You probably completed an employment application asking if you have been convicted of any crimes and if so, to say what they were. You then signed it knowing that any falsehoods are grounds for dismissal. If the misdemeanors surface later on, your employer could fire you immediately for not telling the truth. Would you want to go to work every day with this type of ax hanging over your head?

Or assume you don’t disclose the misdemeanors and the company learns about them before hiring you. Now interviewers will question whether you have been completely forthcoming about other things. In both cases, employers often consider dishonesty worse than a past conviction. 

Perri Capell reports further that under FCRA, screening companies and employers can go back indefinitely when seeking information on reported criminal convictions. (exceptions: some states have passed laws limiting the number of years for certain convictions and arrests.) There’s a good likelihood, then, that your misdemeanor convictions will be reported.

 Wait for the right time to mention a conviction.  Still, when disclosing them, be ready with a good explanation for why these incidents no longer present a problem Ms Capell reported. The FCRA entitles you to receive a copy of a report a background screening company has done on you once annually. And before an employer can investigate you, you need to sign a release giving it permission to do so. At this point, ask which company will conduct your screening and be sure to get a copy of the report to learn what information is being provided and whether it’s correct, she suggests. “Public records aren’t always accurate

While I hope this does not have to be used by anyone.  Here it is.


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Small Talk for Introductions, Networking and Interviewing
Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring, First Year on Job
Posted by: site admin @ 8:31 am

Just returned from the San Francisco ACS meeting where I had the
pleasure of meeting more than a hundred people.  It comes to mind
that many of us have a “dickens of a time” trying to start off a conversation. 
And guess what?  This becomes an important skill in many facets
of business.  Becoming better at this is one of life’s pleasures as one
never knows what nice things can take place.  Not knowing the first
thing about small talk can seem like a high barrier to overcome in
introductions, networking and interviewing.

As we were flying on our last leg on our return flight from Chicago,
a conversation was struck up with the MBA from Norhwestern who
was seated next to me.  It was a couple hour flight and there are only
so many times you can look through the airline magazines, your meeting
notes and the book I finished on the flight west.  So, at a moment of
common break, as all of us I asked about her reading of the NYTimes
Science section and science fiction book, and drew out of each of us
some common ground for story telling, interest sharing and funny experiences.

The conversation will not go further than the two seats on Southwest
Airlines.  But the memory of our strategies for doing small talk will.  She
related that she likes to talk about family, travel experiences, books or
articles read and avocations.  My strategies often relate to where we
came from or where we were planning on going, developing some common
ground in interests or background or telling of a recent learning from news
or other source. 

Books are written on the subject.  Larry King has written a nice one on
being able to talk with anyone (L. King, “How to talk with Anyone,
Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication,” Three rivers
press.).  I wish to narrow the fous of small talk to its role in networking. 
One of my favorite career columnists, Perri Capell, wrote a recent
column “Networking Small Talk that can pay off Big Time.”  []

She relates the need to establish a foundation.  It leads to informal relationship
building.  This conversation is more about “the connection” you have made
than about what you actually say.  The article suggests there are two broad
categories of small talk– based on chance encounters and those with a specfic
purpose or object in mind.  In job searching based networking (one with a
specific purpose in mind), one may not find the initial contact leads to the
desired outcome.  As with many good relationships, it is important to share
the common ground, focus on mutual benefit and be genuine.

Despite the category, it is interesting to note that people’s strategies for small
talk can sometimes still remain the same.  Small talk can be learned by
observing or interacting with people who are quite good at this art. 

It seems that in a sense looking to create a positive outcome is the ultimate
quality of people who are accomplished at small talk.


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