How to Disclose a DUI on the Job Hunt

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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- During a record setting ceremony Airman 1st Class Steven Allen, 31st Operations Support Squadron, switches the DUI sign as the squadron reaches 1,000 days DUI free. Photo by Airman 1st Class Liliana Moreno
Getting a DUI can change your life in more ways than you expect. If you are currently employed you should consult a lawyer on how to disclose the conviction to your employer. Otherwise you’ll have to navigate the obstacle course of applying for a position with a less than perfect record.

Don’t even think about becoming a school bus driver. Jobs that require you to drive a company vehicle or require a high security clearance may no longer be an option. Other employers are more likely to forgive a pervious indiscretion if you aren’t a habitual offender.

Attorney Patricia Shiu, vice-president for programs at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center in San Francisco says "Let's face it, lots of people have DUIs. It's not a career-ending thing." The difference between getting the job and getting rejected can be how and when you present the information. Each situation is different but here are some general guidelines to go by when job hunting with a DUI:

  • Don’t mention it until the employer asks. Never note it on your resume or in your cover letter. You should also omit it if an application asks specifically for felonies and your charge is a misdemeanor.
  • Don’t lie about it when the time comes. If the application asks for all charges you need to disclose it. If it hasn’t come up yet but you know the company is going to run a background check you can make a preemptive statement to soften the blow. Tom Welch, author of Work Happy, Live Healthy, recommends saying something like, “You are going to find a perfectly clean record with one minor exception. A couple of years ago I had a DUI after a party. I just wanted to make you are aware of that so everything is up-front."
  • Reemphasize your strengths. Reassure the interviewer that you have learned a lesson and moved on with your life and then move on with the interview. Stress the skills you have and the assets you can bring to the company. Really sell yourself. Welch explains, "The more value you can bring to the organization, and the more excited the employer gets about having you on their team, the less meaning the DUI has."

Don’t make it harder on yourself though. Get the charge expunged from your record if you have the option. If you can’t don’t give up. It’s not impossible to get a job and advance your career with a blemished record. George W. Bush even became president despite pleading guilty to drunk driving in 1976.

By Heather Fairchild - Heather is a multimedia developer with experience in web, film, photography and animation as well as traditional fine arts like painting and sculpting. In addition to writing for, she is co-founder of design and promotion company. Heather’s spare time consists of making puppets, teaching Sunday School, building Legos and doing science experiments with her children.

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