On the Job

For Ex-Offenders Returning to Work, Evaluate Options

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, September 21, 2007; 2:24 PM

On most job applications, companies will ask potential employees if they've ever been convicted of a crime. And if the answer is yes, in many cases, that person is immediately disqualified from consideration.

For job seekers with infractions on their record, however, is it realistic to think that one can return the working world the same way as before they left?

That's what this applicant wonders:

I am a former federal employee with reinstatement eligibility. I left the government in 1995. In 2004, I received a felony drug conviction after failing a drug test. I've completed my sentence, am still active in Narcotics Anonymous and have been sober since my arrest.

Will I ever be able to return to the government and will I be able to receive a clearance again?

Two issues that significantly decrease an applicant's chances of getting approved for a security clearance are drug-related and financial ones, says Evan Lesser, director of Des Moines, Iowa-based job placement firm ClearanceJobs.com

This job seeker needs to realize the severity of having a fairly recent drug conviction on his record, and its impact on his federal job search. For most federal positions requiring a security clearance, the only thing worse than a drug conviction is bankruptcy, Lesser adds.

And it's because of this, Lesser suggests that the applicant will likely not be able to obtain another clearance.

If he's adamant about returning to the federal workforce, however, there are alternatives, Lesser says. The job seeker should consider positions that do not require an extensive background check. Agencies that are non-defense, non-intelligence and non-homeland security-based, might be this person's best option.

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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