“I never completed my degree and many opportunities in my field expect it.”
“I have gaps in my employment history”.
All of these are real scenarios. If there are significant criminal issues in your background (and sometimes credit when you are working in the financial/banking areas), it is best to disclose the nature of what occurred and have a forthright conversation with your potential employer regarding the severity of the issue. I have seen companies hire candidates with felonies and misdemeanors because it has been a while since the crime, because they felt the person was a good fit, or because the person explained the situation in a compelling way. (Note: “I didn’t do it” is not an explanation that a company wants to hear or will respect.
Additionally, corporations get tax breaks for hiring previously convicted felons. Conduct a web search on which companies have more flexible background policies. But, be realistic! If you were convicted of embezzlement, I do not think anyone will hire you as CFO. If you have a sex offense in your background, don’t apply to be a camp counselor! Be realistic about your limitations. Don’t get into more trouble.
Also, in disclosing the information, do not say: “I’m an ex-con”. Perhaps a softer approach would be to share that “there are some issues in my background, and I was wondering if this will affect my ability to be hired.”
If you have not completed a degree, be honest! Mind you, it may be a great time to complete the education that has been lingering over your head. Whatever you do, do not lie on your resume or application! I had to terminate someone from a pending temp to hire job who was perfect because she lied about having a Bachelor degree. It broke my heart, because the company loved her and thought she was a perfect fit. Unfortunately, they did not even require a degree for the position!!!
Be aware of gaps in your employment history and be ready to proactively and positively explain them in a phone screen or interview. If there is a long gap, be aware that it will come up and be prepared as to your response. In fact, a cover letter may be a great place to account for the gaps in a proactive, professional manner.
People are getting hired every day! Be honest and you will too!