For most people, answering the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” is no cause for anxiety. But for those with a criminal history, an honest response could be a roadblock to gainful employment.

Applicants can get pretty creative at hiding the truth about past convictions when a job opportunity is on the line. With this in mind, what candidates disclose during the hiring process should be carefully reviewed and always verified through a comprehensive criminal background check.

Here are the top three ways Clarifacts sees job applicants lying about their criminal records.

Complete Omission
The first and most obvious approach is hiding, or just not freely disclosing, a conviction. Applicants commonly adopt the “if they don’t ask, I’m not going to tell” philosophy and withhold the information until directly asked about their criminal history; and who could blame them. But even when the question is explicitly asked, there will always be those who will check the “no” box on a job application or verbally respond in the negative when the truthful answer would be “yes.”

Clarifacts has seen many applicants claim that they did not disclose a conviction because they believed it had been expunged from their record. Sometimes this is an attempt to deceive, and other times it is a gross misunderstanding of their case and how the court system works.

Helpful Tip:
To protect your company, it’s essential to know the relevant laws where you do business. There is an ever-growing list of state and city “Ban the Box” legislation that restricts, among other things, when and how an employer may ask applicants about past convictions.

New laws have been enacted in Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, North Dakota, Columbia SC, Waterloo IA, and other places in 2019 alone. In many cases, these “Ban the Box” regulations apply to public employers versus private companies, but that is rapidly changing.

Downgrade Severity of Conviction
There are scenarios in which an applicant might admit to a conviction but will claim it was less serious than it truly was. One example would be disclosing a conviction for petty theft when the actual crime was aggravated robbery. The nature and gravity of the two offenses are quite different and warrant different levels of consideration from an employer.

Helpful Tip:
A good criminal record search report will provide the needed pertinent information about the conviction. Look closely at what the applicant disclosed and compare it to the report details to determine how transparent they are being during the hiring process.

Admit to Fewer Convictions
An applicant might disclose a certain number of convictions and not reveal others. For example, they might admit to a class 6 misdemeanor, but fail to mention an additional conviction for a more serious class 2 felony. In the same vein, they may be willing to disclose details about an older case while failing to mention a more recent conviction.

Helpful Tip:
The date of offense is a significant distinction because employers are legally required to consider the time passed since the conviction (along with the nature and gravity of the crime, and how relevant it is to the position) before rejecting an applicant. Commonly referred to as “Green factors,” these requirements are a result of a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a complete bar on employment based on any criminal activity is unlawful and discriminatory.

A Simple Solution
No matter the method of deception, the frustrating results are the same. At best, valuable time is wasted vetting candidates whose criminal history disqualifies them from employment. At worst, your staff and customers are put at risk with an unsuitable employee joining your workforce.

The solution is simple: Never exclusively rely on the word of the applicant with respect to criminal history. Always properly evaluate candidates by ordering a thorough criminal background check.

A comprehensive criminal record background check can include searches at the county, state and federal levels, as well as expanding the geographical coverage area with a supplemental national/multi-jurisdictional database search that queries proprietary database(s) containing millions of records compiled from multiple jurisdictions. A search of a sex offender registry may also be relevant and prudent.

Clarifacts can quickly research criminal records to uncover the most current, accurate information crucial to your background screening process. For more information, please contact us at 800.318.0553 or

Please Note: Information and resources provided by Clarifacts are for educational purposes only and should not be construed as, or a substitute for, legal advice. Employers should consult legal counsel about their specific compliance responsibilities under federal, state and local laws and any other applicable legal and regulatory requirements.

About the Author

Kevin Kilmas

Kevin Klimas

Kevin Klimas is the president and founder of Clarifacts, an employment background screening company serving conscientious clients for nearly 20 years. As a founding member and former board member of the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA), Kevin is outspoken about screening the right way. In fact, he speaks on this topic at HR conferences and in various media outlets, sharing his enthusiasm for helping others understand all things background checks. Kevin is a member of SHRM and holds a Fair Credit Report Act Advanced Certification from PBSA. He has a Bachelor of Science in criminology and criminal justice from Arizona State University (Forks Up!) and has nearly completed his quest to visit every Major League ballpark.