I am looking for a new job, and they all say I need to go through a background check.

I live in Arkansas and am only 17, so I'm not considered an adult. I'm on unsupervised probation for my friend stealing, and since we were in my car they said I was an accomplice.

What all can they see if I'm not eighteen? Should I bring this up in the interview or be silent about it? What's a good approach to address this in the interview if it does come up so that I can maximize my chances of getting the job?

  • comments removed Please don't answer the questions in the comments. Also, answers to this question should be backed up with facts, references, or experiences that happened to you personally. If you see an answer without a reference, consider helping them out by editing one in their post.
    – jmort253
    Oct 18 '13 at 3:44
  • Don't you have a probation officer? They should be able to answer your question. If you were charged as a juvenile, then most likely your employer should not be able to see it, and they may not even be able to ask you about it. These are questions you should ask your PO or your lawyer. They are far more qualified to answer than anyone here.
    – Mohair
    Sep 24 '15 at 19:18

I can't speak in a legal sense about any of this, but my answer will provide anecdotal support.

I have an incident that occurred when I was 15 living overseas on a military installation. Because it was an official sanctioned DoD investigation, it remained on my record for a very long time (into my 30's). There was never a charge or conviction, but the investigation remained, and it was flagged every time I pursued a job that required a full background investigation. That was almost everyone.

I was never untruthful about the circumstances. Because there was no charge or conviction, I never had to list it on an application, but I knew it would come up in the background check. When asked about it, I responded truthfully about it. After that, it never came up again. Most employers will simply ignore anything that is flagged when you're a minor. People do dumb things when they're kids, and to pretend otherwise is silliness.

So my advice, in summary, is never hide it but never bring it up. If no one asks, then they don't know or don't care. If they ask, disclose the details fully and honestly. If you're not a risk for them, then that will come through in the answer. In most cases, no one will even care. In order to convince an interviewer that the incident is behind and in the past completely, you really have to put it there and let it go.

  • Since you said DoD, I'll assume you're in the US. Are background checks common in the US when applying for jobs? I'm in Canada, and they're really only done here if you're working with children or doing something security sensitive. Oct 15 '13 at 15:29
  • @MattGrande - general background checks are common in order to make sure the person you a going to hire isn't a convincted criminal. There are different types of background checks.
    – Donald
    Oct 15 '13 at 16:02
  • I think this is probably good advice for most places but some states, like Florida, require that you disclose to employers that you are on Probation. This would not work there. I have no idea if that is the case in Arkansas. Oct 15 '13 at 21:52
  • @Chad: In states such as that the question is on the job application, and my advice very clearly is not to hide anything and to answer questions truthfully. Oct 15 '13 at 23:34
  • @JoelEtherton - It may not be on the application, and it may be a position where there is no application but is using submitted resumes. I think I would simply qualify "is never hide it but never bring it up" with "Unless you are legally required to disclose your status." Oct 16 '13 at 15:18

You can certainly avoid bringing it up - and entering any job discussion where you start your personal "sell" as a listing of all the reasons why they shouldn't hire you is not generally a bad strategy.

That said, you're talking about some facts about yourself that may be make or break. When it comes to certain criteria and certain jobs, both age and criminal history can end up being a firm yes or no without a lot of wiggle room. Certain high trust roles may not allow a hiring manager to have any say in this decision.

That said, the basic good practices for any job application are true:

  • be honest
  • show up to all engagements on time
  • show up properly dressed and presentable
  • use good language, and be clear when asked any questions

Do everything you can to appear mature and to be a person with good judgement. Being in a car with a friend who is stealing is not a good indicator - either you are very oblivious or you made a poor choice in that particular friend. So you do want to make sure that your behavior and interactions suggest that this was a one time lapse in judgement and not a persistent problem.

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