Past mistakes that appear on a background check can upend one’s career goals and sometimes even damage their reputations for the rest of their employable years. For those who have committed a crime, their past or current mistakes can disqualify them entirely from employment in certain positions and industries. That being said, employment in a government administration position, or “civil service” post, is possible in the United States when you have a criminal background. State and federal leaders have made it easier in recent years for people to receive a second chance. Application reviewers, interviewers, and other hiring decision-makers typically take the following into consideration on a case-by-case basis:

Type of Crime

As with any employment situation, the type of crime you committed affects whether you can be considered for a job. For example, someone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence wouldn’t be allowed to work in a civil service position that involved storage or transportation of weapons. Someone who committed an anti-government crime or theft might also be barred from working in any civil service position. A hiring manager typically takes your entire arrest history into consideration, especially if it’s related to abuse, violence, drugs, theft, or sex — even if you plead guilty to a lesser charge.

Criminal Case Outcome

Any hiring manager must consider your past crimes if those crimes resulted in a conviction. That said, they can’t disqualify you though if the outcome of charge ended with a not guilty verdict or dismissed charges. Hiring managers must also consider applicants who have past criminal histories if the state or court ordered a previous conviction annulled, expunged, set aside, sealed, or vacated. When that happens, they typically can’t make any inquiries into the conviction. Hiring managers also can’t immediately reject applications submitted by those who are on probation or parole, but applicants must show that they’ve made a real effort toward rehabilitation.

Age and Time

If you were arrested as a juvenile, a civil service hiring manager would consider how the case was settled. They usually can’t disqualify you from the start as long as you’ve had no other incidents since. Additionally, if a criminal offense occurred a long time ago, a hiring manager will take this fact and any positive efforts you’ve made in your life into account when judging your unique situation. For example, with the United States Postal Service, a manager can’t automatically disqualify an applicant unless the applicant was incarcerated again because of a past criminal conviction within five years prior to the application date or charged with a conviction within ten years.

Honesty and Documentation

No matter your background, an honest approach to your checkered past is best when applying for any position, especially a civil service job. A government employment background check often delves into a criminal, a misdemeanor, statewide, federal and national arrest records, histories, and sex offender databases. A background check can even bring up current and past county and federal civil litigation history. When you apply for a job or arrive at an interview, always be honest about your past and bring proof that you have changed for the better, such as a community role model’s or an educator’s letter of reference, parole officer’s statement, or certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights.