How to Explain a DUI Charge During a Job Interview, A New Fact Of Life

DUI Job Interview

Written by Tyler Brodeur

Tyler, our lead job search coach is a former recruiter with expertise in several major industries. He has worked with some of the most renowned companies in the world and has interviewed over 20,000 candidates throughout his career. As a career coach, Tyler has helped many professionals identify and land ideal jobs. Tyler is an effective servant leader that is passionate about positively impacting as many lives as possible.

June 12, 2020


how to explain a dui charge on a job interview


You may be a job applicant, but you’re also a human being. You’ve made mistakes just like everyone else. What if one of them was getting charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI)? How are you going to explain it to your interviewer? One DUI doesn’t automatically sink your chances of getting hired. However, you should be aware of how an employer would view a DUI, and have a strategy for how to explain it in your interview.


This article will discuss:


  1. The legalities of a DUI.
  2. What HR professionals think.
  3. How to explain it briefly and honestly in your interview.
  4. Emphasizing the positive parts of your application.
  5. The consequences of hiding or lying about your DUI/].


The Legalities Of a DUI and Filling Out A Criminal Background Check When Applying For Jobs

criminal background check job interview

First, you should understand the legal implications of a DUI so you can be aware of how organizations evaluate it. A standard first offense of a DUI is usually classified as a misdemeanor. If the offender seriously injures another person or worse, it can be elevated to a felony. A DUI will likely appear on a criminal background check and is usually considered a criminal offense.


Let’s face it: a DUI is hard to sweep under the rug. It’s likely going to come up at some point in your job search, whether it’s on an application, in an interview, or in a background check—especially if it’s on a public court record.However, a DUI doesn’t follow you around for the rest of your life. They typically disappear from your record after 10 years and can be expunged earlier in some instances, so you don’t have to disclose it to future employers.


The “criminal history” question is slowly disappearing from job applications. Movements like Ban the Box have been vocal about removing the checkbox on job applications that asks applicants if they have been convicted of a crime.

What HR Professionals Think When Looking At Your Job Application

hire applicant criminal record

Additionally, there’s encouraging data from respected organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). According to a 2018 survey, two-thirds of HR professionals say that their company has hired applicants with criminal records. Only fourteen percent of HR pros said they’d be unwilling to hire those with criminal records. Insights like the SHRM study are illuminating because they help you delve into how HR thinks. The survey pointed out that individuals with a criminal record can be an untapped source of talent. After all, nearly one-third of the adult working-age population is reported to have a criminal record.


Why are HR pros receptive to this category of applicants? The top reasons cited were:


  • A desire to gain the best candidate regardless of criminal history
  • Making the community a better place
  • Giving individuals second chances.


Other encouraging statistics are that 82 percent of managers and over half of HR professionals report that the “quality of hire” for those with records is as high or higher than workers without records. However, it doesn’t mean that employers actively recruit individuals with records. In fact, only five percent say they do. The data seems to suggest that HR professionals may be willing to overlook certain offenses from otherwise qualified applicants.

Give an Honest and Brief Explanation About Your DUI In The Interview

be honest during interview

If you do have a DUI on your record, you need to have a strategy of how to approach this in the interview. If you filled out an application where you checked the “yes” box about if you have a criminal history, your interviewer may ask about it. If you didn’t check this box, you should bring it up before the background check phase, which SRHM says nearly three-fourths of employers report they conduct.


If you have to explain yourself in the interview, set the record straight that the reason why you checked “the box” is because of a DUI. Employers may not know the exact nature of the offense. It’s best to be up-front about it. Come right out say that you made a huge mistake and you’ve grown from it. Say that you were young (if applicable) and made a bad decision.


Follow it by talking about how you improved yourself after the DUI. You can bring up any rehab done, any community service relating to your charge, or any classes or public speaking you’ve done. Maybe you got involved with anti-drunk driving organizations.


Speak frankly and openly about it, but you don’t need to make your DUI a huge discussion topic. Keep your explanation to two minutes or less, and have it memorized before your interview. There’s a good chance your employer might not even care that much about it. As says, “Employers often treat DUIs like a traffic ticket.


If you’re applying for a job that involves driving a company vehicle or operating heavy machinery, your prospective employer will take notice…If you are trying to land an office job with no driving-related responsibilities, your DUI may carry less weight with your employers.” The EEOC says an employer may make an employment decision based on the conduct underlying the arrest if the arrest makes the individual unfit for the position in question. However, if the offense isn’t job-related or consistent with business necessity, your prospective employer may be more likely to bypass it. As a matter of fact, the EEOC has been cracking down on employers that place too much emphasis on criminal backgrounds.

Under federal law, employers can ask about your criminal history. But federal EEO laws do prohibit employers from discriminating when they use criminal history information.


Emphasize The Positive Parts of Your Application To Take Attention Away From The DUI

positive cover letter

Because explaining a DUI can be a potentially sticky situation, you’ll want to play up the other parts of your application in the interview and throughout the process. Make sure your resume, cover letter, and other application materials are in tip-top shape. Dressing appropriately is also critical even if you’re interviewing in an informal environment. To brush up on your interviewing skills, you might want to work with a career coach or counselor. You can also practice with a friend, or rehearse questions and answers on a recording device. The key is to come across polished and confident.


One of the most important things to bring up on your resume and in your interview is your quantifiable achievements. Yes, culture fit is important, but numbers show the value you can bring to a business, maybe mention how you worked for years in your family business. It’s also vital for you to showcase your skills, particularly if they can fill a gap for your prospective employer. Yes, you have a DUI, but you also may be an Excel wizard, which that business sorely needs. A portfolio and/or samples are also invaluable assets, especially if you work in industries like media and communications. The samples do the talking for you and show that you can actually do the work.


Finally, establish a rapport with the interviewer. People want to work with people they like. The old adage is true: “People will forget what you said, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.”


The Consequences Of Hiding Or Lying About Your DUI

lying about criminal record job interview

It may be tempting to just keep your fingers crossed that the DUI issue doesn’t surface or even lie about it. We’ve all been in situations where we really need a job. However, the ramifications if you’re found out are too significant. If your prospective employer does a background check and finds a surprise, it makes you look like a liar, which no organization wants. Surprises like these can result in your offer being rescinded. Obviously, this is heartbreaking for you and a huge waste of time, not only for you but also for the organization that wanted you to join them.


The organization could also alert other companies that you might apply to, further damaging your professional reputation. Finding a concealed criminal offense is particularly disastrous after you’ve already begun employment. Checking “no” or omitting a DUI conviction on an application can be seen as committing fraud. You can be fined or sued. If you’re caught, the results extend beyond just being fired. You can also be charged with a crime for lying or misleading your employer. This will make it even more difficult to find another job. Add to that how devastating it would be to be fired for this reason when you’ve been at the job for a while. You’d be without income unexpectedly, and the business will suffer while they scramble to pick up your work or replace you.


Skip all the drama by offering a quick, well-thought-out explanation earlier in the hiring process.




The best way to handle a DUI during the hiring process is being honest, upfront, and concise. You made a mistake, you’ve moved on, and you’ve (hopefully) done better since then. Your employer is also a human being who has made mistakes, so they may be understanding, especially if they’ve met you in person and have a positive impression.


Your DUI doesn’t define you, and it will eventually go away. You have a lot to offer as a job applicant. Make sure future employers—and you—remember that. If you are still unsure of what to say or you have a special criminal circumstance you need help explaining you are in the right place.  Our effective interview coaching is perfect for situations such as these.  Being former recruiters these discussions have come up with us and employers more than you would ever think.  With our interview coaching package, you get access to valuable insight and learn what gets said about DUI’s and criminal charges behind closed doors.  Don’t hesitate to hire us today!



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