Would my unstable work history, criminal record, and employment gaps be a deterrent for most employers?

I have held roughly 17 different jobs since adolescence until now. That was a count I determined a long time ago. Now, I can hardly count how many jobs I have had. I am 25.

I have been unemployed for 2 years now on disability.

I used to be an EMT, but my license was pretty much revoked (I had to voluntarily surrender). I am afraid to put any of my past credentials from being an EMT on a resume. I don’t know if it even matters when applying for tech jobs, but I assume listing some unrelated work is better than listing no work at all.

I only worked in EMS for 2 years.

I also have some misdemeanor criminal convictions for stalking and harassment

Yes, those sort of things do tend to concern employers.

@JeremyLT What do I do about this if I want a tech job?

Do you have to tell them unless they ask you? I don’t know about the laws in your country … As far as I know, there are only certain types of jobs in my country where you will be asked to submit a “criminal record certificate”.

I am not especially an expert in this, but I would imagine that you do the same thing as with any job - you need to make yourself look like a consistent, safe hire that will deliver profit for the company. Google will have better advice on the specifics however.

I assume most tech jobs don’t look at criminal histories.
But my lack of solid employment experience I worry will hurt me.
I am 25, and I have never really had solid, long-term employment anywhere.

I get that feeling. It’s rough. But we gotta keep thinking about what’s possible. Asking yourselfs: “Where can we be 5, 10 or 20 years from now, if we learn from our mistakes and keep working hard?” Btw. @JeremyLT is right, there seem to be a lot of resources about the topic on the web.

So in the US almost all jobs automatically do a background check on you when you apply. Tech jobs included. Outside of the US, your experience may vary.

Yeah, if you want to work for Google, I’m sure its HR department could help.
If you mean searching, well, there will be as much misinformation out there as reliable information.

@Hjb1694, a better thing to do may be to get advice from a recruitment company and see if it would accept you. If you have job centres, visit one and get advice from a worker there. Web searches are okay, but I think you need more professional advice for your personal situation.


Agreed, there are better resources out there. I just always start my recommendations with free resources.

A-ha! So do I. :slight_smile: Just not Google.

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The short answer is: yes. I see you’re more worried about your lack of employment history than the crimes on your record. This could be remedied by contributing to open source projects on the web. Now, as per your experience, you could list “Open Source Developer”, with links to your contributions.

Also, you should definitely consider the possibility of freelancing (freeCodeCamp just published this: https://www.freecodecamp.org/news/freelance-web-developer-guide/), or starting your own company. I mean, when you think of all the applications you’re going to be putting out in hopes of a job, you could instead be looking for clients. No client is going to ask you if you have a criminal record (unless you’re contracting for a big company, or something. Still unlikely, I think.)


How could I freelance or own my own business if I am an ameatur and not so good, despite doing this for 3 years?


@Hjb1694 Hayden your above question is different from your original post and is going in a different direction but as someone who had a criminal record as a teenager and has held dozens of short term jobs and gigs since I turned 18, has worked in tech for several years and is now transitioning to be a developer I wanted to take a stab at this.
First- remember the golden rule in resume building is that you should be able to fit all of your experience into one page. There are famous examples of CEOs applying to jobs with one page resumes- if they can do it you can do it. When building your resume you won’t do recruiters or yourself any good by trying to list 15 or 20 different jobs, so highlight the ones that are most relevant to the position and only include those. You would be stunned to know how many people in the banking and tech worlds take this creative license to leave off jobs. For example, half of the senior salespeople I know in Silicon Valley don’t even include any employment history before they were 30 years old. It’s just not relevant. Don’t make up things you didn’t do- but do the people who will be looking at the resume a favor and only show what was most relevant.
Second- don’t worry too much about your criminal record. The stigma of hiring felons is subsiding and there are even start ups that have been formed by former San Quentin inmates, who are surely more scary than you. Unless your crimes were recent and/or violent or your applying to companies that are really prejudiced I don’t think this will be an insurmountable obstacle if you are an attractive candidate. Some companies, like Slack, even have programs specifically for ex-cons to get into development. Let the fact that you have experience in life that others don’t be a strength. Lots of companies are looking for this. Consider even starting a blog about going from a con with little tech experience to a developer. That’s a story that everyone wants to hear- I guarantee it.
Also- a previous poster on this thread had great advice when they said you should freelance or start your own company. Even if you make an app or site that no one uses if it shows some skill that will make you attractive to employers.
Your biggest problem is your last comment- about not being very good yet. No one is going to hire you no matter who you are for anything if you’re not a good developer. I am mostly self taught but also attended a bootcamp and my advice is to just pick a language or technology you think is interesting and just study the hell out of it and practice until you know what people are talking about when they talk about that language. Figure out what type of tech inspires you and let that be your guide (front end study Javascript, backend study Node or Python or PHP, data science study Python, mobile apps study Swift or Java). That will be the foundation that makes people willing to look past any irregularities on your resume- but you’ve got to be willing to put in the time. If you take one language and stick to it you can be pretty good in the 4-6 month range if studying every day.
Good luck! You can totally do this if you really want to.


Yeah I think all three issues are red flags for companies. HR screens your resume and if there is employment gap they will ask about it and if they do background check they will ask about your history as well.

Is it impossible to find a dev job with that history? No. Is it difficult? Yeah.

At least harder than most people.

Hiring manager here. This is my honest insight based on my experience.

To answer your title question:

Would my unstable work history, criminal record, and employment gaps be a deterrent for most employers?

Yes to all three.

A career gap and unstable work history can be creatively explained away on a resume (you could have been studying, working on a business, working contract jobs, etc). If you provide a straightforward answer, neither would be an instant write-off. It’s all about framing. My recommendation: Find a way to explain both in a positive light.

The criminal record would instantly ruin your chances if I saw that on the resume or cover letter. Do not bring this up (in most cases, I can’t just ask “are you a convicted criminal?”). My recommendation: Do not mention this. A lot of employers will ask for your consent to perform a background check, but there are plenty that don’t. If you’re applying to a small business, you might be able to explain this away (it’s still better to avoid at all costs). If you’re applying somewhere with a HR department, this is a definitive dealbreaker.

Honestly, you have a very hard road ahead, but you might get lucky. I wish you the best of luck!


If your in USA most places just want to know felony’s. If they ask at all.

Just fill the gaps with the info that you self educating your self and training for the Tech skills you need for a Job. Also if you disabled you should get in contact with your states vocational rehabilitation department. They can be great help getting you trained and prepared for a Job.

This is not exactly your situation, but it may give you somethings to think about from another coder.


First Hayden, I want to salute you for your bravery in seeking help with these very common issues. In terms of employment gaps you have a few options:

  • leave off the dates when you list your experience
  • note on your resume that you are a freelancer in the technology you are studying
  • volunteer at a charity that needs some technical help

Regarding your criminal history:

  • stop calling it a criminal history - misdemeanors are run-ins with the legal system
  • 10 years from the time of your conviction you can apply to have your record expunged - start looking up how to do that now so you do not get refused.
  • surprisingly, there are a lot of people with misdemeanor convictions: throw away that shame now - its not helping you to move on

Regarding an unstable work history:

  • most working adults will change careers 5 to 7 times in their life and jobs (in a chosen career) about twelve times. The study followed people who were 18-48 yrs old.
  • Get yourself to a community workforce center asap and let them show you the many resources, education grants, scholarships available to you because of your needs. You will be surprised how fast you can go through the training you need to get you started.
  • getting training also exposes you to career placement resources

I’m not an expert in this, so, take it as advice from someone who has been on a similar journey. 10 years ago I was a single mom who had spent 10 years out of the workforce raising my children. After my divorce I lost everything. Today I have a Master of Science in computer systems and am a senior Frontend Software Engineer. The strength to rebuild your life comes from inside you. Your past does not define your character today. What you do going forward is your new future. I wish you hope and dreams and strength. Namaste!