Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: How can felons find programming jobs?
100 points by _tgdn 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 92 comments
I've been unemployed for 12 months, went to jail 7 months ago for 2 months, applied for dozens of jobs per week for the past 5 months straight, and almost every single one of them has turned me down because I have a felony.

I've tried not disclosing it, disclosing it early, disclosing it in the middle of the interview process, and disclosing it at the end when they make me an offer. They all turn me down.

Half of them are judgmental turn-downs - they won't return my call and never get back to me, because they think poorly of me.

Half are policy - Goldman Sachs made me an offer last month, but withdrew it this morning due to their policy against hiring felons.

I only have enough money to last us through April, and that's literally because our local parish gave us a $1,000 check out of nowhere, which adds to what's left over from our tax return.

I'm a hard worker with a wife and 5 kids to support. I just need a job, but nobody will hire me due to my background. Any pointers or advice would be greatly appreciated. Especially any pointers on where to actually find a job.

Because I'm still on probation, I can't move out of state and can either work remote or local (greater Chicago area). Most of the jobs out here require 3+ years in C# which I don't have and don't feel comfortable lying about either.

For more background, the felony is from flashing someone (while drunk) who was just under 17 years old. This was the second offense (the other was years ago). They are inexcusable and disgusting offenses, but they are permanently on my background.

EDIT #1: my crime was in 4 local major newspapers, and all 4 online news articles show up when you google my name, so hiding my background is not really a possibility here. About 4 months ago, a small local software firm, which would have been an amazing job, said "I know you said you're looking for 70k, but we'd like to offer you 75k", and I asked them to give me a few days to think it over, which he was happy to do. Then they never responded to my calls after that, presumably because they found out about this.

EDIT #2: I am no longer able to reply to anyone here, since HN now says "slow down, you're posting too fast" when I try, so, um, sorry if I don't reply to you before that resets (probably tomorrow).

Im going to give you some either great advice or bad advice - only time will tell.

First of all take ANY job you can get - this means starbucks is on the table - Get back to work, even part time.

Second if you have skills then start putting them to use - open source, build your own thing what ever. At least 2-3 hours a day of WORK. Google up non profits that help fellons find jobs and ask them if they can use your services as a volunteer. You never know where opportunity will come from.

Third, start a blog. Tell your story, put your real name on it. It is compelling and your looking to make a change. Show your work, name the companies that reject you - you have probably given out enough info for me to find out who you are any way just own it.

My last hint - lots of "temp agencys" and "placement agencies" will happily take you on as someone they can place. Most of them don't care if you were a rapist or a murder - it wasn't a financial crime so your fairly safe to employ. I once worked at one and they ran background checks for finance ONLY - everything else was kosher.

I agree with 99% of this. I don't think there's any value in publicly naming the companies that have rejected you, and there is a potential that it would be detrimental (how would a potential employer view that?). I just don't think the risk (however slight) outweighs the (practically nonexistent) reward.

Your dead wrong.

For years there was "no value" in discussing salary... but companies were allowed to ask you "how much did you make at your last job".

So we have/had a system that is "pro company" and "anti-worker" that took a LONG time to change and let a lot of things that we probably always would have been upset about go on.

There is value in publicly naming the company that didn't hire him. It stops someone else in his position from wasting their time. The only entity that benefits from him NOT disclosing the policy is the hiring company.

It "might" make a company look bad if it got out that they DO or DONT hire people who were once criminals - and then we get into a larger set of questions.

Is their policy a stealth racial bias? Is the purpose of the justice system to lock people up and then create social shunning or reform?

This is another case where tradition and the status quo does not make sense.

I agree with your position when taking a global scope. When looking at it in the narrow scope of the OP's position and goals, I don't see any benefit for them.

If everyone takes that stance then NOTHING changes - your suggesting apathy - this is how the status quo remains in place.

OP literally has nothing to loose and everything to gain by being honest about his situation - the knowledge is already public and working against him.

Also thank you for sharing - happy for the dialog!

Another interpretation is that we can achieve a moral victory even without asking more disadvantaged members of society to make a sacrifice for dubious gain.

If one believes that moral conduct ought to have a relationship with moral results, then one must also coldly ask what sort of results one truly expects from this.

We continue to build technology without thoughts of consequences. OP's issue IS one of technology. What 20 years ago would have required actual WORK is now a service any one can utilize. Companies that never would have asked for criminal and financial history now do so as a matter of course, because it is cheep, because they can.

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

-- Martin Niemöller

If those who have these issues don't stand up and speak (and to a larger audience than HN) how are they going to get the attention for us to speak up for them? OP has been punished, he should speak out that he is CONTINUING to be punishes, he IS a sacrifice.

I don't think you addressed "how would a potential employer view that?"

If someone is making a factual statement about another employer I don't have any qualms with it.

If you were a minority or a woman 10 years ago, even 2 years ago the policy of "don't speak up" was more or less there to maintain the status quo.

Here is an individual who, because he has no privacy, is disqualified from jobs. Note that the merits of his crime and weather or not he should have privacy because of it are another matter.

But a company - you should not talk about them - they have a better right to privacy than OP or any one else in this thread.

Something is very wrong here. This isn't a trade secrete were discussing it is a corporate policy one that could be made clear and public but it isn't.

Agreed - don't name those companies publicly. It's an extension of the principle not to talk poorly of previous employers, etc. The risk is rarely worth the reward.

https://www.builtinchicago.org/ -- a small startup may be more forgiving of your history. While I have no hiring experience, if I was doing hiring for a small startup, I would want the potential employee to share upfront (perhaps in the second round, definitely in the in-person, not necessarily the very first call) if they were a felon (or for that matter, any other potential red flag which would it'd be reasonable to expect me to discover on a background check). Obviously YMMV.

Also agree w/the parent comment wholeheartedly.

Some ideas for you, take anything you like:

* Check out the porn industry. They are always pushing boundaries of what is possible with tech and felons frequently work in the industry.

* Military service is a "customary shortcut to public affirmation". It may be possible to enlist in some branch somewhere and request a waiver for your felony.

* Improve your portfolio. If you are a good enough developer, people will overlook certain things.

* Find a desperate entrepreneur who will pay you the bare minimum cash to support your family, along with some equity.

* Start learning C#, it's actually a great language, loved by man.

I second the military route. Starting out it will be substantially less pay than a developer job in the civilian world, but it is a valid path of redemption. Contrary to popular belief a prior felony, depending upon what it is, won't necessarily stop you from even getting a top secret clearance.

Join the military under any form of "signal" branch MOS. All enlisted signal jobs require a secret security clearance and you might be able to get that directly depending upon what you were convicted of. Once you have been in for a bit and become an NCO you have some internal credibility to possibly transition to military intelligence or become a signal warrant officer of which both require a top secret clearance.

The trick to passing a security check in the military is disclosure. Be up front about your prior legal troubles with the investigating authority and don't hide anything. This is typically a recipe for immediate failure in the civilian world, but the military has greater resources to further investigate these issues and make more thorough determinations.

Once you hold a TS/SCI for a couple of years you can put that on a resume when you are ready to reenter the civilian corporate world. When people see active "Top Secret / Secure Compartmentalized Information" clearance on a resume they immediately think trustworthy despite that a background check will ultimately identify your prior felony. You are vetted, at great expense, by an external federal agency.

The porn (software) industry isn't really in his area at all. He can't pick up and move to Montreal.

In fact, as a felon he probably can't go to Canada at all.

Military service is a "customary shortcut to public affirmation". It may be possible to enlist in some branch somewhere and request a waiver for your felony.

My ex was career army and did a stint as a military recruiter. At that time, you could not join if you already had more than 2 children. OP states he has a wife and 5 kids. There are also age limits and other automatic bars.

All such details vary from one service to another. IIRC, you cannot join the army infantry with flat feet, but the navy has no problem with this.

If the OP (or anyone) is interested in the military option, they should do a quick Google or make a few phone calls to the nearest recruiting office to check on such details. I would hate to see them waste a whole lot of time on something only to learn it is a dead end for them.

> Find a desperate entrepreneur who will pay you the bare minimum cash to support your family, along with some equity.

How do you do this? Isn't implying that you'll work for a low salary a big red flag?

I see here on HN that some companies won't consider older workers because of the idea that they demand a lot of money, but I have no idea how to show that I am an exception to this stereotype. I sometimes tell recruiters etc. that I'm more interested in good working conditions or a convenient location than salary, which is true, but that's as far as I dare go.

I know C#, learned it over winter break a few years ago, but have not used it for 3+ years in a professional setting. That's the issue. Even if I try to make hobby apps with it, nobody will hire me for a job using it. Unless I look for entry-level jobs, but even then a recent college grad is a better choice than me.

The C# ecosystem might be less than ideal for you to spend your time learning. Start thinking about how certain programming languages might correlate with certain types of industries. You're going to want to target companies that are less likely to bother checking in to your background, and if they do, are less likely to care. Think more along the lines of hipster startup development and less along the lines of conservative enterprise development. This might mean focusing your efforts on learning the Javascript of Python ecosystems instead.

Please contact me (Richard@70MillionJobs.com) We're the first for-profit recruitment platform for people with records. We work with many large, national employers, as well as many tech companies. (We're a YC company) We have amassed a community of 1 million + active job seekers, and are providing significant HR solutions to big companies. I believe we can help you. (No charge of any kind to an applicant.)

Hi OP, another felon looking for a job here, I got out this January after serving 11 months. I would encourage you to apply for whatever government benefits you qualify for, if you haven't already. Just like you I've had offers rescinded after the background check. Doesn't feel great, but you have to keep at it. As someone else said: Get a job. Get any job. Right now I'm working at a commercial fish market doing manual labor. At the same time, I'm teaching myself Android development so that I have a portfolio I can show prospective employers. If I still can't get a job I'm going to try freelancing.

>Because I'm still on probation, I can't move out of state

This may not be true. I'm on Federal probation, not state, so it may be different, but you can have your probation transferred to another state. The receiving state must agree to accept you, which may be an issue as a sex offender. Best of luck.

I'm a federal felon myself and have found success by applying to companies based in states/cities which have "banned the box" for private employers. I'm currently working in a very respectable software engineering position, in a region which hasn't banned the box. The largest part of this companies workforce however, is based in an office located in a state which HAS banned the box for private employers. They never had a felony conviction checkbox for me to check on the job application, and they didn't bother running a background check which included the federal system. I've found that probably only around 50% of companies will include a federal background check. When it comes to background checks for housing or background checks for recruiting agencies, virtually none of them will do this.

I'd be interested in talking to you more about your situation. How does one reach you?

This is a time consuming process that requires going to court and being accepted/coordinated by the receiving party. That makes it near impossible if you've already received an offer, since many offers are time-limited.

I'm on Federal probation, so transfers are based on court district. How it works is that I can get what is called "courtesy supervision" from the receiving district. Both the US Probation Officer in the receiving district and my home district must agree. While I'm under "courtesy supervision" my case is still in my home district, but I can live and travel in the receiving district under the supervision of a PO in the receiving district.

During my currently fruitless job search I've kept my PO in the loop about jobs/locations that could prove fruitful. He and his supervisor have both communicated to me that getting courtesy supervision and then a transfer should not be an issue in my case. They both said that already having a job in the receiving district goes a long way to getting a transfer, since you'll be stable there.

OP is on state probation though, so his situation is different. I would advise him to speak with his probation officer about what his options are in terms of "courtesy supervision". I looked up what the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision says about sex offender transfers [0] and it seems that sex offenders have it worse than other offenders. While non-sex offender transfers are on a "shall issue" basis provided some easily fulfilled prerequisites [1] the sex-offenders are subject to a review period of a maximum of 5 days after which time the receiving state may accept/reject their transfer.

OP, talk to your probation officer about what your options are. A move out-of-state may not be out of the question.

[0] https://www.interstatecompact.org/step-by-step/chapter/3/rul...

[1] https://www.interstatecompact.org/step-by-step/chapter/3/rul...

There is a YC company that is looking at this -- https://www.70millionjobs.com/ (YC S17). Might be worth trying out. Good luck.

Edit: this occurred to me after posting and may be more important than anything else: have you entirely stopped drinking (or using any intoxicants/drugs should IL join the legal pot states)?

If you have a history of getting drunk enough to show terrible judgement but haven't stopped drinking, then you're still showing terrible judgement.


Well, stay away from financial and medical - both are going to have background check requirements that may also explicitly bar felons. Anything handling cash or card payments is likely also out based on PCI.

I think the two things I'm going to suggest are setting up a company or at least a DBA (so searches are on the company name not yours) and focusing on things you can do that are outside company networks. Assuming you have technical skills appropriate to HN and some level of design skills, website development may be a place to start. Since you're in Chicago, I'd consider going to WordCamp Chicago in April - it's cheap and informative, even if you start out with static site generators and not WordPress (which has concerns of its own like needing updates and maintenance).

You have paid your debt to society, you should not continue to be punished in perpetuity.

Perhaps make an LLC, and use your middle name in place of your last name when communicating with people? Or legally change your last name? That way they pay you as a contractor, with checks to your business, and no one is the wiser. You are in survival mode now, I wouldn't let pride keep you from changing your name.

> Or legally change your last name?

I think there are laws (in most states?) against changing your name if you're a registered sex offender. But trying to get a job using a middle name instead of a first/last name is a decent idea.

A name change doesn't remove the legal requirement to register as a sex offender.

Ex felon here. In my experience, it was far easier to deal with people by being open about my criminal history. In a its-a-no-big-deal-if-you-know sort of way.

If I'm trying to keep it secret, I have all this stress of wondering who knows, lying about it, etc. And that's bad for me because I'm already in a stressful situation.

Putting it out there saved me a lot of time with companies/HR departments by filtering out the haters in the first step. I didn't have to bite my nails wondering what their reaction to the background check would be.

I put my record on the bottom of my resume. My father told me I would never get a job with that, but he was wrong. I landed one two weeks after my release.

I asked the guy who interviewed (and hired) me if he had read about my criminal history on my resume, and he said, "Yeah, that's not a problem. My cousin's been in and out of jail all his life."

He is on probation, so he hasn't paid back his debt just yet.

The idea of probation is itself kind of messed up, in some ways. See what Meek Mill (yes, the rapper) has been put through because of a judge that is obsessed with him, along with absolutely idiotic and onerous probation requirements.

Of course, you’re technically correct (the best kind!), but it was a thought I felt like riffing on for a moment.

Why do you think its messed up? Sure, rogue Judges can put people through hell. But that's because of the rogue Judge and not the system itself.

The American Criminal Justice system is fucked up in many ways, specifically in the ease with which minorities are put through it. But the concept of a rules based society is definitely one that I agree with.

You’re definitely targeting the wrong companies if you are applying to Goldman Sachs. Apply to work remotely for a Bay Area startup like a YC company. They don’t run background checks as frequently or as well and they often don’t care about whether their remote employees are felons (while they might care about on-site employees).

Since November I have applied at every type of job: silicon valley start-ups with just a few people, software consulting firms with a dozen or two dozen consultants, and large corporations like GS. Initially GS told me the felony wouldn't be an issue, made me an offer, and dragged me along for about 4 weeks after that, reassuring me the job was a sure thing. Only this morning they changed their mind out of nowhere. Otherwise I wouldn't have wasted so much time with them, as I was up-front with them early on.

As a felon myself, I have never had anything good come out of early disclosure. I think your best bet would be to target jobs in areas that have "banned the box" for private employers (I believe Chicago is one of these cities). If you receive a conditional offer of employment, they will most likely run a background check at that point. Some lower quality background checking services can provide surprisingly incomplete results. More than likely though, it will return your conviction history. Once you get that call from the HR representative questioning the conviction, simply state that you didn't feel it was relevant to the position being applied for. Refer them to the EEOC guidelines on hiring people with felony convictions (especially the part about individualized assessments). These guidelines are merely a suggestion, but it might be enough to sway the mind of someone in the company who has that discretion.

My best advice on where to find work is look for smaller companies or for remote work with foreign companies. Small startups and the like often don't have the ability or the time to run background checks. It's not worth it for them. And many countries outside the US have laws against discriminating against people with criminal history. For example if you look for remote job for a Canadian company you'd probably have a decent chance of finding something. The salaries going both of these routes are lower though.

Also look into getting your records sealed. If you situation is really as you've describe a judge may be willing to help you out here.

Also check out https://www.70millionjobs.com/

Oh, also I should mention, my crime was in 4 major local newspapers, and those online news articles are the first 4 results of googling my name. So it's not really something I can hide, at all.

Most people don't check past the first page of results. If you can establish a robust online presence for your name, that may move those results down in the listings.

I am not advocating that you lie, deceive or hide anything. I am suggesting you establish a positive internet presence so that ugly stuff is not the only information available about you.

Vanessa Williams lost her Miss America crown to scandal over nude photos. The entire world knows that. That information never went away, yet she was eventually deemed respectable enough to do work on music for a Disney film, Pocahontas.


I don't know if this is your only handle on HN or if it is a sock puppet used for talking about controversial issues, but I will suggest you abandon it after you are done responding to this discussion and establish a positive presence on the site. The fact that you have a history of arguing about sexual subjects under the handle of sexoffender looks really messed up.

It's possible that is just you being naive and dumb, but it makes me wonder what other stuff you may be doing that may be making employers think that hiring you is just a scandal waiting to happen.

Because I recognized your handle due to this bizarre choice you have made to talk about sexual subjects and parenting choices under this handle. I recall wanting to debate you and choosing to refrain because I felt like no good would come of it.

So I think you need to take a long, hard look at some of the social signalling you are doing. I will suggest therapy and journaling to sort out some of your sexual issues.

Please note, that is intended as kind and supportive. I spent plenty of time in therapy for my own sexual issues. I'm not trying to be ugly here.

They made the name out of frustration and highlighting how reciculously easy it is to become a sex offender. Its not some.faulty social.signaling.

For that, you might have luck with a reputation management company. But that of course costs money ... Which you need a good job to get.

> Half of them are judgmental turn-downs - they won't return my call and never get back to me, because they think poorly of me.

I'm not at all downplaying your difficulties, but it may help to know that many people without felonies on their records endure this same lack of communication from perspective employers. In some cases, it may have nothing to do with the felony.

I hope you find a great job.

Not sure this is what you're looking for, but I listened to a podcast about an organization (Defy Ventures) that helps formerly incarcerated people kick off entrepreneurial careers:


I really hope you find something, and never having being in your situation, it's hard to know whether I'm being helpful or not. But have you considered working on open source bug bounties?

Here's some bounties available in C#


Felon here!

Being a felon has impacted my life in several ways. I'm going on almost 10 years of being labeled a felon, so I have some stories to tell as to how it's impacted my life:

I've struggled with relationships ("omg my parents Googled you"), friendships ("I googled you"), finding a place to live ("sorry, we don't accept people with a criminal history like yours"), bank accounts ("sorry, we can't give you a bank account due to your criminal history"), payment processing accounts ("sorry, we can't accept you to process payments on our platform because of your criminal history")... list goes on.

But I've never, ever had a problem finding work. Maybe it's because of how I go about finding work.

I don't work in corporate environments by choice, as I'm just a terrible fit. I've worked with headhunters without issue, and I've applied to Who is Hirings without issue. I've worked as a business entity with larger-ish companies without issue too (but they're still small enough to not be super corporate)

It's one of the first things I tell people when I wouldn't work under a registered entity: "just a heads up there is no way in hell I'll pass any sort of background check whatsoever"

Somewhat ironically, what's on Google, or any news outlet, is significantly less severe than what a thorough and complete background check will show because of how the courts proceeded (at least for me)

Would love to talk more about getting you in the right direction. Email's in my profile.

I think you are in hard place because of the the current culture. It seems that in the present climate, a business would hire someone that actually killed people while driving drunk before someone who flashed someone while drunk.

We're not just talking about "flashing" someone while drunk, we're talking about exposing oneself to a minor, twice. Once may be seen as a "drunk mistake", etc. Twice is a pattern that will make people think twice. Not to mention people generally don't like hiring sex offenders.

Correct, and this is how all companies would view it as well.

This is an extremely tricky situation; perhaps he showed poor judgement twice in his life. Statistically, its likely he did it more often, but what do statistics matter when dealing with an actual persons life?

Maybe the OP has a drinking problem that he's working on. Who knows? Regardless of the offense, there's no reason to ostracize him from society and employment after he's done his time.

I'm not ostracizing him, just pointing out that exposing yourself to a child is a very serious crime. Found the articles about OP and it pretty well explains why he's having a hard time finding a job. IMO he should just start his own company, because most software companies aren't going to hire a sex offender.


I'm from the school of thought that it's all none of our business, we shouldn't judge other people, and we should treat them with respect at all times. Also, my personal theory of Internet comments is that nothing is more ridiculous than speculating on the thoughts of people I know nothing about.

It’s certainly the business of anyone hiring him, if only from a PR and liability perspective. As to our business, it would be hard to argue that submitting this question didn’t go some way to making it just that. Still, I respect your stance on the inscrutability of another’s thoughts, although I don’t understand what that has to do with anything.

> I respect your stance on the inscrutability of another’s thoughts, although I don’t understand what that has to do with anything.

The GGP comment speculated on the thoughts of people who didn't hire the OP.

My customers trust me with millions of pieces of their confidential data, and billions of dollars of their money. I'm not going to start abusing that trust by hiring felons, for a lot of roles I wouldn't even hire somebody that had bad credit. I'd hope that most of the companies I trust treat me with the same level of respect.

This is a wonderful startup in Las Vegas. They definitely hire Felons.


Any chance your former employer would take you back on a reduced salary, while you work on your portfolio/freelancing/rehabilitating your record?

Why don't you have references?

I think long term you should focus on changing your name and getting a good profile and work history on UpWork. This could lead to a steady job, and no one will ever check your background for freelance jobs.

Why was the crime of flashing a 17 year old published in 4 major newspapers?

Because he was already a sex offender and it happened in a residential area, the parents contacted the police obviously.

Chicago is a tough market for ex-cons. Illinois never lets the conviction drop off your background check, and a lot of companies won't hire a felon, period, even if it's for aggravated jaywalking or grossly negligent mis-parking on your 18th birthday.

You're not going to get a job in Chicago in software or IT unless you start your own business or work remote.

Apply at Goodwill or somewhere else known to hire non-violent, non-theft felons, to pay the short-term bills. Then you'll have to form an LLC and work through the business name. It will limit your opportunities until you can leave the area.

Project-based contract work / freelancing? A good portfolio, some networking, and interviewing well could get you some gigs. Not being an employee would probably reduce any risk-averse corporate refusals.

For that I would need references (I have none), a good portfolio (I have none), or the ability to start off making almost no money (my family would starve).

You're just like every other entry level developer in the industry then. The only thing that is setting you apart is the conviction. Yes it will be harder, but with the items you just specified, everyone else is dealing with too. Get a portfolio (make one), get references (find some), and don't let your family starve. Take any job you can to make money while always looking for that better one, working on the references and portfolio. This is no different advice than what I'd tell any other developer starting out.

I fully concur. Find your first reference today(mayhaps, someone from your parish).

If you can find the time, which I understand can be almost impossible if you're working, throw together a small portfolio and vanity site. I've landed a few gigs just by saying the right words, others by having something shiny to show non-tech folk or having at least some code to show that I am not full of shit to technologically competent clients. Hell, I landed more than one gig from blog posts about technology (relevant to clients) I wrote in high school.

I don't have a record, but it's never come up nor have I been given any hint that a background check was performed.

I do have a small portfolio website (can't show it here because it'll give away my name and the harassment will start) and it was mentioned in a few interviews, but it's not really good enough to show off for independent consulting.

TBH I was able to find your name and portfolio website with just the information you provided and a couple google searches. I won't post it here, but you do have a good amount of experience and quite a few repos in your github. (I am from the Chicago area as well). Judging from the articles about you, I definitely understand why it's been hard for you to find a job.

Yeah I found him too. SD. His portfolio actually looks really good. Like seriously intermediate to senior level. I think if he kept applying someone would consider him at a discount thinking they were getting good deal for the money.

I've been applying since November and I've run out of money and time, April is the last month we can afford, and interview processes can last weeks. There's like a 5% chance I'll get a job during this time which is why I came here for help. I did get several good pointers from people and am going to follow them. But my programming knowledge is between junior and intermediate despite my experience, since somehow I end up always getting hired by companies that want to do things the weird way instead of the normal way, so I barely have any experience doing any programming the "normal" way. You know, I've always said I want to quit the programming field and just work in a factory, maybe this is my chance.

Dude, work in a factory until you get a programming job. If I was a CIO I would hire you in a heartbeat. You got passion, chops, and obvious dedication, and honestly could probably be got at a steal. I wouldn't give up, personally.

It's like penetration testing...no matter what kind of defenses a company has built... it takes is ONE opening to own all of it.

Thanks for the advice. It may come down to working at a factory and moving my family to the slums so we can afford to live. In fact that's looking more and more likely. We have only enough money for April, and based on my calls today there's pretty much no chance I'll get a job and a paycheck before May.

Question: How do you have 0 references? Your website makes it seem like you have been a professional developer for a long time and your linkedin lists several reputable past employers, including one of the larger consulting agencies in our area.

Most of the project work I have secured has been based on communicating my abilities while meeting with the hiring party. I'm sure it would be different for a designer, but I have never shown a portfolio. I agree with others, go for small companies, gigs, and sell yourself in the meeting.

At least around me (SF Bay area), social service/healthcare non-profits are open to hiring felons, and do so regularly. At my current job, the best boss I've ever had revealed she was a felon at her going-away party on her last day. Organizations with missions focused on building life/parenting skills actively seek people who have learned from their mistakes, and who want to help others do the same.

Send an email to: tapitest123@gmail.com

I think I have some contacts you can try out. Small companies, especially ones with minimal public interaction should be good targets.

Check this out: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14911467

Mind you, I did a quick search in the Chicago area for developer jobs, found a bunch of them have written n+ years of experience required. But give it a shot, and read the comment threads too. At the very least, hope it's a bit of inspiration. Good luck.

It's a tough bag, and unfortunate, because there are some really talented folks left swinging in the wind. Case in point - Kevin Mitnick, but that is a solid example to follow and take advice on post-computer access from yore. You don't exactly need the programmer job, considering there are many options for fronting a self-employed avenue and doing the consultant thing. The comments so far are much around small companies and beyond because the need is there more than the rigors of corporate American which places a premium on vetted resources w/o a mark on the record.

Hope this helps. There is plenty of work to be had and the avenues are wide and paved with honest wages if you advertise and remove yourself from the past and work towards the culture.


Even without the record I would expect you to have a hard time. I'm surprised you're getting offers. Try to keep in mind that there are people who 1) Have 3+ years experience, 2) Have portfolios, 3) Have references, 4) Have clean records, and 5) Still can't find work. Yes, it happens, believe me. So, you're going to have to get way, way, way back in line behind those people. And that's fair.

In the meantime, just get whatever work you can.

I have several years of experience but it's all niche or outdated tech, hard to find jobs in it even without the felony.

70Mjobs was created to solve exactly this issue . Don't know how useful they have been. But might be worth a try


My heart goes out to you brother. I can give constructive advice:

1. Set your expectations.

Many things in life now are more challenging for you. You're a second class citizen now. Expending your mental energy hating that, or feeling victimized by it, will paralyze you. Instead, spend that energy identifying your specific challenges and planning how to deal with them.

2. Expect failure and rejection. Use each one to refine your approach.

Rejection is a part of life now, but that's okay. Just like sales is a contact game, so is the job hunt. You may need to make 50x more applications than a non-felon to get serious consideration. That's not fair, but fair doesn't matter. Just make those application, and approach each one as if it matters. Use your network. Write good cover letters. Be ready to sell yourself as someone who is a better hire. Be ready to answer tough questions honestly, and with humility.

3. Recovery from a criminal conviction is a marathon, not a sprint.

While you reach for what you want to happen, you need to be willing to take whatever you can get.

Set realistic goals. Probation is HARD. It's very oppressive, but it's a necessary component of our system. You can't stay free, and improve your life, if you fail at probation. Know your conditions inside and out, better than your PO does. Never make them question your compliance or honesty. Put yourself out, to never put them out.

I wasn't able to get back into programming until I was off probation. What employer wants to be told "If you hire me, federal agents reserve the right to search your office at any time, including copying all the contents of my work computer, and all network attached data too."

4. Lay the groundwork to sell yourself.

You need to have more to offer than a college grad with a CS degree. Find, or refine, your specialty. Be spectacularly good at something specific and specialized. Be prepared to prove that value to an employer. The downtime with no job is terrible. But use it to improve your marketability. Then you can reach out to people who need that specialty. Find others with similar skills on IRC, mailing lists, boards like stackoverflow and HN. Learn to cold contact somebody and say "I see you're into $skillset, I like what you have to say on that. I work with it a lot too. Do you know anybody that's hiring with that need?" Us programmers love to make referrals... most orgs pay a big bounty for bringing in a new hire.

5. Don't give up.

Stay positive, especially when it hurts the most. For your family. For your friends, and the people around you. Don't become one of those guys who has given up, who is always full of victimization and anger. On a long enough timeline, as your trouble move further into the past, you will find more success. Give everybody a chance to treat you like a human being. Sometimes you'll be pleasantly surprised.

My background:

I dealt with a similar situation. I was convicted of a sex offense conspiracy, because some people I was associated with committed some very serious crimes. To get their prison time cut in half, they implicated several others along with them. I had a fantastic career before the 7 years in prison. I also had sensational news coverage. A slow news week, my face was on the 10pm news every day for a week. You can imagine how well that went over at the county jail.

After prison, life was HARD. Those fucking scars, man. Most people will never comprehend what you're going through, and frankly they're never going to care.

I had a similar experience with Goldman Sachs. They contacted me and asked me to interview, because they liked my hackerrank code in a few contests. I aced the phone screen. They basically demanded I fly to meet them right away. Two days later, I got a form rejection letter in E-Mail, as if I had submitted an application but was being declined for an interview.

After probation, I started seeking remote work nationally. I applied to everything I qualified for on the HN Who's Hiring posts. It took me about 3 months to find a job. Now I work as a full-time contractor for a small firm, with zero benefits, for acceptable pay. They never asked about criminal history, so we never had that conversation. I like to pretend they wouldn't fire me, but we both know how that goes. I'm hoping this can lead to full-time employment, or at least strengthen my future employment prospects. But the work is really fun, and the people are great too.

I still live poor. I drive a 22yr old car. I carry a shitty old phone. All my furniture came from goodwill for $20. I save every dollar, because I need to be prepared for the hard times. I can't pretend hard times aren't coming again, but I'm going to be ready. I'll greet them with a smile, like an old friend.

The brick wall happens with full-time employment.

- You can still do consulting/contracting or act on behalf of your own company.

- Build website for "your company" and describe services you offering that are matching your skillset.

- You can still look for job at upwork.com (or whatever sites there are). Granted - you'll be competing with bottomfishers from developing countries - but the point is to make your expertise known. This may evolve into good business relationships down the road.

- You can still participate in contests (as a company) and build your hackerrank or whatnot. If asked to work for someone - tell them you only do consulting/projects on behalf of your own company, not as individual.

- You can still hire others as consultants to do work for you or for customers you find need your skills. Again - acting as a business, not as individual.

> For more background, the felony is from flashing someone (while drunk) who was just under 17 years old. This was the second offense (the other was years ago). They are inexcusable and disgusting offenses, but they are permanently on my background.

Just a side note, why are these felonies? Or even crimes to begin with? It’s not like you tried to force yourself on those underage girls or rape them. In Europe, there are many nude beaches where girls under 18 regularly go to with their families.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s harassment and unwanted on the part of the girls. But I am surprised that it is a felony and not a misdemeanor.

Doing it once while drunk is no big deal, but there are exhibitionists and such who will keep doing it over and over. It's one of those things where something seems harmless enough, but there's always That Guy who is going to take it to extremes. So I think the laws are motivated by a handful of recidivist offenders and catch a lot of non-recidivist drunks in the dragnet.

We also have a problem with media / media consumer biases: the media tends to sensationalize these crimes, and outraged voters always think punishments are too light.

To put some ideological points up for consideration: from (some) feminists, exhibitionism (like other forms of sexual assault) is used by men to assert power over women and from (some) men's rights activists, the laws are harsh and broad due to pervasive discrimination against male sexuality.

A good lawyer should have been able to negotiate it down to a misdemeanor anyway as long as there was no physical contact with the victim (which then gets into sexual assault territory, something that is unlikely to get leniency)

It really sucks for the OP, but I feel like he was massively screwed during trial & the legal process

It is a misdemeanor, but a second offense turns it into a felony automatically. My lawyer could not get it back down to a misdemeanor. I am utterly and completely screwed.

Exposing yourself to a child is a very serious crime... I get the impression that OP is minimizing by saying "flashing someone (while drunk) who was just under 17 years old"...

The USA has a pretty complicated relationship with sexuality.

You don't know the details.

I don't think I can imagine a situation where exposing yourself in public merits 7 months in jail and permanently making it almost impossible to find employment.


You may have misread the post. OP didn't ask for value judgments, but for advice on getting a job.

This was pretty uncalled for. First time I’ve ever clicked the flag button.

Why was it uncalled for? He exposed himself to underaged girls multiple times. He thinks that he deserves a high paying programming job after that. I disagree and apparently most of the employers do too.

I don’t think that those convicted of crimes should be relegated to working at gas stations for the rest of their lives.

That is punitive justice and it doesn’t work. In fact, I would posit that it increases recidivism. If criminals aren’t offered a chance at a stable life, why should they even try resolving their issues?

In this case it sounds like mental illness as opposed to hardened criminal to me.


The guy has a wife & five children, you don't move 'just like that' and having a felony conviction on your record means there are lots of doors that close, depending on where you live you might not even get a passport anymore.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact