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Ask HN: Advice for passing a FAANG background check with a criminal history
141 points by criminalhistory 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 157 comments
Hey HN (using a throwaway account for obvious reasons, but I've been on HN for 10 years),

I was just recently offered a job at a FAANG company. I'm pretty excited about the company, but the only potential issue is that I have a criminal history and I'm not sure if I'll pass the background check.

For context, two years ago I was part of an animal rights group that would investigate factory farms and rescue sick, injured animals from them. The investigations were public, and I was indicted on felony burglary and theft charges in Utah for one rescue. I ended up pleading guilty "in abeyance" to misdemeanor attempted theft and misdemeanor riot. Because the pleas were "in abeyance", the pleas are sealed as long as I don't commit any other crimes.

I read up a bit about California employment law, and it seems like California companies aren't allowed to use arrest records (I technically wasn't arrested, but I did have an arrest warrant out for me and I turned myself in) and sealed court records against you. So I'm not sure if I should even bring it up. That said, I've asked a couple lawyer friends and they think I should bring it up early (though they're not specialists in employment law).

Any advice or lawyer recommendations would be appreciated.

Absolutely would not bring it up.

California has "ban the box" and as a practical matter:

1. most "boxes" on employment application ask about Felonies not misdemeanors.

2. I'm not an expert but the few times i've looked into it "criminal background check" is nowhere near as comprehensive as people think. it involves going to each county where you think the person resided and looking up records there. so according to you even if they thought to look in the county where your record is, they wouldn't find anything.


California law still prohibits employers from asking about, or considering, criminal convictions that have been expunged. AB 1008 takes the law a step further. It bars employers from considering any criminal conviction, expunged or not, prior to making a conditional job offer. The law applies to both felony charges and misdemeanor charges in California.

I wouldn't be too sure on the second point. I recently went through a background verification check initiated by one of the FAANG company. It was all clear for me but the criminal check report kind of hinted the sources they were hitting up. It seems they were looking up:

- Media reports

- Court records(they had called the search global, I am not sure if that's just a namesake or if they are hitting up systems of even multiple countries)

Additionally, there was identification number of human verifiers on the reports.

Yep, same, though not in CA.

I had a record but no convictions. It didn't prevent me from getting the job but they did try to use it as a negotiating tactic to lower salary (didn't happen, I also forced them to increase it by 10% at the 3 month mark)

That’s sounds like an epically dick move. Was it localized to the hiring department trying to “win” a negotiation or systemic to the company?

Just the boss negotiating with me. No hard feelings about it.

I really curious what was their tact with that? "We see based on your record that you're not worth as much as we thought..."

Real reason: "oh, look, we might be able to spend less for this person's work"

Tactic: "well, we'd be taking a risk by hiring you, what if you do something bad again? or if this turns in to a PR problem?"

That was almost verbatim lol

If they refused to hire you I’d be fine with it, but lowballing 10% means they’re not seriously concerned about the risk.

They didn't low ball 10%, it was more like 25%.

If you are an insurance company and you raise someone's rates 25% it's just business -- risk management in large pools. As a hiring decision, though, any percentage discount makes it clear that you're not seriously worried about the risk -- if you were, you just wouldn't hire the person. On the individual hiring decision the risk calculus doesn't work like that -- "they're a greater risk so they'll need to provide more of a profit compared to their salary."

I loved my boss. He was openly himself and the circumstance was one such that any money he didn't pay me went to his pocket.

I understood this and had absolutely no hard feelings towards him and his honesty was one reason why I continue to respect him and vice versa.

So he tried many times to find reason to pay me less than I wanted, this was one.

I think that "Absolutely do not bring it up" may not be the right policy. OP really should talk to an employment lawyer.

Note our cheap goodhire background checks scan an approximately 5 page list of courts. We are required to do this by various certifications such as soc2, etc.

I would carefully think through bringing it up with the hiring manager. First, because if I were the hiring manager, I'd be much happier if a candidate told me. That way I can think through if this matters for the position or not, and be in a better position to handle internal messaging. The second benefit is it allows OP to control the messaging (I was young / I am an animal rights activist and potential future employer doesn't do animal experimentation / I've changed, etc). If OP doesn't proactively bring it up, OP's future is being decided in a discussion between HR and the hiring manager with zero input from OP.

I second this so strongly. As a hiring manager, I'd be more than happy to discuss a person's background. For instance, "just so you know, I got arrested for having an ounce of weed in Mississippi". Thanks for letting me know! If that comes up in our background check (which we _have_ to do for regulatory reasons but generally don't care about unless you're a serious felon), I can ignore it. Who cares - it's weed, and it's legal here now.

OTOH, if you lied to me and I found out you were busted for a tiny amount of weed, I'm going to burn your application. Not because of the arrest - again, I don't even care about that - but because you've lied to me. At that point I'm not going to trust anything else you tell me. Are you also going to cover your mistakes at work and hope no one notices?

Every company is different, so I'm only speaking for myself and not the industry as a whole. But I would infinitely prefer that a candidate tell me this stuff up front than to try and hide it from me. And frankly, if you got arrested for some very cool reason ("I was part of a protest against a white supremacist march!"), it could quite possibly tip the hiring decision in your favor!

This doesn't seem like an optimal strategy from a candidate's point of view. There may be a multitude of scenarios in which case an employer blanket bans anyone with a criminal history. Not everyone is as forgiving as you. Given that a candidate may make the broadly the right tactical decision in not disclosing - just not the right decision for you - are you so wiling to attribute malice to the candidate? I think you would be penalizing them for simply acting rationally (i.e it pays off more often than not).

Yes but the point of that post is that the hiring manager is looking for a candidate who places honesty first, and that said honesty is also a signal for placing the needs of the team / org first (to a degree, obviously).

"One hand for the ship, one hand for yourself." I.E. one hand to do the ship's work, one to hold on to the railing so you don't fall off. Two hands for the ship, and you're not looking out for yourself. Two hands for yourself, and why would the ship want to keep you?

We have anecdotal evidence that one hiring manager says that they care about honesty. The same person hasn't said that they have actually had this situation happen, so it's still hypothetical. OTOH, there's also tons of vague anecdotal evidence that some hiring managers are actually kind of self-righteous jerks.

So we're not actually any farther ahead. Personally, the advice I'd probably give a person in this situation: ask a lawyer from the area. Compared to a FAANG salary, it's a cheap investment. I might also recommend paying cash, and not giving a real name.

I'm the hiring manager from earlier and I've had that happen, so it's not just hypothetical. I've worked adjacent to infosec for many years; it's not unusual for talented workers in that field to have "interesting" backgrounds.

You're right about plenty of managers being jerks, but on the other hand, do you really want to work for someone who would freak out if they knew you did dumb stuff when you were a kid?

Also, you're probably not going to get a decent lawyer to agree to aliases, and the last thing you want to do is lie to your own lawyer. That's how you get them to quickly stop counseling you. Your lawyer and your doctor are the two people you want to be 100% transparently honest with so that they can accurately advise you.

On top of that a few of the FAANGs have central hiring committees which might overturn what any single hiring manager would care to do.

I'd be willing to share potentially compromising information if I was willing to risk not getting the job and the hiring manager was convincing me that divulging information was advantageous.

For example, for jobs that require a security clearance, it's probably best to just divulge everything that won't get you arrested. At a job fair, I met a recruiter who hired for top secret clearance jobs. I asked him how they could possibly find people who had never had smoked weed, and he said they were primary concerned with recency and frequency.

No I had a clearance required position in the military along with my coworkers and they're actually primarily concerned about two things:

Honesty when filling out your form SF-86. Are you gonna lie about being contacted by a foreign agent in the future just like you lied about smoking a couple puffs in high school? Lie on the SF-86 and get caught and its instant permanent deny.

Blackmail opportunity where if you have a current or likely future addiction a foreign agent could provide you with money or drugs or silence in exchange for info. So a couple puffs in high school, who cares, on the other hand stripping copper to pay for meth last week is instant deny. Same blackmail issue for credit report issues. In the really old days it was the same thing for non-hetrosexual people, if they figure you could get blackmailed then no clearance.

There's a lot of hand wavy but assuming you're functional in the sense of not being high at the interview while also not being the most financially insolvent person in your future department, the only real way to fail a mere S or even a TS is to lie on your SF-86 when you apply. The vetters have a rough subjective job so they really like finding an objective factual falsehood like a misdemeanor possession or similar, because then they can take it easy and stamp deny.

Why volunteer the information if it isn't asked for, though? I would wager that most companies doing background checks just have you sign a blanket statement that says "our third party checking company may look at these things:...."

Large companies outsource this to another firm and often don't even see the results of the background check (they don't want the added liability).

They give the contracted firm their set of criteria, then the other firm comes back with a pass/fail.

> We are required to do this by various certifications such as soc2

Some other certifications might, but SOC 2 certainly doesn't prescribe the list of courts you need to check. A very superficial check can satisfy the control, SOC 2 mostly just cares that you have a control in place.

> it involves going to each county where you think the person resided and looking up records there

They had an open warrant, which means it hit state databases and shows up in a warrant search.

I have no idea what background check system their employer would use (or what level of investigation the job warrants), but a human investigator would absolutely find these records.

I second this. To OP, background checks are often a lot less comprehensive than you think.

And how long have you been an engineer? And how did you prep? Would be a dream for me to get a job there one day.

Oh, yeah. That reminds me: once, I got to the background check stage with a company that specifically mentioned a credit check would be done. At the time, my credit score was in the toilet (like FICO in the 500's, I think), so I was worried, but decided that since there was nothing I could do about it in time to affect the result, I'd just sign and pray. I got the job, with no mention of my then terrible credit score. I have no idea if they even did the check.

A kind-of similar thing, showing the... less than comprehensive nature of the background checks. At my current job, I was applying from another startup, but before that one, had spent over a decade either self-employed or running my own company.

They hired some company (forget who) to check me, and got a call from them. They asked me about my company, which had been dissolved like six years earlier. I said as much, and she asked me if I was sure. I said I was the co-owner, and as such was pretty darn sure. Said OK, and hung up.

About an hour later, I get another call from the same person, asking me about my consulting. She did not seem to notice she had just talked to me. I said, yes, I was previously a consultant. She asked who my manager was, and I said I was a one-man shop. She insisted she speak to may manager, apparently not understanding what I was saying. I finally said I self-managed. She accepted that (!) and we hung up. I'm still working here several years later, so it must have been OK.

I guess one moral of this story is, if you want to get away with something on a commercial background check, there are worse ideas than listing your own phone number.

That sounds so intrusive. It wouldn’t be amiss, once hired and enough trust has been built, to try to get HR to drop that practice.

Companies generally aren’t monsters! They don’t want to break the law, they are risk averse and don’t want to be sued, and want to attract good people. Most worth their salt would be receptive to some constructive criticism about how invasive it is to have unsolicited interrogations from a third party.

Often that sort of check mostly has to due with checking if you have some type of debt that may impair your integrity.

Say you're for some reason indebted to a Chinese bank and applying for a defense job, they're not going to be very happy of that. Yes that's a bit over the top, but generally what those checks are about.

> TransUnion, a major credit reporting company admitted in public testimony, “we don’t have any research to show any statistical correlation between what’s in somebody’s credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud.”[0] As noted earlier in this report, poor credit scores reflect financial distress and racial disparities, not propensity to commit crimes. [1]


[0]: https://www.demos.org/testimony-and-public-comment/memorandu...

[1]: https://www.demos.org/research/bad-credit-shouldnt-block-emp...

How does the vetting for debt like that work?

Can a company refuse to hire me unless I divulge my private financial details? If I forge a spreadsheet of my accounts, how would they know it wasn’t real?

They don’t ask you for a list of accounts, typically. They would check a report from one of the major credit reporting agencies, so, if it doesn’t show up there, they’d probably never see it.

US government background checks explicitly ask about foreign financial holdings, and those investigators check.

That's why I said "typically." Security clearance checks are a whole different level from your average pre-employment background check.

It's not a credit check like a car dealership would do.

The background check may query credit reporting agencies or other financial records to confirm data and expand the search (i.e. you had a credit card issued in a state so they will expand criminal searches to that state). These types of queries fall under laws that govern credit checks, so they have to disclose and obtain permission.

While true, that's not a universal. It's not uncommon for companies in, e.g., finance to run a literal credit check for some positions.

They don’t actually do credit checks, but for some reason, they all have boilerplate language to make you sign your rights away and allow them to anyway. It’s frustrating. I always question them on those, and ask what specifically they will be checking.

It usually even has language saying they can contact your neighbors to ask about your character, so I pick that out and say “Waitaminute, you want to talk to my neighbors? That seems a little invasive. What is going on here?” That’s when I get their response in writing about what they are really going to check.

Wow, according to the shouselaw link (and I’m paraphrasing a lot here) you’ll still need to go through the criminal record wringer if you want to be:

- a teacher (or work with children);

- a court worker or police officer; or

- a farm laborer.

I wonder what the story is with that last one? Did a bunch of farmers pay for that to be included in the list, or (less likely) is it there for some reason to protect the laborers?

I'm guessing because of the large number of undocumented workers in farm labor, which I think the farm would be liable for if caught. I don't recall off the top of my head, but it seems about a year ago several large places got busted.

Edit: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/28/us/mississippi-ice-raids-...

I'm sure there's lots of inconsistent rules, for various accidental and historical reasons, like any other complex system. I have to get a background check to perform at the my local children's museum, but not at public schools in the same city.

For background checks in general... If you have a job, tell an employer that you are willing to start 2 weeks after the background check has been finalized. It'd be an expensive mistake accept an offer for Job B، quit Job A, and fail Job B's background check for reasons. Quit Job A AFTER passing the background check. If they pressure you to move faster, tell them to (using nicer words) get their act together and move as fast as they need to get what they want.

This is pretty good advice. I have a friend who works in a call center who found another job due to COVID-19 (started looking when they said they were going to lay everyone off, it's an affected industry). She took 3 weeks vacation from that job, then started the new one. The new one was a disaster; training was disorganized, IT can't get them the right access, and the actual job wasn't what was expected. She quit the new job, and will just silently return to the old one after her vacation is up.

I've never thought of doing this, but it's genius.

(Note to programmer types, though; you might have signed something that says you won't do this. Recommend legal advice or at least a backup plan for if you get caught ;)

+1 People quit all the time after returning back from "Vacation."

IANAL, but this seems questionable. The contracts I've seen mandate giving full attention to the job, so no side-jobs (but that's for "exempt" full time positions). It might get tricky with the tax-man too.

Your contract may look different than mione, but I can totally work a second job on my own time. Now it seems unlikely you could do that without impacting your current job, but the GP said they were on vacation, so you probably could in this case.

ANy non-compete would be the same if they were concurrent or sequential.

IANAL but it seems like a sticking point would be the intellectual property assignment and patent assignment agreements.

Why would the tax people care at all? They are more likely to take your salary from the two jobs, add them up, and charge taxes on the results.

Where I work, a side job is legit (with the obvious caveats, of course!)

Good advice. A good way to go about it is tell them you're start date needs to be a 2 weeks after they confirm that all conditional components of their employment offer are satisfied. Don't elaborate on background checks. "all conditional" is broad and doesn't signal that you think something may come up in your BG check.

If they ask, tell them it's simple risk mitigation on your part (just like theirs). If they absolutely want you to start early, come up with an egregious cash cost to terminating you within the X length of employment for any and all reasons including conditional background checks (they likely won't do this, but it aligns with your financial risk story)

That is exactly what happened to my Coworker. She interviewed for a public job and they gave her the thumbs up. She passed the background check, and gave her two weeks notice.

Then, some inconsistency came up. Apparently, on her application she checked the box for never having smoked weed. But on a second document she checked the "Yes" box. This is California 2015, they asked her to do a polygraph test. She failed.

Couple days later, she called the first job to see if she can come back. They were bitter that she left, but because of an extremely high turnover rate, they let her back in. It was never the same for her.

So yeah, have a guarantee at the new job before you quit the first one.

In California private employers and state/local are unconditionally prohibited from requiring employees or prospective employees take a polygraph. It's actually a crime for a California employer to turn someone down for a job because they refused to take a polygraph (which is also why you should always refuse to take a polygraph for a non-federal employer in California).

Presumably your example was for a federal job.

There is also a similar federal law but it exempts government jobs.

bizarre they use a polygraph test when it's known to be psudeoscientific

The pseudoscience issue doesn't matter; pragmatically it works.

Its intentionally designed to be intimidating for three very non psudeoscientific reasons. Will you break under pressure? Some fraction truly believe and will confess in terror and can be filtered out. A weak effect is its an intelligence test, obviously it is not magickal and if you're smart enough you'll see thru it. It hasn't been gotten rid of because there really is no downside.

It is cheaper than the expensive labor intensive alternatives like interviewing more people or trying to find more records.

Much like astrology or prayer or swearing on a bible in a court of law, it is cheap and effective enough with minimal cost.

> Will you break under pressure?

Break? Break what? This makes no sense. It’s not like they have verifiable information to see if you break too easily.

You’re making it sound like they were hiring a spy. Polygraph test are common in the public sector.

They simply do this for bureaucracy reasons. Government agencies need to comply with a bunch of old standards so they can demonstrate they performed all possible verifications in case they go under investigation.

Agencies don’t want to be in the position where a security clearance they granted is scrutinized only to find that they didn’t do a polygraph test while all the other agencies still perform polygraph tests.

Everyone knows polygraph tests are bullshit. They do them because they have too, not because they find them useful.

It’s an interrogation with a prop.

I see... this makes sense

Someone i knew at goog got let go for not passing background check like months after start date. Just had empty desk one day with no explanation from management. Kinda bullshit if you ask me...

Sometimes this happens if the employee falsified information on their background check form to avoid being caught in the background check. Some companies run a quick high level background check but also have longer term processes for in depth checks.

I once had a similar situation happen at a very large (150k+ employees) company. Security showed up and escorted one of our contractors out the door. It turned out he had worked for the company previously and stolen documents that he used to try to extort money from the company. When he was being brought in for this contract position he had changed the spelling of his name on the form and used a social security number for someone with that spelling. During the quick background check everything looked good but the discrepancies were discovered during the more in depth check a couple months later.

Without any knowledge of this person - might have been a case of hiring regret followed by a second look at everything that would allow the company to let them go.

Either way, I agree with you - pretty BS.

It’s possible but kinda makes it even worse

When I got hired at Google in 2013, they let me start before performing the background check.

The background check company called all of my previous employers. One former employer gave them incorrect dates for my employment, contradicting what I put on the form. I never heard anything about it from Google.

In these coronavirus times especially, this is prudent advice. I would say now its a good time not to quit your old job until even your first day in your new job. It's not a nice move, but given all the uncertainty in the world, I am not sure I would fully trust a job offer until I have my laptop and I am actively working.

This is good advice for anyone, not just OP.

This is not possible at at least a few FAANG companies. Your background check has to clear before your first day and they will flag if it has not done so.

If I were a FAANG executive I would be more worried about hiring you not because you have a record but because you would be at high risk of using your job for personal activism.

Agreed, somebody who is willing to commit a crime to advance their fringe political views is not somebody I want anywhere near my company. I can already imagine the headaches this guy will cause if he discovers the meat in the cafes was not farmed to his liking.

Ugh, I remember when I was at VMware someone started sending Peta misinformation to the company mailing list. Definitely unprofessional behavior.

My thinking as well. I have some strong views myself, but I am extremely careful to leave those at the workplace door. When you work, your duty is to act on your employer's behalf. If you can't do that, quit. The workplace is absolutely no place for activism.

So you’re saying you wouldn’t hire yourself?

There’s nothing in OP’s post that says they weren’t extremely careful to leave their views at the workplace door.

Umm, someone who'd commit a felony because extremist political views would be a huge red flag for any employer.

Technically a misdemeanor (well, two), not a felony.

Who commited a felony because of extremist political views?

What OP did is only extremist in a normative sense. The real extremists are the ones butchering animals because they're too selfish to eat something else.

Extremism is "in a normative sense" by definition.

I don't recommend putting that on your resume.

Wow, TIL I'm an extremist

It's a good point, and maybe I wouldn't if I knew. I do in fact perform an excellent simulation of someone with no political views.

A lot of the world is run on plausible deniability. Biden seemed like a great politician for decades. Now he doesn't.

If I was OP's friend, I'd advise to not mention it. If it bites anyway, keep moving. There are far worse things in life than not getting a job at a FAANG.

Lot of criminals in here. My mom says I'm not allowed to hang out with you guys anymore.

I can't speak as to whether you should bring it up (I personally wouldn't), but- working in an industry that's adjacent to background checks, I find it very unlikely that this will come up. The US federal-state-county system is a disorganized mess on multiple levels, and they don't all report consistently. Also, many background check companies are pure BS- CYA so that the employer can say 'well we checked'. (For example, Uber/Lyft). A good rule of thumb is the longer the check takes, the more legit it is- companies that do 48 hour background checks are just scammers. There's a reason a security clearance investigation takes a long time.

FWIW, a friend I went to high school with did 19 months in federal prison for drug trafficking, and is technically a convicted felon. He has passed multiple background checks that show he has an absolutely clean record- two white collar employers and one for the expensive apartment building he lives in, all in Manhattan. (He's now a Senior VP of a company). I have no idea how this works, but he swears it's true. For one employer he confessed everything he did, they did a background check anyways and told him 'you don't come up in the system' (and hired him anyways).

Honestly, coming up in Google results is tougher to beat

I have a friend who is a software engineer at one of these 48 hour background companies. Their own process never found his conviction for grand theft from 3 years prior.

So the plea in abeyance will show up. I was fed the same line of shit by courts. My misdemeanor, from 2016 was a plea in abeyance. I was told no crimes for a year and it's like it didn't happen. Easy, done. And guess what? Mine was also in Utah. Hello South Salt Lake City.

Fast forward to a few months ago, it came up on the background check. You have to understand the charge shows up and its possible that the plea shows up. Mine did.

The big difference is mine came up for a Public Trust background check with the federal government. So maybe they can go a bit deeper than a FAANG? I am sitting in limbo 5 months into this job still not knowing if I'll be canned at any second. I had to do a full interview with an agent with the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). They even brought up stuff that was from beyond the 7 year window I had to declare.

If anyone knows what my chances are with that I'd love to hear. As a Public Trustee and not touching any sensitive data I'd hope they are lien-ant for a non-violent, non-drug offender like myself.

For you. If it comes up. I'd have the media report present to prove it was an illegal act of activism and not showing TRUE criminal intent. But I wouldn't try to sweep what you did under the rug either.

I don't have much experience in this area, but I know quite a few people in sensitive government positions (in Canada) and finding these things is pretty common. The main issue (as far as I understand) is that regardless of what you did, you are potentially a security risk if you try to hide the issue. I've led quite a boring life so it's never been an issue for me, but when I've had to go through security checks with the Canadian government, the advice I've always been given is that if you are completely candid about your experiences, then they basically don't care what you did. The main issue they are worried about is that you will be blackmailed. By telling your employer, that risk is mitigated to a certain extent.

Especially if you are not in a position to deal with sensitive data, and you were straight up in your interview, I would personally not worry. (Disclaimer: random dude on the internet that knows nothing about your situation --- this is not professional advice!)

Just a side not on worrying... I've had some health scares in the past few years which luckily ended up being fine. I thought about how I would feel if it weren't fine. I think one of my reactions would be to wish it were the day before I had found out about anything. You know... before any of this happens you are carefree and everything feels fine. Then you have a conversation and suddenly it's not fine. But in reality nothing has changed. So when I'm dealing with this kind of worry, I try to pretend that it's the day before I had that conversation. It changes nothing except that potentially I can have a nice day instead of worrying. Of course, easier said that done, but it's helped me a bit. I hope it can help you too.

> I was fed the same line of shit by courts.

Hmm... when I was a lot younger I got charged with a felony (burglary) that was then downgraded to a misdemeanor (breaking and entering), and I was told that it would disappear from my record completely when I turned 18. Does anyone know if that's true? I always figured that some kind of deeper background check would uncover it.

I believe most if not all states seal juvenile records by default.

If so, then a court would have to unseal it.

As an example, in Texas, juvenile records are automatically sealed in most cases, and can basically only be released to the subject of the record, or a prosecutor in a future case.

People's records under 18 in US are not public. They are sealed, meaning even for government officials hard to get. Names and images of suspects under 18 are also NOT released to the public (news outlets etc).

Could you order a background check yourself and find out?

If it helps, I've seen https://checkr.com/, https://www.accurate.com/ and https://www.hireright.com/ used for these type of checks. I don't know if you can do one-off checks, but if you can get one done on yourself, you can see what info they are providing before you have to do it.

FYI cozy.co (rental property platform) allows you to run a Checkr background check on yourself for $20 or so. Just create a property for free and then "apply" to it.

There might be easier ways to run a background check on yourself but this is one way to see the exact service many Bay Area employers use (not sure about FANG).

It’s possible you might not enjoy working in a FAANG corporate environment.

Facebook and Google both receive a lot of negative press about moral issues. If you’ve been driven to action in the name of animal rights, in the past, you might find it hard to stomach your employer being subjected to an endless barrage of accusations such as: tax dodging, contract employee segregation, psychological manipulation, algorithmic gender and racial bias, etc.

Amazon is in the news right now just as much for internal protests about employee rights as those rights themselves.

You might think that becoming a moral insider at one of these companies will help make a difference. That’s true in a passive sense — the more sensible morally grounded people there are, the better the background atmosphere at the org will be.

But unless you are hired into the “make things better” department, your full time contract to automate the iOS right-to-left ad translation team’s bug reporting workflow isn’t going to last long if you repeatedly stir up centathreads on social justice issues.

Its going to be very hard to resist doing any stirring!

Some words of advice to the OP.

Aside from knowing about the OP's criminal / indicted past, as an employer if I had the luxury of perfect information, I would be more concerned about this OP's sense of judgement and personality, work-wise. Of course, that's tough to tell in an interview (if you get that far), but for the purpose of this forum, we're kind of debating also what managers should do about this person hypothetically, to learn from this situation.

Is this the kind of person who feels so strongly that he/she must be right, that he/she is willing to seriously break laws in service of some ideal? Does that mean someone is good to work with, or a liability? How far is the person willing to go in support of their own opinion even if incorrect? Has the person matured or moved on from this or what lessons has he/she taken away from it?

I don't know that answers to these questions, or what is right on this spectrum. I'm posing them to OP.

OP, what would you want a hiring manager to know about these questions? Have you addressed these questions to you, yourself, in life? Have you moved on from this phase? Or are you still radical in what you're willing to do? Does your attitude come into the workplace? Is a normal FAANG kind of job right for you? What are you like to work with?

Given the kind of issues you hear about at Google (for example) with people on both sides of the ideological spectrum, etc. the OP's own written story here puts him/her on a far extreme. So, I would say someone like this is just a heightened alert for a hiring manager, unless they demonstrate a real self-awareness of what that incident meant and how they've dealt with it since. Let's take for example, is the OP willing to put code into an app that they believe is right for some ideological reason -- but wasn't asked for or approved by the manager?

Again, this is in the imaginary scenario of you knowing about the person's past. Of course, the rest of the comments here are about how to hide that past from the hiring manager.

I would say (not knowing anything about the person in this case) that in general it's not the criminal part that worries me (for a crime like this, not talking about more serious crimes). What kind of person he/she is to work with, and his/her judgement, is what concerns me.

OP, these are the kinds of thoughts that -- if you choose to reveal your past (or if it gets revealed) -- a manager I think would want to know. So you probably should think through some of the answers.

Do nothing and let it play out.

If you’re capable of getting one FAANG offer, you’re capable of getting another.

If this one falls through you know to say something next time. If you say anything this time and it doesn’t work out, then next time you’ll have to decide between saying something different or saying nothing at all. Staying quiet now is the smart move.

Don't bring it up. During the hiring phase they are looking for any reasons to NOT hire someone. Unfortunately this post may alert hiring managers at Facebook and try to find which application that is current probably has Utah arrest records. Since they don't have to disclose that they looked (they can easily have a legal firm in Utah paid by a consulting company do it). Not to mention it would probably be easier to identify you being the one candidate from Utah right now.

Pretty lame advice. It will come up possibly after you give your notice and you’ll be fucked. Also “the one candidate from Utah” srsly?

Not sure about other FAANG companies, but Google claims that they do no discriminate against those with criminal records (I guess the thinking is, you did your time, i.e. have been punished already). I was a bit surprised having seen that so explicitly stated (having worked most recently in a more traditional enterprise which was more conservative).

Now Google writes that, no idea how it is actually handled.

Consider having an attorney in your state review the application with you when you fill it out. Not having been convicted of a felony is a big positive. Just be very cautious about answering the question asked truthfully.

But there are carve-outs to state law -- for example if you are working on a product that stores data where a customer is working on behalf of, or using data derived from the Federal government, you may be subject to their standards and have additional background checks.

Also, in some states "ban the box" laws protect you during hiring, but not once you are hired. If you need a separate check for Project X or Customer Y, that could be an issue.

Not a lawyer, but it seems pretty clear based on https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/california-laws-empl... that you are correct about arrest and sealed records. There's also this bit about how the employer has to consider the nature of the conviction versus the nature of the job, that seems to point in your favor:

> For example, suppose an applicant has a conviction related to prescription drug abuse from five years ago, but has completed rehab and been sober since. Depending on the circumstances, the conviction might be a reason to deny employment for a position at a pharmacy but not for a position at a call center.

My advice would be to just sign and consent to whatever background check they ask you for. Unless they provide a form that asks you to provide specific information about criminal convictions, that would seem to be the end of it based on my reading. If they are asking for that information, then it looks like you're still in the clear, but a few minutes with an employment lawyer wouldn't hurt and would probably make you feel better about the whole affair.

TL;DR: I wouldn't worry about it unless they specifically ask. Even then, I probably wouldn't worry about it.

OP, I'm really sorry you are in this boat. My honest opinion is that this is a bullshit charge you are forced to carry around, I wish you the best and hope you find an employer who agrees. It is unfortunately the case that the US grossly over-criminalizes people and has no real way of offering them a shot at atonement. I personally do not understand what is gained by making a huge permanent underclass, but this country seems to believe this is justice in some perverted sense. Even if your charge wasn't bullshit, I would still wish you the chance to get it expunged or made right in some way.

That said, I think in the current environment you should be quiet and ride it out. Let the company get to know you and make a decision if possible. If they love you and then find out, you will have a better chance than by poisoning the well up front. IANAL, just a dev who has dealt with HR a few times. Best of luck:)

I get your point and I broadly agree, but it's a bit rich to label OP as part of "a huge permanent underclass". He or she is applying for and may well get an extremely lucrative role at one of the most famous companies in the world, putting them squarely in the "1%" of humanity as a whole.

That doesn't scream underclass to me

OP may very well have, by benefit of IQ alone, a shot like that, but the intention of the society is squarely to place him under the rest, without a way to atone or make right. If he's part of the set, he's part of the set. Whether his membership in the set does him the same harm as another in the set, that we may debate about.

I founded the first web based background screening company in 1996 and I am back in the industry today, here is what I would do:

tldr; if it is sealed, do not worry about it. If not, be upfront as soon as possible.

Call the court clerk in the county the record is sealed in and confirm the record is sealed; If so, when a court researcher searches for the record, it will not appear and not be reported by the CRA (Consumer Reporting Agency is the technical term for a background screening company).

If you have never lived or worked in this county, it may never be searched.

If somehow the county reports the record and it is sealed, and the employer does not hire you because of the record, the employer has to do what is called the adverse action process, which gives you an opportunity to dispute the information before taking final action. During this time, you can have the CRA remove the record.

Enjoy hacking away at a FAANG!

It’s interesting that you can call the clerk to determine that a record is sealed - it sounds like a potential vulnerability where sealed records can be exposed by social engineering.

As a disclaimer every court in the nation can operate differently although they're all kinda similar.

Adoption records in the USA were sealed last century. Seems to be a temporary fad that's going away. Maybe it was a Spanish Flu thing.

Anyway if you try to pull my long deceased great-great-uncle's records for genealogy, they simply give you a negative result to the query, although "everyone knows" he was adopted.

If it's really sealed this may be a scenario where you'd be better off not mentioning it. Similar thing happened to me when I went through a security clearance for a position. I mentioned that I was arrested once upon a time and the charges were expunged as part of an agreement. It didn't come up in their search but since I mentioned it they still wanted to know details. Details that were impossible to get since it was sealed/expunged. I essentially created a problem for myself by being honest.

The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago. The next best time is now.

This also applies to getting a pardon.

Thanks for sticking up for animals who cannot advocate for themselves. I consider you a hero.

Not a lawyer and not in California.

As others have pointed out, most companies don't care about misdemeanors. And, technically you were arrested when you turned yourself in - at that moment you were not "free to walk away" even if you weren't physically taken into custody.

The company I work for (multi-state) does national criminal background checks on every employee. It's been my experience that if you have a record it'll probably come up (sealed or not). The reliable background check companies have multiple sources and odds are probably pretty good your history will be in some database. I would assume whatever you did is going to show up, at least partially.

If they ask, be honest. If they don't ask, don't tell. At larger companies the recruiters will know very well what they can and can't ask (asking the wrong questions can result in an expensive lawsuit), so they will be very careful about that.

At my company lying about a criminal background is not automatic grounds to dismiss a candidate (we will still take into consideration the circumstances, nature of the crime, and length of time since release from supervision), but it will not impress the hiring manager if you are caught lying.

Most likely, this is nothing to worry about.

If you passed the interview loops at a FAANG, the background check is mostly to cover their ass to ensure you will not harm existing employees. Any past record of physical violence is a problem.

This seems like a non-violent misdemeanor incident. As a former hiring manager at a FAANG, I would want HR to approach me with any reports to ensure a fair process and decision.

Maybe consult an employment lawyer if the offer process goes cold.

I agree. Hiring is expensive. Why would you decide to revoke an offer after learning of a minor crime that's not relevant and doesn't expose you to any risk?

I called the superior court of an out of state ticket I got for underage possession of alcohol (application asked about misdemeanors and felonies) and they said don't bring it up unless I'm applying to the FBI. So if it didn't reach your state's or immediate next door states' databases like for a warrant, I'd say zip.

I have worse. Never presented a problem. I've had every background check that didn't end with a security clearance and some that, had we been doing more gov work, might have. Never once had a problem, even at a FAANG. I wouldn't worry.

Be honest. You even said you were guilty. Are you going to lie if (read: WHEN) someone asks you the direct question, "have you had any felonies?"? If "they aren't allowed to use it" then why are you worrying?

Source: worked at a FAANG and don't have an immaculate record

It's not lying; they've never been convicted of a felony.

I think you'd be a great fit for a role that suits your disposition for social justice. It's hard to stand up and take personal risks as you have. Every FAANG company has its own corporate social responsibility agenda. Working with them would help you channel that energy while benefiting the company. I assume you're not applying for a position doing that, though.

Companies have a growing problem with employee activism. Consider offering to sign a contract that you will not use your position to organize or pursue social or political activism of any kind without the explicit consent of management. Explain how you will separate your personal interests with those at work and offer to legally commit to it.

My record consists of a felony drug charge from over 10 years ago.

I only ever bring up my record if I'm asked about it or right as I'm submitting my background check forms. Seems to have worked out well so far. Once I didn't even bother mentioning it, did the background check, no questions were ever asked.

There was another time (7 years ago) where I was offered a job and then had the offer revoked due to the background check where I marked the dreaded box. This was for a public transportation authority in a major US city.

Unfortunately for you, my research on this topic seems to indicate crimes of dishonesty (like theft) are more frowned upon.

If they've asked you a specific question, answer honestly. Otherwise, there's no need to bring it up. It's not relevant. I've been the hiring manager at several companies, and not once has a problem from a background check like this come up, nor would it have blocked employment if it did. In my opinion, other responders here are way overthinking this. I also think most forms ask about convictions for felonies, not misdemeanors, so you're not hiding anything.

> I did have an arrest warrant out for me and I turned myself in

Sounds like you technically were arrested.

> aren't allowed to use ... sealed court records against you

That's... basically what sealed means.

> California companies aren't allowed to use

Generally the law applies based on the employee's state of residence, not where the company is based.

Anyway... just answer their questions truthfully, but don't disclose anything about sealed records. I highly doubt they'll ask or care about arrests.

Why not find a really good employment lawyer, drop $5-10k (15,20, whatever) and get a good answer? It's nothing in the grand scheme.

Call a California employment lawyer. They will probably won't even charge you if it's just a couple of simple phone questions. But you might wish to hire them to review your new offer employment paperwork and provide say legally binding advice. In that case the cost will probably only be a few hundred dollars.

So, on these BG checks I always play it safe and let them know that I pled "nolo contendere" to a misdemeanor charge and that the court expunged it, as I have looked and there are still tracks to indicate there was a case.

Of course, "misdemeanor drag racing" isn't anything like theft/riot.

Go to a company that does background checks and pay for the FBI background check. Know instead of guessing

Also make sure you’re not committing another crime by failing to disclose your conviction.

If your employer touches certain types of personal information they may be required report attempts to circumvent disclosure.

If I were on the FAANG side and you just told me what happened, I'd value the honest candor and consider the crime irrelevant to your employment.

If I had visibility into your post here however, I'd start having second thoughts.

You should probably bring it up, especially if they bring it up in any way. You didn't steal, or stab someone, in fact you can turn this into a positive with the right move.

Find a lawyer.

A good place to start looking for recommendations is your lawyer friends, followed by the local board. Lawyers know who is a good lawyer.

I do hiring.

1) Run your own background check and see what comes back. Most will let you run your own check.

2) Don't mention this if you want the job, the the FAANGs did go through a period where they wanted activists / not just the standard coders but I think that might be somewhat over.

3) I would never hire someone with your record if I knew about it.

A note - use straight language if you are committing crimes for moral reasons. For example "defends unborn children from child murders" is committing a murder of an abortion doctor under our current laws, "rescuing animals" may be theft or burglary. "saving the world from GMO" may be destroying a local farm. "saving the world from gentrification" may be multiple arsons (in emeryville for example). 9/11, the US wars in many other countries are often tied to these ideals justify violence and killing language models.

Can you provide a link or some resource to a recommended background check service?

See my earlier comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23035383. I've worked at two FAANG companies plus Uber, if that helps.

re. 3), are you kidding me?

I'm not saying I would or wouldn't, but consider this. I'm the hiring manager. I know someone has committed a felony. I argue that we should hire anyway.

Guess who is putting their career at a company on the line for a stranger?

I think you are over dramatizing this. Bad hires happen. I do not see how the manager has their entire career on the line, if they need to fire someone later.

Should it not be possible to create trust between two people, just because one of them has a criminal record? I do not follow that logic.

Edit: My issue is with his absolute "never".

Bad hires of course happen. I don't think that's relevant.

Say I work at a place where (1) no criminal backgrounds is a rule, and (2) I have a candidate we would hire except for rule (1). If I personally push for an exception to rule (1) and the person turns out to be a bad hire -- and particularly if the badness of the hire is related to crimes -- I strongly suspect that will become a me problem.

"Investigating factory farms and rescuing animals" puts a nice spin on breaking and entering and theft of property, doesn't it?

You could use that same line of reasoning in almost any situation that there are circumstances that lessen the repercussions of an action.

i.e. "Self defense" puts a nice spin on killing someone, doesn't it?

It's worth pointing out that self-defense is a legal defense that absolves oneself of guilt. There's a similar defense called "necessity," where you can be absolved of guilt in committing a lesser crime to avoid a greater harm in narrow circumstances. But political activism (of the sort the OP admits to committing) is conclusively not in that set of circumstances.

re: #3, They said they were saving abused animals from farms, not doing violence to people. That is also a felony and breaks some laws. Both things can be true. The machinations of the powerful are often totally morally bankrupt and also the law of the land. Your analogies are too extreme for this instance.

> They said they were saving abused animals from farms, not doing violence to people.

I don't think the crime should matter at all. We, as a society, decided long ago the justice system is the means by which we mete out punishment. So long as they served whatever punishment, if any, was arrived at by verdict of a fair trial/court of competent jurisdiction, refusing to hire someone who has committed certain crimes is a de facto additional punishment for which that person was never given any opportunity to defend themselves from (and that's morally wrong).

Moreover, how are these people supposed to become productive members of society again if nobody offers them a job? Should they only work "those" jobs, not "my" job? Or be forced to find out if they are competent entrepreneurs? The parent's viewpoint is too extreme for any instance.

(This topic has been written about, and I feel like has even topped HN a few times, though I am struggling to find a good citation at the moment.)

An opposing view is we don't have fair trials due to the expense of representation and plea bargaining.

Possibly op was innocent but too poor and risk adverse to try and fight the harder charge, so op plead for a lesser charge. Possibly op gunned down the farmer and plead to a lesser charge. We don't have fair trials so we'll never know for certain what happened.

If we had fair trials, the general public would feel less need to be judge jury and executioner. But we don't, so its just added responsibility for a hiring manager.

"We, as a society, decided long ago" Who's this 'we', not me, that's for sure. Its not my failed system.

Not everyone in society agrees with how things are run. Hence, protests and individual moral compasses.

Bring it up early because it lets you put it under your context, your story. Not doing so is much riskier.

I know a few people with similar histories of civil disobedience who now work at FAANG companies. I would wait for them to bring it up.

FWIW, I'd be proud to work with you.

I don't have any advice, but I just want to write that I'd be proud to work with you. It takes a great deal of bravery to do what you think is right and fight for abused animals. You clearly show a strong moral fortitude.

I have a suspicion that if we ask a bit deeper whether you're really for people acting on their strong moral fortitude, that's not what we'll find.

I bet we'll find that you simply agree with this person's stance on this particular issue, and if they had had the opposite opinion (equally strongly morally-based) or on other issues, you wouldn't be supporting their bravery and wanting to work with him/her.

I was super against abortion so much so that I got charged with a felony that I got reduced to a misdemeanor. But hey, that's only because I have strong moral reservations about abortion.

Good luck trying to explain that to any Valley company hiring.

That kind of activism is very polarizing. You may find a large corporation would much rather a prospect's record were small-time theft or possession instead of breaking the law for activism. This is especially true for companies that have seen employees try to undermine them publicly for political reasons.

Who cares about the preferences of the corporations? Are you a slave?

The OP is trying to get hired by one.

I understand that.

My point is that too much attention is given to what corporations think or prefer. In the US, citizens enjoy almost complete personal freedom in principle but most of their lives are highly restricted in practice. This is, in part, because of a subservient attitude towards corporations.

Keep worrying so much about how to bend yourselves backwards to accommodate the employers, and one day you will find it impossible to stand up straight again. But hey, to each their own I guess.

Is that really a US thing though? I agree that throughout the western world, our lives are intimately tangled with "corporations" and their products/services. Everything that we eat or touch was likely made by or in part by a corporation.

This is all very true, but it is hard to keep a roof over one's head and food on one's plate without either placating a corporation or being born to a rich family, and most of us don't have option two.

(Also, keep in mind the option that OP might be looking for a FAANG job specifically because it pays well, allowing them to earn enough money to never care about placating corporations again in their life. That seems like a more effective strategy for certain forms of activism than finding a poorly-paying job working for a small business or even yourself, and then having to keep working at it until old age.)

Whatever any of us think about the morality of the action, we should be able to agree that filling the thread up with a lively debate about animal rights is not actually helping the OP with the dilemma they're in.

I’m not sure the farmer would agree with you.

I don't think shadownite cares what the farmer aka animal abuser thinks. Pretty sure OP wasn't raiding a free range farm to give the chickens a little more space.

>I’m not sure the farmer would agree with you.

Emphasis on factory farm.

Emphasis on the _need to feed the entire populace for a reasonable price_.

Quit anthropomorphizing cows and chickens. Their evolutionary success comes from being good food.

>Quit anthropomorphizing cows and chickens.

I didn't. My only point was there probably isn't a farmer in any traditional sense.

> Emphasis on factory farm.

Innocent until proven guilty.

the farmer should have been charged with animal cruelty and abuse, and the poster should have been commended for the attempting to stop of such a heinous crime and making a civil arrest.

I second that.

> For context, two years ago I was part of an animal rights group that would investigate factory farms and rescue sick, injured animals from them.

We didn't need the context. Also, how about owning up to what you did rather than virtue signaling? In your bizarre little bubble, you may be a "hero", but to the rest of the world, all you are is ...

> and I was indicted on felony burglary

... a thief.

> Any advice or lawyer recommendations would be appreciated.

I wouldn't bring it up if you want the job. Nowadays, many companies ( especially in silicon valley ) are hypersensitive to "activist" workers precisely because of people like you. Would you hire yourself if you were a FAANG? Take on the unnecessary liability? It makes no sense to volunteer information which can only harm your chances. So keep it to yourself and hope for the best.

Also, if you get the job, I wouldn't bring up your criminal record ever to co-workers, boss and especially HR. People like you are exactly the type that HR was created to remove.

Also, you can get FBI history check for a few bucks yourself ( via the fbi website ) or pay private companies to expedite the process. So you can check what your employers would see if that helps.

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