should you confess a DWI to prospective employer?

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A reader writes:

I am a college student in my junior year, double majoring in Marketing and Management. In November, I was accepted for an internship at the corporate headquarters of a major retailer for this summer. I passed the drug screening and background test. However, in late December, I got a DWI while out with friends over winter break. Yes I know, very, very stupid mistake with very serious consequences, which I am dealing with right now. The case has been settled in court and I was convicted of a 4th degree, the least severe DWI offense. This is the only offense on my record.

I was recently reviewing my paperwork for the internship, and it says they will conduct a second background check 30 days before my start date in June. The job does not involve any driving. I am wondering if I should contact my recruiter and be up front about what happened, or not do anything to incriminate myself. I am somewhat hesitant to call and tell my recruiter because they are now conducting their second round of on-campus recruiting/interviewing and I feel they would have more reason to let me go and hire someone else if they found out about this now. I also feel that I have not yet established a good relationship with my recruiter, there were staff changes so this is actually the second recruiter I’ve been in touch with. If they do the second background check will show the DWI, but I wasn’t lying on my application when asked if I had any convictions since I did not at the time. Do you think I should tell my potential employer or not?

Yes. It will come up in the background check, so hiding it isn’t an option anyway. Therefore, the question is how to best manage it: Is it better for them to hear it from you, where you can provide a context, or to discover it on their own? Obviously it’s better for you to volunteer the information, explain that it happened after your initial application, and explain that it was a one-time mistake that you have learned from, are shaken to the core over, and will never repeat. (Right?)

They’re unlikely to withdraw the offer over it, assuming the job doesn’t involve driving, but you maximize your chances by coming clean now. Good luck, and please don’t do it again.

(Speaking of which, I assume you are writing to me because the Evil HR Lady announced she will no longer take DWI questions. Apparently there are a lot of drunks out there.)

{ 5 comments… read them below }

  1. Rachel - Employment File

    To be completely upfront the applicant should have indicated that he had a charge pending on his application.

  2. Evil HR Lady

    Heh. Yes, I think I recognize that question.

    Somehow I think those drunk driving filmstrips (filmstrips? Am I old or what?) that I had to watch in Driver’s Ed aren’t being shown any more.

  3. HR Wench

    Rachel, the app was completed in Nov, the charge occurred in Dec (if I’m reading the post right…?) so originally there was nothing to disclose.

    To the emailer: You said “Yes I know, very, very stupid mistake with very serious consequences, which I am dealing with right now.” So I expect that if this company does choose to rescind the offer that you won’t sulk like you don’t deserve such treatment, correct? Only then would I think you have truly learned from this experience and accepted full consequences for your behavior.

    1. HiringMan31

      You quote him and say he shouldnt sulk over the loss of the job because he deserves that treatment. Give me a break he made a mistake he did his time, he accepted responsibility for it why should he continue to be punished ?? Making a mistake dosent make you a bad person it just makes you a person. The best thing to do is to own up to it let them know it was a mistake and your taking it very seriously and have corrected your behavior in the fallowing ways then name off how you have changed for the better because of it . Own it and dont let it own you. Because you are not a DUI that does not define you as a person . Keep your head up and pursue this job . Dont let nay saying people get you down. I personally as a manager would respect that you had the courage to come forward and talk about it . I value as a manager people that can own up to mistakes they have made and I dont blame people for making mistakes it happens thats life .

  4. Anonymous

    All dwi convictions don’t indicate that the driver was drunk. Imagine this, you’re stopped for speeding. The officer asks if you’ve had anything to drink. You answer honestly, “yes, sir, I had a beer 2 hours ago”. Next thing you know you’re being given a sobriety test on the side of the road (which you pass with flying colors, as proven by the dash cam vidio). But, you’re arrested anyway because the officer said your foot wasn’t held high enough. A trial is set, and the jury finds you guilty because…. through nervousness you started to give your home address rather than your school address, but corrected yourself immediately, and didn’t know the name of the sports bar you were coming from (directed there by passengers, I had never been there and didn’t have any plans on going back, the name of the place was unimportant to me).

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