From Hopeless to Fearless: One Job Seeker's Background Check Story

Mar 31, 2024   |  By Ryan M. Moser

Air Force. College scholarship. Leadership Training. These are achievements that any company would want to see on a resume, and qualities that a hiring manager would want to see in an employee. They show discipline, intelligence, and growth. But if you are formerly incarcerated, sometimes it doesn’t matter what’s on your resume or what experience you have.

Since coming home a year ago, Robert, 38, has worked hard with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) to build his work history, polish his interview skills with his job coach, and search for a quality job that he would enjoy doing.

After six months on a CEO transitional work crew, Rob went to an open interview at a local manufacturer and was hired on the spot.

“They told me I was perfect for the job,” Rob said. “One week later, I called for my schedule and the manager said that I couldn't work there.”

The company said that they’d received Rob’s background check and decided against hiring him because of his criminal charges. The owner apologized, stating that they would allow him to apply to work in the warehouse after six months, but Rob logically wondered what would change in that time.

“I’d heard war stories about the background checks,” Rob said. “After I lost the job, I was feeling hopeless.”

Luckily, Rob still had the support of CEO, who encouraged him not to give up and provided him some opportunities to work in the local office. Then, he was accepted into CEO’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), which provided him with a new sense of worth and valuable leadership skills.

“I was struggling, but working in the office got me motivated again,” said Rob. “I joined the Emerging Leadership Program to practice leadership strategies.”

Upon graduating from ELP, he was offered a job at CEO as a job coach.

One of Rob’s duties as a job coach is to help establish relationships with local second chance employers, in order to create a job pipeline from CEO to the companies. He was then promoted to a retention specialist, doing mock interviews and job development for participants.

“I work at CEO full time now, but I also joined the Advocacy Leadership Committee recently, discussing reforms that include topics like hiring discrimination,” Rob said. “This aligns with my core value of equality, and I’d like to continue doing this for a long time.”

Careers in the social sector can be rewarding and offer talented people like Rob an opportunity to help others who are in the same situation they were. Imagine what Rob and others like him could do if they were not denied opportunities because of a background check.

Learn more and join us in calling for change at