First, I want to echo how absolutely wonderful it is that you've made yourself available to us like this. I've literally had this thread open for the past week, and have been reading through it as time permits- so you should know how truly valuable it is.
I've spoken about this issue with my school's CSO staff and Dean of Students, but still don't have a clear, actionable answer. I think you're probably in the best position to answer this question. I was convicted of a felony (3rd degree possession with intent) 6 years ago, and there are all kinds of judgment questions in terms of when it should be disclosed, how, to whom (or even at all, if it's not expressly asked about). These are my current thoughts:
1. 1st round OCI interview is just too soon. I'd be a quick and easy kill.
2. My current plan is to disclose at the end of a call-back, to the recruiter, hiring manager, or whomever put together the call-back. I feel like at that point, I can effectively say, "I have to tell you something that I know you would want to know. I didn't mention it earlier because I didn't feel like there was an appropriate occasion, and I wanted you to have an opportunity to meet the person I am today before I tell you about something I did many years ago . . . ."
3. Waiting until an offer is extended, or rolling the dice and waiting to see if they actually do a background check and either only then disclosing, or waiting it out and potentially never disclosing anything if they don't check, are poor choices. I think these sorts of tactics range from that which would instantly irritate and may lead them to question my character and judgment from day 1, to potentially creating Bar C&F issues. Obviously they're less awkward options though, so if you think a wait-and-see approach is acceptable, feel free to let me know!
So, essentially: (1) what is the absolute latest time or worst manner, beyond which it would be outright unacceptable? (2) What you feel is an adequate way to handle this, perhaps not the ideal manner, but an understandable one, given the uncomfortableness of raising the issue- this would be a manner for which you'd at least not deduct additional points based on the delivery alone, confining the damage to points lost for the existence of the conviction itself; and (3) if there's any way to do it in a way you feel you could almost admire or respect (e.g. doing it in a way that adds character, integrity and judgment points, for being forthcoming, identifying the problem, and owning the issue and the way it's framed). If possible, please be specific in terms of the right time, manner, and person, under these scenarios. I sincerely apologize for monopolizing your time with this big Q, but I've exhausted my resources on this issue and am really in need of some concrete advice (although I know there are other similarly situated people on here who will benefit too).
I've really come so far since it happened, and as top 5% in a 20's school with very solid professional and other credentials, I feel like I have a legitimate shot. I'm just caught in this sticky tension between wanting to present myself in the best, most ethical light, and also not wanting to shoot myself in the foot.
Really, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!