The Career Center recently presented a pair of job search seminars at a local correctional facility, focusing on the resume and the job interview for ex-offenders. Here are some of the greatest takeaways from those seminars. Read the first post in this series here.
Should I talk about having a criminal record in the interview?
- It is crucial that you talk about your criminal record in the interview, even if they don’t bring it up. Why? Because they will run a background check and discover your criminal record, and if you haven’t prepared them for that, it will come as a nasty shock. Much better for you to talk about it in the interview, where you can explain the circumstances and reassure them that you’ve changed.
- One hiring manager we spoke with explained, “If they tell me about the conviction in the interview, I can work with that. I can ask follow-up questions to figure out the details of their situation. I can give them the benefit of the doubt. But if they never tell me, and I find out from the background check, I feel like they were dishonest with me. I don’t appreciate that.”
Dos and don’ts of discussing your incarceration
- DO: Bring up the incarceration early in the interview, maybe as part of your answer to the very first question, “Tell me about yourself.” Take responsibility for your mistakes. Tell a redemption story about your path to rehabilitation. Focus on the valuable skills and experience you gained while incarcerated. Emphasize your commitment to becoming a contributing member of society again.
- DON’T: Spend too much time talking about the details of why you went to jail. Blame other people for your situation. Appear hostile or negative. Seem unrepentant for your crimes. Beg or seem desperate for any job. Neglect to convince them of your skills and qualifications for this job.
winning examples of interview answers
- Tell me about yourself. As you can see from my resume, I’ve got several years of industrial experience. I spent a year as a warehouse technician, which involved operating a forklift and pallet jack, and another six months as a laborer on several different construction projects. After that, my career got derailed a little bit. I made a series of stupid mistakes and wound up in jail. While I was in jail, I realized what a mess I had made out of my life, and I felt ashamed. I decided to turn my life around. I wanted to make sure that I would never go to jail again, so I decided to learn new skills that would help me in the real world. I signed up for vocational training classes to learn new skills. I also worked as a mechanic at the prison for 3 years, which gave me a lot of experience working with my hands and with tools. I’m not afraid to work hard and get my hands dirty, and I think that all of these skills would be useful to your company.
- Tell me about your criminal record. I was incarcerated for possession of narcotics. I was addicted to heroin, and was too stubborn and stupid to get help for my addiction. I feel like the conviction was justified. I didn’t think this at the time, but now I almost see it as a blessing in disguise. Because I hit rock bottom in jail. The first time my daughter saw me behind bars, I finally realized what I was doing to her. So I made a promise to myself that from then on, I was going to be someone she could be proud of. I enrolled in the prison’s drug rehab program and got clean. I started attending classes and vocational training, so I could be a valuable employee once I got out. I turned around my life and got paroled. Now that I’ve been released, I’m staying on the straight and narrow path. I’ve been drug-free for two years, I’m a deacon at my church, and my daughter is proud of me. If you hire me, I will put my skills and training, as well as my ambition to be a successful employee, to good use for your company.
- Why should we hire a convicted felon? I can understand why you’d be hesitant to hire someone with my background. I know you’re probably worried that I’ll disappoint. But I’m not going to go back to my old, bad ways. I was young, foolish, and made a terrible mistake. But I decided to turn my life and attitude around. I took advantage of every educational, vocational training, and work opportunity available to me in prison. I now have clear goals, which including being a model employee for a successful company like this one. I have character references from my parole officer and pastor, both of whom would tell you that I am a changed man. If you have any doubts about me still, please hire me on a probationary status until I can prove to you that I am the best man for the job. Frankly, I plan to become your best employee within my first three months.
- 70millionjobs.com, a job search website devoted entirely to companies willing to hire people with criminal records.
- Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana, which has an ex-offender re-entry program offering free training and employment services.
- The Capital Area Re-Entry Coalition
- Any book by author Ronald Krannich, including The Ex-Offender’s Re-Entry Assistance Directory, The Ex-Offender’s Quick Job Hunting Guide, Best Resumes and Letters for Ex-Offenders, and The Ex-Offender’s Job Interview Guide. All of these books may be checked out from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.
- The Career Center (inside the Main Library at Goodwood, 7711 Goodwood Boulevard) can offer personalized assistance with job search strategies, online applications, resumes, and interviews.
Written by Lynnette Lee