Job Search Tips for Ex-Offenders, Part 1: The Resume and Application

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.

Should I include my criminal record on my resume?

  • You do not have to mention your incarceration at all on your resume. But be prepared to discuss it in the interview. The difference is, the interview will give you a chance to explain your record and ease the hiring manager’s worries. The resume will not.
  • If you don’t mention your incarceration on your resume, there will be a gap in your work history. You may need a functional resume to cover that gap.
  • If you gained valuable skills, education, or work experience in prison, you probably should put it on your resume. You may even be able to disguise it, so that it’s not obvious that you were incarcerated.
  • Whether or not you include your incarceration, make sure that your resume highlights the skills you have  which are most relevant to the jobs you’re applying for.

how can I disguise my incarceration on my resume?

  • Use the name of the state or parish, not the name of the prison, when listing work experience.
    Example: Landscaper, State of Louisiana, 2007 – present
  • Use the name of the contract company you worked for while incarcerated.
    Example: Cook, ACI Food Services, 2012 – present
  • Make it look like you work directly for the prison.
    Example: Program Clerk, Angola Prison, 2013 – 2017
  • For educational programs, use the name of the organization that provided your training.
    Example: GED, Adult Literacy Advocates, 2016

should I include my criminal record on the application?

  • Only mention your incarceration if they specifically ask about it. Since the passing of “Ban the Box” laws, a lot of applications no longer ask if you have a criminal record. If they don’t ask, don’t tell. The best time for you to discuss your criminal record is in the interview.
  • If they do ask about your criminal record, you must answer honestly. But don’t just say, “Yes.” Take the opportunity to explain your record. Don’t appear hostile, negative, or unrepentant. Don’t blame other people. Instead, take responsibility for your mistakes, and emphasize your path to rehabilitation.

helpful resources

  • 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

The Resume: Special Rules for Students and New Graduates

For most jobseekers, writing a resume is largely a matter of describing their previous work experience. This can be frustrating for young people, who often don’t have much real-world experience. Thus, a young person or new graduate may want to take a slightly different approach to resume-building. Here are some helpful tips.

education

For someone in or fresh out of school, your education is the most valuable thing you have to offer. Therefore, you want to put it near the top of your resume – above work experience – and go into fairly extensive detail. Include the name of your degree and school, your major and minor, your date of graduation, and your GPA (if it’s 3.0 or better). Additionally, you may wish to include information about your most relevant courses taken, internships completed, academic awards received, and extracurricular activities participated in. You may include those things as part of the Education section, or you may create individual sections for each.

work experience

As a fresh grad, you won’t have much work experience. But you may have more than you think. Brainstorm. If you had a part-time job in high school or college as a cashier, babysitter, tutor, housecleaner, or lawnmower, you can include that. If you had an internship or externship, you can include that. If you volunteered with an organization for several months, you can include that – list it as you would a normal job, but include “Volunteer” as part of your job title. For each job you list, focus on your skills and accomplishments at that job which are most relevant to the kinds of jobs you’re applying for.

the kitchen sink

If you don’t have much work experience, you can flesh out your resume by including the other things you do have. Make a list of everything you’ve done, then organize it into categories. Popular categories include: Academic Awards, Athletic Honors, Extracurricular Activities, Leadership Experience, Volunteer Work, Clubs, Computer Skills, Office Skills, Languages Spoken, and Achievements.

additional resources

The Career Center has three templates specifically designed for new graduates: here, here, and here. You may also check out these books from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library for ideas: Best Resumes for College Student and New Grads, Creating Your High School Resume, and Resume 101. Alternately, if you would like personalized help in putting together your resume, please visit the Career Center inside the Main Library at Goodwood, 7711 Goodwood Boulevard, Baton Rouge, LA.

Written by Lynnette Lee

The Resume: Special Rules for Senior Citizens

When you write a resume, there are several criteria to keep in mind for how you present yourself. You of course want to focus on highlighting your best accomplishments and most relevant skills. You want to keep your resume relatively short and easy to read. You also want to make sure that your resume is visually appealing, clearly formatted, and free of typos. But there’s one more thing you might be judged on of which you may not be aware: your age.  Skilled employees with decades of experience may be perceived as too old for the job. Here are some tips to avoid the perils of age discrimination.

Education

At this point in your career, your work experience is usually more valuable than your education. Therefore, unless you graduated recently, your education should go to the bottom of your resume. Likewise, unless your degree is fairly new, you should give only a minimum of information about it – name of degree, name of school, city and state, and major (if applicable). Do not include dates of graduation if it’s been more than 10 years. You do not want to open yourself up to age discrimination.

Work Experience

It can be unwise, if you’re a seasoned employee, to provide your entire work history on a resume. Not only would doing so make your resume extremely long, but it would also advertise the fact that you’re a senior citizen – and open you up to age discrimination. Instead, you will usually want to give only the past 10-15 years of work history. That’s usually plenty to establish your skills and credentials. Also, be careful not to say anything like, “35 years of experience as an RN.” Instead, say, “15+ years of experience as an RN.”

Exceptions

Sometimes, there is a compelling reason for a jobseeker to want to include experience which is more than 20 years old. Perhaps you have a large gap in your recent work history and need to go back farther to establish your experience. Perhaps you’re trying to return to a field that you used to work in 25 years ago. Please be aware of the age discrimination issue, and weigh carefully whether including older information will help you more than it hurts you. If you decide to include older experience, you may wish to use a functional resume template such as this or this, which draws attention away from dates. Here are two articles with more detailed information on how to write a functional resume.

additional Resources

For more information on the special rules for jobseeking as a senior citizen, you may wish to check out Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies or 50 Steps for 50 Year Old Job Seekers from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library. Alternately, if you would like personalized help in putting together your resume, please visit the Career Center inside the Main Library at Goodwood, 7711 Goodwood Boulevard, Baton Rouge, LA.

Written by Lynnette Lee