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Job Search Help for Ex-Offenders
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.
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Your conviction

Employers use background checks to confirm qualifications. It's better to be honest up front and possibly lose some opportunities than to lose someone's trust after you are hired.

Here are a few tips to increase your chance of getting hired:

  • Be honest. Never lie to an interviewer or put false information on your resume or application. This will disqualify you when the employer does a background check or checks your references.
  • Keep it simple. Answer questions directly. Address any concerns an employer might have, then steer the interview back to your skills and the positive traits that you bring to the job. For example:
    I can see why that gap in my work history might concern you. But since then, I have maintained a solid work record. I come to work on time and don't call in sick. I am a very hard worker and quick learner.
  • Make a good first and last impression. Avoid talking about negative issues at the very beginning or the end of an interview. If possible, try to address your criminal history in the middle of the interview. End with a summary of your qualifications and interest in the job.
  • Emphasize the positive . If asked to give information about your past (convictions, incarceration, drug and/or alcohol abuse), avoid telling "your side of the story." Even if you were wrongly convicted, you will leave a negative impression. Keep focused on what you have to offer the employer, not your personal story. Say something like:
    I understand that you have questions about my background. I assure you that I have learned from my mistakes and have corrected past problems. I have spent time training for this career path because I am more mature now and have a solid plan for my future. If given the chance, I will give your company 100 percent effort. I will be at work early, and even stay late if necessary. I know you will not be disappointed if you hire me.
  • Focus on your current activities and future plans. Emphasize the education and job training, community work, and other activities you have done since your release. Talk about your career goals, how you chose them, and how the job you are applying for fits them.
  • Be ready to talk about benefits available to employers who hire people with a record. You can bring up the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which gives tax discounts to employers who hire low-income ex-offenders. You can print a brochure about this program to bring to interviews by clicking the WOTC Brochure link below. Also talk about the Federal Bonding Program which is insurance for employers concerned about theft or dishonesty by an employee. Tell employers they can call 1 (877) US2-JOBS to get more information.

It's also a good idea to pay attention to body language. Sometimes your body language can give off the wrong signals. People may think negatively about you because if it. When you practice how to answer interview questions, pay attention to your posture and eye contact. Some tips:

  • Have good eye contact, without staring. Not looking a person in the eye when talking can be seen as a sign that you are lying or hiding something.
  • Stand and sit tall. Slouching or sitting casually can look like you are not taking the interview seriously. Sit up straight, but relaxed. This lets the employer know that you are interested in the job.
  • Smile. A genuine smile shows that you are a friendly person and someone the interviewer would want working at the company.
  • Shake hands firmly. Shake hands only after the interviewer extends his or her hand first. If you are not able to shake hands because of health or cultural reasons, politely tell the interviewer, "I don't shake hands with people, but I am very pleased to meet you."
  • Show interest through your facial expression. Many people look serious when they are nervous. An employer can mistake that as being bored or dull. As the interviewer is talking, nod your head and smile when appropriate.
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