Searching for a job can be more difficult for an ex-inmate for two reasons. First, you may be uncomfortable discussing the details of your arrest and conviction. This will make your interviewer uncomfortable as well. Second, the time during which you were incarcerated and out of the traditional workforce will raise a red flag on your resume. Resume reviewers are wary of time periods that are not covered on your resume.
So, if you are an ex-inmate or have lapses in your work history due to time served in a correctional facility, how should you address these concerns? First and foremost, be honest. Show that you acknowledge your past and have turned your life around. Use the fact that you are overcoming greater obstacles than typical job applicants to your advantage. By serving time, explain how you are more committed to being a productive and law-abiding member of society.
On your resume, include prison jobs that you held and any training that you completed. Treat these activities as you would traditional employment and training. Use your prison experience to show your progress in returning to a productive life. Landing a job is a vital step in rejoining society.
Insider Tip: Do not lie about your history. Employers routinely conduct background checks that will reveal arrests and convictions on your record. It is much better for you to inform the prospective employer about your background than for the employer to discover it in your background check. Being honest and forthright will show the employer that you can be trusted.
Criminal Record - Work Examples
Maintenance Work Crewmember
2012 – 2014
Georgia State Penitentiary, Atlanta, GA
Participated in work crews on the maintenance of residential, office, and industrial areas. Worked projects from initial conception to occupancy. Played a key role in gutting and refurbishing a warehouse space into minimum security residential space.
· Served in role of assistant crew foreman, managing other inmates’ schedules and maintaining work rosters and assignments.
· Identified alternate materials that saved the institution 17% in materials cost.
· Monitored work site safety procedures and trained new workers in proper safety techniques.
Convenience Store/Gift Shop Work Detail
2012 – Present
Hudson Federal Detention Facility, Hudson, NY
Monitored and stocked notions in institution’s convenience store and gift shop. Advised customers on background of locally produced items. Ensured the highest levels of customer service and satisfaction.
· Monitored receiving, check-in, and stocking of merchandise to verify accuracy.
· Created window displays to attract customers to the gift shop.
· Assisted store manager in merchandising and store layout to feature new items and best sellers.
· Received Sales Staff of the Month award and numerous customer accolades.
Supplies Distributor, Facilities Crew
2013 – Present
Cook County Correctional Facility, Chicago, IL
Delivered supplies and materials to various departments and locations throughout the institution. Drove small trucks, delivery vans, forklifts, powered hand trucks, and motorized carts. Monitored inventory and completed tracking paperwork.
· Implemented safety rules/regulations to ensure public safety and safety of driver and equipment. Completed monthly Vehicle Inspection Report for each unit of equipment, which includes inspecting the vehicle for defects and submitting reports indicating condition. Affirmed that cargo is loaded properly so it will not shift during transport.
· Received award for safety. Applied professional training, knowledge, and regulations of commercial driving techniques and skill in maneuvering vehicles in difficult situations such as narrow passageways, parking lots and delivery dock areas. Complied with all federal, state and local regulations concerning safe vehicle operation.
· Performed routine troubleshooting and maintenance on institution vehicles.
Criminal Record - Questions & Answers
No! Do not lie. Your criminal record is public and can be reviewed by an employer. If you lie about your past and an employer discovers your deception, you most likely will be dropped from consideration for a job or terminated if you’ve already been hired. Be honest and forthright about your past.
Instead of dwelling on your past, steer the conversation to how you will contribute to the future success of the employer.
Talking briefly about your past will reassure the employer that you are being honest. Refusing to discuss your past when asked a direct question will lead the employer to believe that you are hiding something. Think of the questions that an employer is likely to ask you, and practice your answers. Becoming comfortable discussing your past will take practice. Ask friends, family, or colleagues to help you rehearse your answers. The goal is to honestly address the question and then steer the conversation to focus on your ability to make a meaningful contribution to the employer.
Remember that the goal of a resume is to get you invited to a job interview. Details in your past that need explaining should be deferred to the interview. One way to defer this discussion is to use a Functional format for your resume. The Functional format highlights your skills and accomplishments while minimizing your work chronology.
Depending on the type of position you are seeking, it is common to limit the information on your resume to relevant positions in the recent past. Your incarceration as well as irrelevant positions that you may have held in the distant past can be omitted. If directly asked about a criminal history on an application or in an interview, you must disclose this information. Also, if the employer is going to conduct a background check, it is in your best interest for you to disclose your background before the employer discovers it. Use your work history since your incarceration to show that you have turned your life around and are a productive member of society.
Employers have several responsibilities when hiring a new employee. One responsibility is ensuring the safety of the workplace. Hiring someone who has been convicted of a violent crime could compromise the workplace. Another responsibility is the viability of the company. Hiring someone who has been convicted of a crime against an employer, such as embezzling, could compromise the company’s success. An employer’s questions are not meant to invade your privacy or intimidate you, but are intended to help the interviewer meet the company’s needs.