If you have an arrest record or prior conviction, finding a job can be tough! It can be frustrating to overcome so many obstacles while you're just trying to get your life back on track. That's why I've compiled the best practices for how to tailor your resume and fill out an application if you have a criminal record. Follow these tips to showcase your strengths and positive attributes during your job search. Best of luck!
For many jobs, an employer requires a professional resume as part of your application. Resumes are an extra valuable piece of your application that speaks directly to your skills and strengths. You want to make sure it is honest and accurate, free from any errors, and relevant to the position you are applying for. You do not need to list every job experience or skill you have—only ones that are applicable to the available job.
There are different types of resumes, but two common formats include chronological and functional.
Chronological resumes are a more traditional resume style that lists work history with the most recent position on top and details about each company.
Functional resumes focuses on your job-specific skills and relevant work experience over length of employment. This type of resume is a better choice since it doesn’t highlight excessive gaps or breaks in your employment history.
This should always be at the top of your resume and include your full name, current address, phone number, and email address. If you don't have a permanent address, use a location where you can confidently receive mail or a rented post office box.
Objective + summary
This is typically 2-3 sentences that demonstrate how your skills and accomplishments make you a good fit for the role. Keep this short and pointed.
Work experience + accomplishments
Describe your key job responsibilities at any previous employers. You may use this section to feature any work programs or assignments you may have participated in. Also, call out if you received any special recognition or promotions.
List the education and training you have completed. Include school or program name, city and state, dates attended, and any diplomas, degrees, licenses, or certifications you have earned.
Volunteer work + activities
Use this section to exhibit any volunteer or community work you have done since your release. This is where you can mention if you are involved in a church group, book club, and other hobbies you enjoy. This section is a nice conclusion that adds a personal touch and humanizes your application to a potential employer.
There can be bias and unfair stigmas around those with criminal records. Because of this, there are many suggestions on how best to complete an application and answer the question, “Have you ever been arrested or convicted of any crimes beyond a simple traffic ticket?”
There is legislation in some states called Ban The Box. Started in 2004 by a national civil rights union composed of formerly incarcerated individuals and their family members, this “campaign challenges the stereotypes of people with conviction histories by asking employers to choose their best candidates based on job skills and qualifications, not past convictions.”
It urges employers to give those with a criminal record and fair chance and to be free from discrimination. Over 45 cities, including New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, and others, have removed the question regarding past convictions from their hiring applications. For the most current participants of Ban The Box, you can get more information here.
For more work-life advice with a record, follow the topic #secondchances.
Do you have any additional tips to share? Let the community know in the comments below.