Having a past makes interviewing for a job more challenging, but certainly not impossible!
Let's take a look at some tips, commonly asked questions, and the most efficient ways to reframe a past arrest or conviction in a positive and reformed light during your next interview.
As with any and all interviews, it’s important to research the company and the position you apply for, the role’s responsibilities as well as the job function. Also, make sure to come prepared with your resume and any other necessary documents on clean paper that’s free from rips or creases. You want to appear polished and presentable!
The nonprofit organization, Jails to Jobs, encourages applicants with a background to create and come prepared with a “turnaround packet.”
A turnaround packet is a folder or physical documentation that aims to convince the hiring manager that you are the best candidate. It also demonstrates that you are now a different and reformed person than you were when you committed your crime.
Ultimately the Turnaround Packet helps build trust with the person interviewing you.
One important item that could be included in this packet are four letters of reference, with two fully aware and acknowledging your conviction. They can speak to your personal character and growth, your responsibility, and your long-term goals. These references are strongest when a former employer or landlord writes them.
If you are able, provide certificates of completion of any certifications, specialized job training, apprenticeships as well as educational transcripts or school enrollment forms. Also provide a copy of a clean drug/alcohol report as we as a cleaning driving record from the DMV. Include this, especially if you were arrested or charged with a drug-related offense or have been in an alcohol or a drug rehab program. Consider including any documentation of restitution, for example if you had to pay restitution to a victim or victims or served community service.
While it is an extra layer of work to create a “Turnaround Packet,” many hiring managers will be impressed that you took the initiative and time.
If possible, put each page in a sheet protector, beginning with your resume. This will help the information to look presentable and can also serve as talking points and give you added confidence during your interview.
During the interview make sure to keep your answers simple and concise. If your prior arrest or conviction comes up, avoid telling the personal details and instead answer honestly and accurately. Accept responsibility and express remorse for your previous actions.
Focus on how your behaviors have since changed and stick to the positive.
Highlight the skills you have and how they can transfer to the role. Speak to any work and training you’ve been able to accomplish during your incarceration. Make sure to highlight your future plans or goals down the line. It’s encouraging to hiring managers to hear that you are focused and ambitious for the long-term.
End the interview with restating the traits and skill set you can bring to the employer and why you are the absolute best fit.
Once the interview is over be sure when you get home to send a thank you follow-up email to your interviewer and mention them by name. This gesture can make all the difference in helping you stand out as they make a final decision. In your email: state how you are appreciative of them for taking the time to speak with you and re-emphasize your skills and strengths. This is the last time to sell yourself so be sure to highlight those strengths and positives!
If you don't land the job don't worry! This happens to everyone, so don't be discouraged; your hard work and skills will pay off so keep applying! If you did receive the job: what an accomplishment! It’s now time to work hard and exhibit all your outstanding skills and traits during this employment transition. Arrive on time for every one of your shifts/each day, smile, and be agreeable and pleasant. Follow the rules. Remind yourself how far you’ve come and that you are deserving of this second chance.