At any given point in the recruiting/screening process, you’re bound to come across it! Conducting a professional development training course in the community, you can believe it’s going to be there too!
What am I talking about? The issue of the ex-offender. — What do we do with him/her? Society is cruel to them. Ex-offenders usually have difficulty finding a job. Employers are reluctant to hire people with criminal records, and an ex-offender is likely to have a spotty work record and limited skills, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The failure to find employment contributes to the high recidivism rates for most ex-offenders. Added to the usual challenge for ex-offenders seeking employment is the lack of basic job search skills. Many programs throughout the country help prepare ex-offenders for the job search. Tips from such programs are invaluable for ex-offenders.
In my personal experience, ex-offenders are very composed, humble, and possess the mental discipline to commit to transitioning to the workforce. They have an uphill battle though… who will give them a chance?
Ex-Offender, Let’s Get Back To Work: The Steps To Take
1] Go To School - Get your college degree. If you are going to be a jobseeker with a criminal background, be one with education and training. That will set you apart from at least 90% of other ex-offenders like you.
You just needing a job is not enough. Be specialized in something of value to a business. Sure, you’re not in a position to really make any demands here, but even if you are being somewhat taken advantage of, at least, you are working. It’ll be much easier to make your next move when you have that first paycheck coming in. Won’t it?
2] Join an Employment Assistance Program - Find a program that works with ex-offenders on employment issues. Such programs usually provide skills development, job referrals and other services. Program staffers are skilled at preparing ex-offenders for jobs and placing them, and can help you prepare to perform more effectively during the different aspects of your job search. For example, New York City’s Center for Employment Opportunities employs ex-offenders on work crews to prepare them to move on to unsubsidized employment. National Hire Network provides links on its website to programs throughout the country that help ex-offenders find jobs.
3] Be Proactive In Your Job Search - Do not depend on others to feed you job leads. There are many companies who are somewhat liberal in not doing background checks, especially staffing companies. – find them! Some companies also voluntarily put limits on how far back they will search your background – although, I must stress that those limits are often ignored when there is a felony.
When you are searching through jobs in Careerbuilder, Monster, and Craig’s List, take the time and see what questions come up in the online application process. Those companies that are not laser-specific in their background check requirements, register with them. Subscribe to them so you may receive e-mail when they post new positions.
4] Work Your Ass Off -
a) Advancement — What better way to move up the food chain than from your current position? You are already working within the organization. Show strong work ethic and dedication on a daily basis. Take on as much responsibility you can handle. Be professional. Be dependable. You will viewed more as a valuable employee than a former criminal.
b) References/Recommendations — Focus on building your work record one job at a time. Even in the most inconsequential position, walk away with the intent of getting a written Letter of Recommendation / Letter of Reference from your manager. Don’t let future prospective employers take your word for your on-the-job reputation — get in writing that clearly states your success and accomplishments. With each position, new references and job skills are added to your resume. While the goal may be a permanent, well-paying job, each job worked has value in showing a potential employer that you could be a good match for his company’s needs.
5] Honesty is the Best Policy - The first person you need to be honest with is yourself. Come to terms with what you did and then work on beating it. Never discuss it until you have to. And when you have to… answer questions honestly about gaps in employment and criminal charges. Dishonesty or failure to disclose information can result in your removal from the hiring process or your firing if you are hired for the job. I recommend telling the truth on job applications and during interviews — but, communicate effectively and do not get into a debate.
6] Complete the Job Application - Incomplete job applications sometimes serve as a red flag to employers. Completely fill out job applications and leave no questions unanswered. Answer questions honestly, but limit the detail to only the information requested. Write on the application that you will discuss the criminal charges during your interview. Work with your professional job counselor to understand how to list criminal charges on job applications.
7] Practice Interviewing - Preparing explanations about your criminal background. Body language is important, as are eye contact, a smile and a handshake. Practice talking calmly about your criminal background and moving the conversation to discussions about your more recent accomplishments. Practice can help you appear less nervous during the actual interview.
8] Join a Peer Support Group - A group of ex-offenders can provide you with support, encouragement and understanding from people who share your experiences. Monroe County in Pennsylvania operates an ex-offender re-entry program that provides mentoring and support groups, along with employment and other services. Your involvement in a support group can result in job leads and information about helpful resources.
9] Network: Keep Track of Others Like You - Millions of ex-offendsers are finding their place in today’s workforce. What is their secret? What is the path they took?
Feeling sorry for yourself only segregates you from resources that you you can use to your advantage.
10] Starting Your Own Business – I know this may sound strange for someone who does not have a lot of assets to start their own business, but there are some very simple, start-up opportunities out there that require very little capital to open.
And when you think about it, the only way to avoid the scrutiny of a conservative, over-protective hiring manager is to take control of your career.
Did you know there are places in the country that are passing legislation to prevent the “…Have You Ever Been Convicted Of A Crime?…” part of the application removed? It’s true. In Philadelphia, for example, businesses with over 1o employees are restricted from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal background until a first interview is scheduled. What do you think about that? Could more be done? If we do more, are businesses really being protected?
It’s your turn. What are your feelings on this issue? Please comment below.