Working With a Criminal Record
Presented by
Kim Coleman
Employment Ventures
The Facts
Today's competitive job market presents a challenge for anyone seeking
to move up. But a criminal record can make finding even entry-level
positions even more difficult.
Rising Inmate Populations Mean
More Ex-Offenders Seeking Jobs
Skyrocketing inmate populations mean millions of inmates released from
jail or prison over the past five years are facing this scenario.
Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data show that in 2009,
more than 8.5 million adults were under some form of correctional
supervision, including prison or jail, parole and probation. Approximately
3.4 million were incarcerated, leaving 4.9 million in society -- and looking
for work. Ex-offender population demographics are also a factor. In 2009,
there were 6,374 African American male prison inmates per 100,000
African American males in the United States, compared to 1,870
Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 687 white male
inmates per 100,000 white males. In other words, African American
males are incarcerated at a rate nearly seven times that of white males.
What You Need to Know
Though you may not have been guilty of the crime you
were accused of, employers may not see it that way.
Be ready for some rejection, it is part of the game.
rehabilitation programs that assist ex-offenders in
landing gainful employment.
Record expungement is not etched in stone. There are
over 8,000 websites where employers can find
anything they want to know about your legal
background. Think before you spend money on this
effort. Get sound legal advice and representation to
pursue an expungement.
Check your own record to know exactly what an
employer will see.
Check the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
What You Need to Know
Prepare yourself by visiting a local workforce center and enroll
into a Job Readiness program where an Employment Counselor
can provide you with needed strategies and resources to
successfully gain employment.
There are no miracles, you will need to cater your job search in
a direction that fits your situation and know how to sell yourself.
If your release requires you to find employment in a limited time
to prevent re-incarceration, use temporary agencies for
immediate placement, but continue search for full time
Your Employment Counselor may provide you with a list of
“Felony Friendly” employers. Don’t put too much faith in this
list. Employers have the right to advertise that their hiring policy
includes employing individuals with criminal records, but they
may not actually be as open to this practice as they claim to be.
Always be honest. If an employer hires you, then later discovers
that you lied, the employer can likely legally fire you. That'll make it
even tougher to land the next job.
Outline your conviction by answering yes and then add: “Will
explain in interview”. Never disclose your record prior to the
interview, and at the interview, only discuss it if the employer
initiates it.
Always take a brochure about bonding and tax credits if it applies to
your situation. Explain the benefits to the employer. See the
Department of Employment and Economic Development:
Employers Expectations
Employers main concerns revolve around trust and safety issues because they
have to protect their investments. Here are the main expectations:
Employee Safety: Are you a danger to others.
Attendance and Reliability: Do you have strong work ethic; will you attend
work regularly.
Interpersonal Skills: Can you get along with others.
Compliance: Can you take orders and follow directions.
Confidence: Can you convince the employer you are the person for the job
and that you will not revert to criminal activity.
Quality: Is your work good or accurate enough to represent the company.
Productivity: Is your work fast enough, i.e., working at the rate an employer
feels is reasonable to as of employees.
Reliability: If you say you will do something or be somewhere at a certain
time, you will.
Honesty: Not stealing, telling the truth and not doing things on the worksite
that are dishonest.
When you are discussing your record:
1. Be brief; never go into great detail with an interviewer about
your situation, remember the employer can get the information
they are required to have from other sources.
2. Don’t make excuses. This makes the employer doubt your
integrity and you may seem desperate.
3. Present your situation in a positive manner to assure the
employer that if they are concerned about any activity in your
record, you have learned a valued lesson and took steps to
correct your mistake/s; i.e. anger management classes, skill
building or other educational activities including work
experience. Steer the interview toward the positives of your life
as it is now.
4. Stay relaxed and be confident
Interviewing Questions
1. What do you know about our company? (Find out what you can about the
2. What qualifications do you have for this job? (Match what you know about
the job and company to your experience)
3. What is your greatest strength? (Relate to job description)
4. What is your greatest weakness? (Turn into positive; i.e., perfectionist with
high self expectations. Admit a past problem and what you learned from it)
5. Tell about yourself. (Reveal something semi-personal but still professional)
6. What do you think you learned during your incarceration?
7. Why did you leave your previous job? (Turn into a positive)
8. Could you give an example of how you demonstrated skill?
9. Give me an example of how you handled a difficult situation on a previous job.
10. In a job, what interests you most/least? (Relate to position)
11. Where do you see yourself in three years? (Demonstrate ambition and
12. What could you have done better on your last job? (Keep it positive)
13. What have you done recently that shows your initiative and willingness to
14. Tell me about your top 3 accomplishments.
15. Why should we hire you?
Interviewing Questions
1. What specific responsibilities would I have?
2. What might a typical workday in this job be like?
3. What types of career paths do people typically follow when they are
promoted out of this position?
4. Who would be my supervisor?
5. With whom would I be working?
6. To what extent will I be working independently or as a team member?
7. How large is the department?
8. Is there a training program for new employees? If so, can you explain your
9. training program?
10. How would my performance be evaluated?
11. How is superior performance noted?
12. Is there a probationary period? If so, how long?
13. How do I take time off to see my parole agent / probation officer, these are
mandatory appointments?
Before the Interview:
ü Check location, time, date and name of interviewer
ü Find out as much as you can about the company
ü Prepare some answers to common interview questions
ü Practice interviewing and ask someone to critique your performance
ü Determine salary expectations
ü Dress appropriately and present a clean appearance
ü Take extra copies of your resume
ü Arrive on time
During the Interview:
ü Be prepared to shake hands when you introduce yourself to the interviewer
ü Remember the interviewer’s name and use it during the interview
ü Recognize that the interview is a conversation, not an interrogation
ü Maintain good eye contact and try to smile
ü Listen carefully and respond appropriately to questions
ü Ask intelligent questions to show you are interested in the job
ü Do not initiate money or benefits conversation until you have a job offer, but be prepared
to negotiate a salary when the subject is raised
ü Answer questions fully, but do not dominate the conversation
ü Maintain good posture and present a positive attitude with a confident self-image
ü Do not lie and do not bad-mouth past employers
ü Find out the employer’s requirements for the position and tell how you met them
ü Convince the employer that you are the best candidate for the job by carefully presenting
your technical skills, general abilities and personality traits
ü Close the interview by asking for the job
ü Find out when to follow up
After the Interview:
ü Send a thank you note reasserting your interest and qualifications
ü Follow up in a timely manner
ü If you are not selected, try to find out why
The following sample job application areas will give you an idea of
what to expect when you apply for a job and how to present
yourself to potential employers.
You may be asked to fill out an application on the day of the
interview, so make sure you are prepared to provide any necessary
information about yourself and your employment history.
Have this information and your resume with you at all places you
apply to so each employer has the same information.
Conflicting information can hinder your chances. You never
know who knows whom. Employers do talk and exchange
Because your record can be accessed by the public, you are a
target for identity theft. This is when someone accesses you
private information and uses it illegally. In order to better protect
yourself you have the following option:
At the top of your application write:
“Due to identity theft, the dashed spaces will be completed if
Personal Information
First Name: _____________________________
Middle Name: ___________________________
Last Name: _____________________________
Social Security Number: (enter dash) -----------Driver’s License Number: (enter dash) ----------Date of Birth:
(enter dash) ----------Street Address: Use street address, not name of facility
City: _______________ State: _______ Zip: ________
High School: If received GED while incarcerated,
list school district instead of facility name
Position Desired
Title: Always put the title you are applying for –
don’t leave blank or say “Any”
Desired Salary
Never put “open” or “any”. Use a dollar amount or
Work Eligibility
Have you been convicted of or pleaded no contest to a felony
within the last five years? Yes:_______ No:_______
Please explain: “Will discuss in interview”
Have you been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or pleaded no
contest to, an act of dishonesty, or breach of trust or moral
turpitude, such as misdemeanor petty theft, burglary, fraud,
writing bad checks, and other related crimes within the last five
(5) years? Yes:_______ No:_______
Please explain: “Will discuss in interview”
Do you have other special training or skills (additional spoken or
written languages, computer software knowledge, machine
operation experience, etc.)?
List all obtained before and during incarceration. Also list
any self-employment.
Employment History
Please give accurate and complete full-time employment
record. Start with present or most recent employer. Include
military experience if applicable.
Position: (If incarcerated and held a job while incarcerated)
Company Name: “Hennepin County”
Job Title: List the actual title, if you took classes, list the
class names
Name of Supervisor: Get permission from that person and
explain what job you are applying for.
Weekly Pay: “Rate of pay or 80.00/week cost of prison to
house an Inmate”.
May we contact this employer? Yes: _______ No: _______
Reason for leaving: Program/classes ended
100 Neverland Ranch
Somewhere in California
1-800-accused felon
Full time position in the Industrial/Hospitality fields where I can utilize my experience in
service and problem solving
to enhance the productivity of the company.
Proficient warehouse worker with knowledge of shipping/receiving processes
Experience with factory assembly work and Punch Press operation
Experienced Janitor familiar with various chemical cleaning processes
Human Services
Experience with counseling and promoting individuals toward obtaining treatment for
Alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA)
Treatment Tutor
Hennepin County-MN
Outreach Worker/Maintenance Hennepin County-MN
Temporary Assignments
Work Connection - Saint Paul, MN
Temporary Assignments
Q-Temp - Minneapolis, MN
General Education Diploma
Certified Nursing Assistant
Hopkins School District
Minnesota Technical College
“Fitting In” on the Job
Being the new person on the job is not always easy. Many people watch you to see what
type worker you are. The “new person” often gets the work that no one else wants. Until
you know who to trust, watch what you say, and be aware that not all advice given by
employees is true.
To “fit in” on the job you must look and act in a way similar to other responsible workers.
This means your dress and grooming should be appropriate; work is not the place to try
out the latest fads in clothing or hairstyles.
Work is not the place for alcohol, drugs or romantic relationships, or dwelling on personal
problems. Never draw negative attention to yourself. Your time on the job should be
spent working, not spent on matters that would get in the way of your doing the job well or
making others uncomfortable.
While you are learning your job, stay in touch with your supervisor. Do what your
supervisor tells you to; not what other workers say. Ask questions when you need to
but don’t be a pest. Let your supervisor know when you have finished a task and that
you are ready for new assignments. This tells the employer you are hard working and
If you have to miss or be late for work (try not to), let the supervisor know in advance
and provide written excuse or absences when possible.
Obtain a job description and/or outline of what is expected during your probationary period
and follow the guidelines so you can do your best to get a good performance review.
Adult Services
Office of Adult Services
Dislocated Worker
Career / Training
Dept of Labor Career Voyages
Registered Apprenticeship Programs
America's Career Information Network
America's Career One Stop
American Correctional Association
National Institute of Corrections
National Institute of Justice
American Probation and Parole Asso.
State Department of Corrections
Criminal Justice Information
National Criminal Justice Service
FBI Uniform Crime Report
Juvenile Justice Stat. Brief. Book
National Archive of Criminal Justice Data
Bureau of Justice Statistics
U.S. Dept of Justice ADA
Office of Disability Employment Policy
Job Accommodation Network
Rehab Services Administration
Disability Information
Job Links
Employer Incentives for Hiring
Federal Bonding Program
Work Opportunity Tax Credit
Social Security Administration
Form to Obtain Work History
Job Search
America's Job Bank
U.S. Government Jobs
America's Service Locator
USPS Zip Code Look Up
Starting A Business
U.S. Small Business Administration
IRS (Search Small Business)
Promoting Ex-Offender Success
The Legal Action Center
National HIRE Network
National Re-Entry Resource Center
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
U.S. Department of Labor Employment &
Training Division
National Sex Offender Public Registry

Working With a Criminal Record