Tell it Like it is

Carolyn KinardThe interview can be a very stressful experience for applicants, particularly for ex-offenders. This is true because employers tend to view criminal records as negatives when considering applicants for employment. They feel comfortable when hiring workers with no criminal records and are reluctant to gamble when it involves trust and dependability issues.

Some companies work with felons in order to provide opportunities for employment and for assurance concerning trust and honesty issues. For example, hiring managers can contact the Workforce Solutions for assistance in obtaining bonding insurance for ex-offender job applicants they are interested in hiring.

During an interview is the perfect time for ex-offenders to be truthful. It should be seen as an opportunity to discuss personal experiences that transformed them into people that are prepared and eager to earn the employer’s trust and respect. The worst thing one can do is to deny or try to hide a criminal record. Although some companies are willing to give felons a second chance, it is the responsibility of ex-offenders to prepare themselves for the job market. This can be done by obtaining relevant education, job training, experience, and certifications.

When ex-offenders ask for assistance about what to say in an interview when discussing a criminal record, I give them the following guidelines:

  • Don’t lie or blame others.
  • Highlight any skills, job training, and qualifications earned while incarcerated. Discuss attributes that can be considered positive for employment rather than negative.
  • Discuss skills and training that match the desired job.
  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer. This is very important because the interviewer will see an optimistic person with high self-esteem. It also illustrates a person that can be trusted.
  • Don’t be afraid to start the discussion. Ask the interviewer: What are your company’s policies and procedures regarding applicants with criminal records? This action may impress the interviewer because the applicant is prepared to discuss their background.

No matter what ex-offenders have to go through, if common sense strategies are employed, they can find jobs. The city of Houston has a Community Re-Entry Network Program. For more information, visit the Community Re-Entry Network Program website.

Carolyn Kennard is a Regional Facilitator for Workforce Solutions in the Houston – Galveston area. She conducts job search skills seminars throughout the 13 county Gulf Coast region. Before embarking on a career in workforce development, Carolyn achieved success in marketing and training with a major oil company. Carolyn holds a B.A. degree from Virginia State University and an M.A. degree from Prairie View A&M University.



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