Looking for a job is no piece of cake for anyone, but when ex-convicts search for employment, they're faced with additional challenges.
Job Search Advice
There are some things you should consider when you start your job search. These suggestions are not meant to limit your search but they may help you direct your options.
- Look for part time evening work: Employers often don't check backgrounds for these types of positions.
- Network: A lot of jobs are found through contacts nowadays anyway. Having someone vouch for you may get you in the door - but you better not let them down!
- Look for certain types of jobs: Certain types of employers may be more likely to hire former felons like construction, driving positions, and customer service positions.
You might also want to consider starting your own business: Your conviction becomes less important and you will be your own boss. There are a number of types of businesses that you could try but it depends on your interests, finances, and skills; you have to do a little research.
Places to Look
There are several ways for ex-convicts to approach their job search. Traditional methods can help because you may find a company that does not require a background check, or a company that will not exclude you based on your criminal record.
- Traditional newspaper ads
- Job search engines
- Cold calling
- Going through governmental or community assistance programs
Organizations that May Help
Sometimes, at the end of the day when all the circled ads in the paper have been responded to and all the interviews done, ex-convicts still need a bit of assistance finding a job. There are agencies that are willing to help those who deserve a second chance and a fresh start.
The National H.I.R.E. Network
The mission of the National H.I.R.E Network is to help ex-convicts find their place in society. You'll need a membership to reap the benefits, but it's free. They also help you find employment search assistance in your local area. This is a gold mine of information for ex-convicts searching for jobs.
Xamire.com is a website that calls itself felon-friendly. It is a newer website but it lists some resources and businesses by state that are helpful and amenable to former convicts. There are also discussion boards so you can talk to other people in your situation.
One Stop Career Center
There is a One-Stop Career Center in each major metropolitan area and many smaller communities throughout the United States. A partnership between federal and state job seeker assistance agencies, registering with the center in your area is a great way to jump start your job search.
Meet with a counselor and be honest about your background so that the person who is trying to help you knows what you are facing. He or she will likely have contacts in the local area with employers and other resources for people who are transitioning from the criminal justice system back into the workforce.
America Works helps with entry-level job placements for people who typically have a difficult time finding work, including ex-convicts. The participants get weeks of training beforehand and once they get a position, they receive follow-up and support. America Works has offices in New York, D.C., Wisconsin, California, Maryland, Illinois, and New Jersey.
Local or State Employment Agencies
Employment agencies may have some information to help someone with a felony conviction find a job. Find your local agency to get started.
Chrysalis is nonprofit organization that offers training and support for homeless and low-income people to enable them to get meaningful employment. Many of these participants are ex-felons. This organization has several offices in the Los Angeles area.
Delancey Street Foundation
Delancey Street Foundation has been helping former drug addicts, homeless people, and ex-convicts for 40 years. You apply for admission to the program; if accepted, you then reside at one of the facilities, learn marketable skills, and get a job in one of the Delancey Street Foundation organizations. Locations are in California, New Mexico, New York, and North Carolina.
Based in Illinois, the Safer Foundation works to support the efforts of people with criminal records to become gainfully employed and reenter society. The Safer Foundation offers educational programs, employment services, and housing assistance for people in the program. This organization works mainly in Illinois and Iowa.
Baker Industries is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that helps vulnerable adults - including people on parole or probation - find real jobs and training. This organization serves as a headhunting service for companies who need permanent or temporary employees. Baker Industries is located in Pennsylvania.
Prison Entrepreneurship Program
This 501 (c)(3) program, based in Houston, sets up connections with convicted felons and business people out in the community. The former inmates receive a welcome back into the "real world" with support and supplies to lower the risk of reoffending. PEP also helps with training, job placements, and also any entrepreneurial aspirations that the former felons might have.
The Doe Foundation in NY is the home for the Ready, Willing, & Able (RWA) program which is a rehabilitation program for homeless people, drug users, and formerly incarcerated people. This program is 9-12 months long and offers training, housing, education, and transitional work services.
If you are having difficulty finding a job after a felony conviction, you should investigate smaller companies. Many of these companies may not run background checks when hiring new employees or may be willing to overlook your criminal record. There may also be some tax incentives for the company if they hire someone with a felony record. For example, the company may get a tax break through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
How to Explain a Conviction on Your Resume
No matter what resources you utilize, you will probably have to fill out an application. Since most companies will do a background check on you, it is important to tell the truth on the form. Here are some things to consider:
- Read the question carefully and only give them what they ask for. Make sure you don't offer information that they did not request.
- Do your own background check. If you know what will appear on the employer's check, you will be better prepared to address it.
- Be specific about what happened but do not use that time to plead innocence or deny that you did something.
- Be positive. Make sure you tell the employer about the positive experiences and job experience that you have had and how you have moved forward.
Don't Give Up
It can difficult to find a job for many people, but it will likely be more difficult for you if you have a felony record. Perseverance will be necessary to find employment; you may fill out many applications with no response or outright rejection. Investigate some of the resources available to get help and increase your chances of finding a job.