I’ve been working on a new Gig lately, and while I can’t get into a lot of detail – I can say I’ve been learning a lot about the hiring process from the hiring manager’s perspective. It’s also reminded me of some of the resume struggles I had to overcome to up my game with interviews as a felon and that nasty, aggravating little note on my background.
So, in true fashion as the Friendly Felon, I want to share some of those tips that I’ve been learning from some of the top hiring methods (and some I’ve practiced myself) to help my fellow felons and reformed citizens build their resumes and jumpstart their careers just a little bit more easily after a felony (even if it takes a little more work).
Top 5 Resume Tips (Felon Friendly)
- Keep a detailed track record of your jobs
- Note supervisors and managers names
- Customize your resume for different employers
- Focus on your experiences and accomplishments
- Get great references through positive networking
1. Keep Track of Your Jobs
First up, you absolutely have to keep a track record of all your work. Include side gigs that might be under the table (they count as experience if you’ve done them well – and keep track of the contact information for those people after asking if you can keep them as a reference). This leads me directly to my second biggest tip:
2. Maintain Good Relationships with Management
Be sure to take note of every single one of your supervisor’s and your manager’s names – and try to leave a good impression with them – even if the job ends on less than kind terms (two weeks notice preferably and no revenge pranks either no matter how tempting… getting blacklisted will not reflect well at your next interview). Additionally, while detailed questions about you are generally prohibited on reference checks – the simple yes or no that your old boss gives can make or break a hiring decision.
With a bad background already in tow, you need to focus on making great first impressions with every interaction you have. Especially with the people in higher positions (in work or life in general) – they can be great keys to improved networking and better opportunities. Managers and small business owners are often incredibly connected to the local business scene – so when you prove yourself as a serious asset they will be far more likely to recommend you in the future.
Doubly important, be honest with the management and the human resources department about your criminal background when trying to find a job and actually get hired. There are tax incentive programs available for many companies that hire felons, and the federal bonding program is an excellent point to bring up as well. In addition, you’ll be proving the misconceptions wrong and strengthening a positive perspective for all felons that are striving to find their path. Finally – it’s just too easy to find the criminal background – so just try to communicate about it openly.
3. Customize Your Resume (It’s Worth the Effort)
For one, most of the applications we use online aren’t even seen by a human eye until everyone has been filtered to a series of ‘best candidates’. We’re now being evaluated by computer programs rather than people. It’s the digital age and when it comes to getting a decent and reliable income we have to adapt and overcome to gain any headway.
Look up each job you want to apply for on a great, free site called O*Net and discover the skills that they have listed for that type of work – examples: computer programming, sales agents, information technology, counselor – whatever you want! Then take those skills and put them on the resume you’re sending in for that job type – one career counselor went to so far as to say to copy and paste the skills – so long as you have them or the ability to learn them quickly and effectively that is. You have to be ready to prove you have those skills after all, and that can be a big order if you take it too far. Or use it as inspiration to develop those goals before proceeding with it – maybe you’ll find something new that you love!
Along with that, you can edit down your resume to the jobs that are directly associated with the position you’re applying for – unless directed specifically otherwise – some application managers will be different; they always find a way to be incredibly annoying in many cases.
Also, when you aren’t working or having any success with getting interviews, find something helpful to do in your community or find a free educational course online to take to help pad the gaps in your resume and in your schedule. It shows dedication to improvement and helps you network at the same time! Plus – it keeps you busy and engaging with a healthy routine.
When you do get lucky enough to get to a real human resources person in the hiring chain, you want to keep your resume short and to the point. That desk guy is about blind with reading resumes/comparing skills/getting his shortlist and you need to keep his attention by saving him time and leaving a strong positive impression.
4. Amplify Your Accomplishments
Also, focus on your actual experiences and accomplishments. Describe any sort of improvement you made while using or learning your skills and share the basic details of those experiences. Managers want to hear how you can be beneficial to them and you have to find those skills and use them as sell points.
For instance, when I improved sales at the local oil change shop and wanted to find a better paying job thanks to the experiences I had – I made a bullet point under that job description on my resume that said: “Improved sales for my store by 10% in the first three months of work.” And – it has worked wonders for my application/interview to hiring ratio! It’s all about telling your future employer exactly what you can do for them. Sometimes skills alone can help you overcome your hiring obstacles – even if you think they aren’t much. In my case, I felt like I was just taking a few extra moments to explain what I had found during inspections – but the managers were thrilled.
5. Positive Networking Works Wonders!
Finally, just to reinforce the idea because it really is important – personal referrals and networking are the best bet to get great jobs – and I’m so serious it’s ridiculous (I kind of hate networking honestly – I’m working on it).
Seriously though. Network, network, network. Make sure you’re leaving good impressions with people. Be the change you want to see in your life – it’s the only way to create those positive pathways we all want to see in our lives. Even if you have to fake it a bit until you make it.
One of my favorite discoveries was how valuable volunteering proved after my felony conviction. It definitely helped me find connections with interesting and positive people that were incredibly supportive and extremely helpful on every level. So get out there and try!
Keep up the great work guys! Great things are waiting for us to find them!
Oh, don’t forget to like and share to let me know you dig what I’m doing here. Thank you in advance!
Peace and love