I got in trouble with the law and I spent six years in jail. I wasn’t sure a good company would hire an ex-convict but when I got out I got a good job. I’ve had a few of them, but I kept the main job for four years. I recently moved back to my home state. I’ve always been honest about my past so I used the same approach, but since I have been here I have been shot down because of this.
I have had plenty of interviews that went well until the subject of the drug charge came up. I have been proud of the fact that I have turned that part of my life around. I have some college, but no degree, just a certificate that I received while I was incarcerated. I sure could use some real advice. Please help if you can. Thanks.
You need only one good employer to give you a chance. Sorry if this sounds corny, but that company is a shining light you must search out. You’ve already chosen (wisely) to not hide your past. There’s a shining light out there.
As long as you are clean and have been out of trouble all this time, here’s what I suggest. First, you need references and recommendations. Talk to people you’ve worked with who will vouch for you, especially those who’ve known you as an ex-convict. Let them know that over the next year they may get several calls from employers who need to know you’re a good worker and a good risk.
Hire an ex-convict who is now a valued worker
Decide in advance how you want to phrase your request. Brief is best.
How to Say It
“I just need you to tell them the truth about me as a worker, so they will know me as more than an ex-convict. It will mean more to me than I can say.”
Let them know the problem you are encountering and ask for their advice. Provide these references before you go to an interview so the employer will know that people you have worked for respect you.
You’re wise to be up front
Second, I think you’re doing the right thing about your conviction. Let the employer know up front about your background.
How to Say It
“I made a big mistake a long time ago. For six years I’ve been building my reputation and now I’m very proud of it. Here are my references.”
Third, complete your college degree, even if it takes a few years. Do it part-time if you have to. Apply for grants and scholarships, but avoid loans. Community colleges are perfect for this approach. This will further enhance your reputation, your credibility, and your confidence — in addition to educating you.
Invest in yourself
I believe that before you ask someone to take a chance on an ex-convict, it can help to show you are investing in yourself. Even if a degree is not required for jobs you want, the mere fact that you are working on a degree will impress some employers. It’s more proof that you are living for the future. In a few years you will look back. Will you chastise yourself because during that time you could have earned a degree, but didn’t? Get started now.
Don’t ask for a job. Give a commitment
If you sense there’s going to be a problem, understand that human nature is what it is. People will worry about taking a risk. So make it easy for them. Take the first step and give them something they will probably never ask you for. I can’t guarantee this will work, but it’s my best advice:
How to Say It
“If you have any concerns, I’d like to help you put them aside. If you hire me and you have any problem with my performance or you’re just not happy, I welcome you to fire me, no questions asked. No hard feelings. I won’t complain. But you won’t fire me, because foremost in my mind is one thing: I want you to be very glad you hired me. That’s the commitment I’ll make to you. Keep me a week, two weeks, a month. For as long as you’re happy. Ask my references: they’ll tell you how committed I am to my work.”
Some might tell you not to take this kind of chance. But I believe in removing obstacles to help people make good choices. It’s up to you to help an employer remove the obstacles to hiring you so they can experience what a great worker you are. But this is your choice: You must do what you think is best for you.
My highest compliments to you for turning your life around. Do not let employers who reject you get you down. You will encounter many. The only ones that count are the ones that say yes — and they are always worth pursuing. I wish you the best.
The Library of Congress publishes an excellent guide to re-employment for ex-convicts. I recommend it.
Here on Ask The Headhunter, you will find some realistic encouragement from other readers in the comments section of Grand theft HR. I especially recommend the suggestions posted by “S Kendall.”
Employers: Hire with purpose
I’d like to close with a suggestion to employers. You may say your goal is to hire with purpose. You want to hire people who “think out of the box.” You want to hire people who can demonstrate an ability to change and grow. Yet your HR department likely hires people who closely fit your “qualifications list” and who sit on the fat hump of the performance curve.
Take a good look at older workers; people with handicaps who can do the job; reformed ex-convicts; former substance abusers who have been clean for years. These are people living with a new purpose. What better examples of people who can change, who overcome adversity, and who can demonstrate the ability to perform?
I’m not suggesting you take a foolish risk. You can make a sound deal to protect yourself and your new hire. Hire with purpose. Think out of the box yourself. Hiring someone who has overcome a personal problem may net you a good worker who has the confidence to help you overcome problems your company faces.
Did you ever work with or hire an ex-convict? What was your experience? What advice would you give this person?