In the April 9, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a felony stands between a reader and a job.
Nearly every position I have found that I am qualified for in logistics is off limits to anyone with a felony within the past seven years. I’m past the five-year mark. I tried starting my own business but it doesn’t pay the rent yet. It’s desperation time. I have no problem washing dishes or doing any kind of “menial” labor. Work is work and pay is pay. But even those jobs are hard to come by these days, except for those who lie, and I’d rather not do that. Any ideas on how I could find a job of any kind quickly?
What I’m going to suggest probably won’t get you a job quickly, and it definitely won’t be easy. But it’s the only way I know to help you.
Employers worry. You need to get them over that, because they probably don’t want to risk hiring an ex-felon on their own judgment alone. But they might take the word of someone they can trust if you can deliver it.
Reference vs. Felony
A good reference might beat a felony. But don’t take chances. This means you have to use references who will speak up for you. No matter what job you apply for, ask one or two people you have worked with, who can speak up positively about you, to call the hiring manager directly and recommend you. Not when they are called, but in advance.
This kind of preemptive reference is very powerful. It won’t work every time, but a recommendation like this can help you overcome problems from your past, because it’s a referral as well as a reference. An employer who won’t take your word might listen to someone who has had good experiences with you.
It’s up to you
It’s up to you to be ready with such references. They don’t have to be former employers. They might be satisfied customers from your nascent business, or respected members of your community. You’ve had a good five years of making new contacts since your conviction. Now take the time to make a list of people who might help you, then rank order them. Ask the best ones if they’d be willing to help you get over this hump — and assure them you will repay their trust by being a trusted employee to anyone that hires you.
If a potential reference isn’t sure how to help you, ask them to read this account of someone who did it: Referrals: How to gift someone a job (and why).
Make a commitment – you have to say it
This is a very assertive approach. Consider whether it’s right for you. But I’d do more than note the felony on your forms. I’d bring it up with the manager when you meet. Be frank and matter-of-fact, but don’t dwell on it.
In my PDF book, How Can I Change Careers?, I offer many “How to Say It” tips about how to make an effective commitment to a manager who has doubts about whether you’re worth hiring. I’ve re-worked one of those ideas for you. Modify it to suit your situation.
How to Say It
“I made a big mistake over five years ago. I was convicted of a felony and I did my time. I don’t expect you to hire me unless you’re confident I’ll do a good job for you.[Look the manager in the eyes as you say this next part.] So I’ll offer you four things. First, references from respected people who have worked with me since then. Second, my commitment to total honesty. Third, I’d like to show you how I would do this job [efficiently, profitably, masterfully — whatever is called for]. If I can’t show you, then you shouldn’t hire me. Finally, if in a month’s time you’re not pleased with anything about my performance, I’ll leave. No hard feelings. No questions asked. But I make you that offer because I know I can deliver on it. That’s my commitment to you.”
That speaks volumes. Just be ready to back it up, whether the job is dish washing or logistics. When an employer takes a chance on you, it’s up to you to confirm the trust they put in you. Don’t screw up.
Please don’t be discouraged. There are good people in the world who will want to give you a chance if you help them do it. To read several wise tips on this topic, check this story about someone who worked in human resources, then committed a felony and couldn’t land a job. Quite a few earnest members of this community offer encouragement: Readers’ Forum: Grand theft HR. I especially recommend the suggestions posted by “S Kendall.”
I wish you the best.
Would you hire a someone with a felony on their record? What could they do to inspire you to take a chance? How could you minimize your risk? How do you advise this reader?