Job Search & Readiness Training

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Everyone has done things in their lives that they wish that other people didn't know about. Unfortunately for people who have been convicted of crimes, there can be no secret about these things. Most applications ask if you have been convicted of a felony. Many others also ask about misdemeanors, indictments, or even traffic violations.

You will need to be prepared to explain your record AND convince employers that you would be an excellent employee at EVERY stage in the job searching process. In order to do this, you will need to prepare, practice and be persistent.

Start by filling out the worksheets we give you with the Situational Assessment. This will help you organize your thoughts before you try to explain your record to an employer. This will also help you prepare to talk about what you have learned and why you are a better person than you were when you committed the crimes. Make sure you fill out one worksheet for every Felony, Misdemeanor, Criminal Charge, Indictment, and Traffic Violation and anytime your license has been Suspended or Revoked.

You will find advice and suggestions on ways to present yourself and the information about your criminal history. You should use this information while you complete the other Job Search Packets. The more you practice "owning" your past and talking about what you have to offer now, the better you will get. The better you get at addressing your criminal history and your strengths with employers, the more likely you are to convince employers to give you a chance.

Be Persistent:
Looking for work is difficult for everyone, and it is going to take time and energy to find a job. You just have to keep trying. Keep applying. Keep looking for work. Keep improving yourself. Keep practicing your interviewing. Keep going and when you are frustrated remember: You are more than your crimes. You have more to offer than a tax credit. You can be a great employee. You are a valuable human being and if you keep trying, you will be successful in finding a job.


Criminal History Worksheet
Directions: Answer the following questions to prepare to address your criminal history with employers. Be honest and complete in all of your answers. This will help you with your Applications, Cover Letters, and in the Interview.

Use a new worksheet for every Felony, Misdemeanor, Criminal Charge, Indictment, and Traffic Violation and anytime your license has been Suspended or Revoked.

  1. What was the official charge?
  2. Was this a felony? Yes No
  3. What was the date of conviction?
  4. What did you do to deserve this/what was your crime?
  5. What did you do to fix what you did?
    Examples: Paid restitution; Apologized to victims; Paid back money; Community service; etc.
  6. What have you done to change yourself?
    Examples: Started AA/NA/GA; Quit drinking/drugs; Took classes; Changed friends; Counseling; Relocated, etc.
  7. What is different about you now?
  8. What do you plan on doing to make sure you never do that again?
  9. What have you learned through this experience?
  10. Is there anything else you want to say about this?


Filling out applications is difficult for most people, and in the case of a person with a criminal history, it can be extremely challenging.

Almost every application you fill out will ask if you have a felony and many will ask about misdemeanors or other charges or indictments. Companies that require driving will usually expand these criminal history questions to include traffic and license violations.

This if you lie, and they find out, then you can lose the job after you got it. If you tell the truth, many people won’t give you a chance to explain or show that you have changed.

Some things to NEVER do on an application if you have a felony or other crime on your record:

  • Lie
  • Write: “I’d rather discuss it in person”
  • Leave the question blank
  • Write the offense without explanation
  • Write the criminal code without explanation

Some things you CAN do are:

  • Write a cover letter to every company where you apply to address the criminal history.
  • Turn in reference letters from people who have seen you change.
  • Fill in extra space with what you have done to try and fix it.


Remember that a resume is supposed to show how wonderful you are and not the bad choices you’ve made. Your resume needs to reflect your strengths, your skills and what you can offer an employer.

Here are some things to think about when making your resume:

  • Never list jail/prison/house arrest/parole time on your resume.
  • If you took classes or training during your incarceration, you can write them without identifying the “school” if it identifies the correctional facilities just list the degree or certificates or classes that you completed, the date and the state.
  • If you had a job while incarcerated, list the job just as you would any other job and the facility as your employer.


Whenever you write a cover letter, you have to make a decision about how you will deal with your criminal history.

  • Will you write about it in the cover letter?
  • Will you write a separate explanation letter to hand the interviewer?
  • Will you just talk about it in the interview?

Every job, application and employer is different.

If you look on the internet for advice on criminal history and job searching, you will find that even experts have different opinions.

Ultimately, you cannot rely on expert opinions on this topic. You will have to choose for yourself what to do. You will need to think about how to deal with your history and what you are going to do about it every time you apply for a job.

Here are some things to consider when making your decision:

Is this an employer who will:

  • Think I’m lying by not talking about it up front?
  • Not give me a chance without meeting me after learning about what I have done?
  • Read a cover letter or an explanation letter?
  • Is there a felony or other criminal history question on the application?
  • Does this company hire felons?
  • Does this company do background screenings?
  • Will I be better able to talk about or write about my criminal history?
  • What will give me the best chance at getting the job?

If you decide to talk about this in the cover letter, you could add to your cover letter between the standard third and fourth paragraphs of the Cover Letter Packet. Review the attached Template for a Cover Letter addressing criminal history.

You will have more information to fit on one page, but some things you can do to write all you need to cover and still keep it to one page:

  • Reset all page margins to: 1 inch or .75 inches
  • Reset the font size to 11 point
  • Remove the {Enter}s between the paragraphs (as shown)
  • Remove 1 {Enter} between the Date and Company Name (as shown)
  • Remove 1 or 2 {Enter}s between Sincerely and Your Name (as shown)

{Indent} Date
Company Name
City, State Zip Code
Dear [Name of Person Doing Hiring],
{Indent}I am writing to apply for the [Job Title Exactly as It is Written in the Listing] job that I learned about through [Where Job Listing Came From; Or Where You Heard About The Job]. I am very interested in this job.
{Indent}Your company is known for [Accomplishments, Things Company is Proud of – If the company has a website, you can find out more about them there].I am impressed because [List 2 or 3 Things You Like About the Company]. [Company’s Full Name] is a good company and I would really like to be a part of the team.
{Indent}I would be great choice for this job because I have [Number] years experience [List Job Title if You Have Experience in this Job, OR If You Have Experience Doing Things That Would Be Helpful in This Job, List Those Tasks/Activities]. I can [List the Qualities and Abilities From the Job Listing That You Can Do.] I can learn how to [Things From the Job Listing That You Can’t Do Now But Can Learn]. I [List Any Credentials or Training Required in the Listing] Additionally, I am [List Other Qualities About Yourself That Would Make You More Impressive. Examples: Bilingual, Willing to Work Overtime and Weekends, etc. If you have a criminal history, you will need to list about twice as many as someone applying without a criminal history]
{Indent}I do have a criminal history that I am ashamed of, but I am now [use answer from question #7 on worksheet - write about what is different about you]. I have also taken steps to make sure I never make the same mistakes again. Some of those things are [use answer from question #8 on worksheet – write about what you are doing to make sure it never happens again]. [Number of years ago you were convicted] years ago, I was convicted of [use answer from question #1 on worksheet – write the official charge] because I [use answer from question #4 on worksheet – write about your crime]. I know I can’t change the past, but I have done my best to make up for what I have done. I have [use answer from question #5 on worksheet – write about what you did to make up to the victims]. I have also [use answer from question #6 on worksheet – write about what you have done to improve yourself]. I have learned [use answer from question #9 on worksheet – write about what you have learned] and I will never do that again. I have made mistakes in my past, but I have learned from them. If you will give me the chance to prove myself to you, you will see that I have a lot to offer. I hope that you can see past my past and give me a chance to show you that I can be a great employee for your company. Please refer to my attached resume for more information on what I can offer your company.
{Indent}Please call me at [Phone Number] to schedule an interview.
{Indent} Sincerely,
{Enter} Your Signature
{Indent} Your Name

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