How Ex Cons Should Approach (And Succeed In) A Job Interview

As with most states, felons in the state of Mississippi are likely to find their employment opportunities and their housing opportunities limited. Because of the decided lack of opportunities for ex-convicts in the state, some of them will return to a life of crime. Others may find federal jobs in the state, and those will naturally have better luck reintegrating into society (Federal programs assist ex-cons in finding housing and gainful employment, and the U.S. government is the one of the largest employers of former felons).


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One program, known as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, gives employers an incentive in the form of a tax break for hiring ex-cons. This tax credit can range from $1,200 to $9,600, depending on the category of the ex-con. Otherwise, some of the Mississippi places which are known to be “felon-friendly,” include: Olive Garden, The Salvation Army, Dairy Queen, Boeing, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Avis, Golden Corral, Greyhound, Men’s Wearhouse and Kohl’s. Because a source of income is necessary in allowing an ex-con to make a fresh start, meeting their basic needs, like food and housing, making a good impression during a job interview is crucial. Some tips which can help an ex-felon get hired include the following:

1. Avoid making excuses or attempting to justify your crime.

These tactics are likely the worst thing you can do to gain the trust of a potential employer. Try to remember than nearly one in three adults in the United States have a prior arrest or conviction record. Although making an excuse for your crime may seem like an effective strategy to alleviate any concerns your potential employer might have, in fact, the less you talk about the details of your crime, the better.  Rather than making an excuse or justifying the crime (“I was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” or “I was involved because I was trying to help a family member”), simply offer a short apology—“I should not have been involved, and I understand what I did caused harm.” Making an excuse, however, fails to lessen the perceived threat which is often associated with criminal identity, therefore could have a negative effect.

2. Don’t lie on your application.

If the question is “Have you ever been convicted of a felony,” perhaps the best way to approach it is to write “Yes, will discuss in interview.” Don’t leave the question blank, don’t simply write “yes,” don’t lie, and don’t write a lengthy explanation on the job application.

3. Answering the question: “What was the reason for your leaving your last job”?

…try not to use words like “paroled,” or “went to prison.” You could, instead, say something like “It wasn’t a good fit,” or that you “relocated.”

4. Always present yourself in the best light.

Dress nicely and look your best, even if you are only going in to fill out an application. Remember, this could be the employer’s first impression of you, and first impressions tend to be lasting impressions.

5. Know your rights, and know which questions could be illegal.

Don’t get discouraged. You will likely hear many “no’s” before you hear a “yes.” But, this is true for most people who are job-hunting, regardless of whether they have ever been in trouble with the law.

6. Make sure you have an “incarceration speech” well-rehearsed.

Make sure you can explain what you learned from being incarcerated, how you intend to better yourself now that your prison term is over, take responsibility for the actions which landed you in prison, and be sure and stress that while you were in prison, you weren’t just sitting around being lazy. Be able to list the activities you participated in to stay busy or improve yourself, such as working at something, studying, etc. Try not to use the word “incarceration,” more than once. Studies have shown it is the least “harsh” word you can use, but even so, you don’t want to overuse it.

Try your best not to over-explain your offense.

7. Keep it short, and discuss only necessary items.

In the end, do your best to be prepared, keep your stress over the interview to a minimum, and resist seeing yourself as an ex-con, unworthy of employment.

Remember, you made a mistake, but that does not mean you are not a good person with plenty of job skills.

Look into the programs which are set up to help ex-convicts, and take advantage of any which can help you, both Mississippi state programs and federal programs.

Contact Our Jackson Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you are arrested and charged with a crime in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Meridian, or anywhere in the State of Mississippi, you need to fight for your rights and protect your freedom. The best way to do this is to hire an experienced Jackson criminal defense attorney immediately. 

At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys believe in fighting aggressively for our clients and we can build a defense that is designed to expose the holes in the prosecution’s case against you. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at 1-601-948-1600, 1-877-231-1600 or via the form below:

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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