Chapter 5:
Finding a Job
where to look, how to apply, how to prepare

getting out success after incarceration by j. m. wielandIn 2008, about 1 in 33 working-age adults was an ex-prisoner and about 1 in 15 working-age adults was an ex-felon. About 1 in 17 adult men of working-age was an ex-prisoner and about 1 in 8 was an ex-felon (Schmitt, Warner, 2010). The earnings loss associated with imprisonment is found to range between 10% and 30% over a person's lifetime. A few analyses of survey data find that youth detained in correctional facilities before age 20 have higher unemployment rates and receive lower wages a decade or more after incarceration (Western, 2001). We have an extremely difficult time finding work once we are released. Not only do we have to convince someone that our past work experience and education are worth something, but we also must convince them that our felony was an isolated event. While criminal history should be taken into account in a job interview, it should not be the underlying factor to not hiring a qualified applicant.

Popular media is very good at broadcasting how many of us will commit another crime being released. We live in a time where the ease of looking up the criminal backgrounds and relevant news stories of any single person we might be interested in, professionally or otherwise, is literally at our fingertips through Google. We have to break through the same gatekeepers as the rest of the employed world, but we have far more to prove to separate ourselves from the rest of the candidates. Possible employers now require online applications, making it far harder for us to get that coveted one-on-one interview in order to convince the hiring manager of our value. That conversation is what we really need to have in order to sell ourselves. Without being able to explain our actions our criminal backgrounds will always exclude us from the getting a decent job.

There are numerous positions that will not allow us to work within their market. Examples of these markets include the medical field, legal field, or anything requiring a security clearance. That does not mean that those jobs are completely barred to an application, but that it may take a bit more time and work than your short-term needs allow. Most of us who have just been released have some form of probationary period that requires full-time employment. The majority of jobs that are available in the world are still completely open to people who have a criminal background. Obviously jobs that directly relate to your felony are much less likely to be open to you. If you were convicted of embezzlement, you're not going to be hired to work in a bank.

There are a lot of organizations and companies that specifically hire felons. In some cases, hiring a felon can be a valuable tax incentive for the business from the federal government offerings of bonding, or other special programs. Every state is different, so speak with a social worker in your state for the fastest way to get this information. I have met plenty of felons that include the term "federally bonded" in their resume to tempt a future employer. There is a specific credit that many businesses do not take advantage of that could help get more ex-felons into a steady paycheck. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a by-product of the 1996 Small Business Job Protection Act. The purpose of the credit is to encourage employers to hire certain population segments by providing those businesses with incentives. The segments of the population that the credit covers are SSI recipients, veterans, welfare recipients, ex-felons and individuals living in HUD-designated empowerment zones. Since 1996, the credit's target groups have expanded to include disadvantaged teens as well. (Burney, 2015) In other cases, companies enjoy some of the government bonds that were created for felons to get back into the workplace.

Here is a short list of some of the companies and organizations that will hire you regardless, or because of, your past felony conviction:

  • AAMCO Transmissions
  • Abbott Laboratories
  • Ace Hardware
  • Alamo Rent a Car
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Alberto-Culver
  • Allied Van Lines
  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • America West Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • American Express
  • American Greetings
  • Aon
  • Apple Inc.
  • Archer Daniels Midland
  • ARCO
  • Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
  • Atlas Van Lines
  • Avis Rent a Car System
  • Avon Products
  • Bally Technologies
  • Baskin-Robbins
  • Baxter International
  • Best Foods
  • Best Western
  • BFGoodrich Aerospace
  • Black & Decker
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
  • Boeing
  • Bridgestone
  • British Airways
  • Brunswick Corporation
  • Budget Rent a Car
  • Calvin Klein
  • Campbell Soup Company
  • Canon Inc.
  • Career Education Corporation
  • Carrier Corporation
  • Casio
  • Caterpillar Inc.
  • CDW
  • Chase
  • Chicago Mercantile Exchange
  • Cintas
  • Coes-Coin
  • Coldwell Banker
  • Compaq
  • ConAgra Foods
  • Dairy Queen
  • DAP Products
  • Deer Park Spring Water
  • Dell
  • Del Monte Foods
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Delta Faucet Company
  • Denny's
  • Dole Food Company
  • Dollar Rent A Car
  • Domino's Pizza
  • Dow Jones & Company
  • Dunkin' Donuts
  • Dunlop Tyres
  • DuPont
  • Duracell
  • Eddie Bauer
  • Epson
  • Equity Office
  • Exelon
  • Exxon Mobil
  • Federal Express
  • Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
  • First Health Group Corporation
  • Fortune Brands
  • Frito-Lay
  • Fruit of the Loom
  • Fujifilm
  • General Electric
  • General Growth Properties
  • General Mills
  • Georgia-Pacific
  • GMAC Real Estate
  • Hanes
  • Aon Hewitt
  • Hilton Hotels & Resorts
  • IBM
  • Illinois Tool Works
  • Kmart
  • Kraft Foods
  • A. Times
  • Macy's
  • McDonald's
  • Mobil Oil
  • Molex
  • Motorola
  • Navistar International
  • The New York Times
  • Newsweek Inc
  • Niki
  • NiSource
  • Northern Trust
  • Old Republic International
  • Packaging Corporation of America
  • Pactiv
  • PepsiCo
  • Philip Morris Companies Inc.
  • RR Donnelley
  • Newell Rubbermaid
  • Sara Lee Corporation
  • Sears
  • ServiceMaster
  • Dr Pepper/Seven Up
  • Shell Oil Company
  • Showtime Networks
  • Smurfit-Stone Container
  • Sony Corporation
  • Air Southwest
  • Sprint Corporation
  • Target Corporation
  • Telephone and Data Systems
  • Tellabs
  • Toys "R" Us
  • Tribune Media
  • S. Cellular
  • Uneven Investments
  • United Airlines
  • Verizon Communications
  • W. Grainger
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart
  • William Wrigley Jr. Company
  • Yumahn
  • Zebra Technologies
  • Zenith Electronics
  • Xerox


Building a Resume:
Regardless of whether or not the place you are applying to requires a resume, you should probably still put one together so you have a quick sheet of paper with all of your important hiring information. It's relatively easy to build a simple resume. Here is a small example taken from the Harvard Business School set of resume templates:

In the simple example on the next page you can see the structure of a basic resume. For the most part it will include information like: who you are; contact information; your education; your work experience; any relevant skills or certifications; and some business referrals. It also helps to have a short, one-sentence tagline that explains your goals and why you are valuable. For more examples of basic resumes check out Pinterest, or just perform a Google search for "resume samples."

It does not help you to fudge the information on your resume. There are always better words to use that may stick out more in a pile of competitors, but fudging the truth is not going to help you build trust with a potential employer. Instead of focusing on how to make your resume appear better than it is, focus on the truth. Keep it simple, keep it clean, keep it easy. If you really want to make your resume stand out, then you're better off picking up a couple of simple certifications, or other skills that are easily gained. Here is small list of the some easier certifications and other wordings to make your resume more robust:

  • Knowledge Management Certification
  • CPR and First Aid Certification
  • Notary Public (may not be available depending on your conviction)
  • FEMA and OSHA Certifications
  • MCSE (Microsoft Certifications)
  • Language Certifications
  • Forklift Operator's License
  • Google AdWords Certification
  • SEO/Digital Media Certifications
  • WordPress Certification
  • Freelance
  • Web Development/Design
  • Lifeguard
  • Veterinary Assistant
  • Volunteer Work
  • LPN
  • Working from home
  • Starting your own business

There are many, many more than this small list, but you get the basic idea. If you're still unsure how to flush out your resume more, ask someone who works at the place you are applying. They may have more insight into some of the outside skills the hiring manager is looking for in potential candidates. It never hurts to ask, the worse they can say is "no."

Try to keep your resume to one page only. If you have a portfolio for any design, or creative work, or a long list of past client referrals, then consider adding them at the bottom with a note that says "portfolio available upon request." Don't be too worried if you do not have a lot to put on a resume when you're just starting out. Focus on finding something that will help pay the bills rather than landing a dream job.


Where to Look:
Finding a decent job can be a real challenge. You're going to need to be a bit methodical and spent a lot of time researching the best places that offer the best positions. If you already have an annual income goal ($45,000/year), or a type of job in mind (IT Support), then you are a step ahead of the pack. Most of us have no idea where to start, or what we are actually looking to do for a job. Here is a list of some resources to use when you need help finding a job:

  • Craigslist
  • Online job posting sites (,, etc.)
  • High School and College Alumni Services
  • Unemployment offices
  • Probation Officers
  • Friends, family and other personal contacts
  • com
  • Social Network Sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • Newspapers (online and off)
  • Libraries
  • Community Buildings
  • Homeless Shelters
  • Churches, Synagogues, Temples, etc.
  • Job Fairs
  • Conferences
  • Cold Calling
  • Company Specific Websites
  • Temp Agencies
  • Talent Agencies
  • Industry Events
  • Volunteer Opportunities
  • Current Employer

Most of the time your PO can help you find a decent job. It might not be the most prestigious of positions, but it'll pay the rent and fulfill your obligations while on probation. Your PO is just as motivated to get you into a job as you are because POs need to get you off of their overstocked desk and deal with the cases that are much harder to handle. The less of a hassle you are to your PO, the easier of a time you will have being on probation/parole.

Keep in mind that it has never been easier to work from home as it is now. Having a moderately functional computer and an internet connection can allow you to perform all sorts of tasks that can earn an income. You can also start your own online business relatively easily. Just visit your local library for more information on both of these topics.


The Benefits of Networking:
Roughly 80% of today’s jobs will be acquired through a networking scenario. (Arruda, 2014) The absolute best asset you will have at finding a good job is going to be your ability to network. Talking to your friends and family will probably be how you find your first job out of prison. Most people know at least 5 to 10 people who are aware of job openings in their own careers, or somebody else within their network who can help you out.

Remember that people will judge you by your appearance, attitude and manners. I am not saying you should act like a beggar, or a brown-noser, but you should appear to be clean-cut, well behaved and commonly spoken. While you are networking, do your best to remember the names of everyone who you meet. Take the extra effort to write down contact information for people who you think might be able to help you out in the future. Accept business cards and keep a little stack of them wherever you live for reference later on when you need to contact those people. Keeping contact information also works for sending out handwritten thank you notes whenever someone helps you. Build a basic digital signature for any emails you sent and be sure to have a LinkedIn profile with an updated resume for potential employers to check out. This might seem like a step that is “out of your way,” but it is for that extra effort that the recipient will be grateful and more willing to work with you again in the future. Never underestimate the simple power of the phrases “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.”


Actually Applying:
Most employers will have you fill out some form of online application. The only real difficulty with an application process is that dreaded little check box asking if you have ever been convicted of a felony, or other serious crime. Other than that checkbox, you should already have all of the relevant information prepared for your 1 page resume. Most companies will only check your criminal history between 5 and 7 years. It is up to you whether or not you check that box, but remember you are applying to a new job where people will be trying to trust you. Use your best judgment. Whenever you apply for a job in person, be sure to bring all of your relevant identification. This typically will include a driver’s license, or state I.D. and social security card. Unless you’re still in High School, you probably won’t need your birth certificate. If you were born in another country, you may need a work visa or green card.


The Interview:
There are a few things you can do to better prepare yourself for when you finally receive an interview. First off, go to the company's website, or their social media accounts. Somewhere in there you'll find photos of the people who actually work at the location you're applying. This will be your guide as to what you should wear when you show up to the interview. Most of the people in the photos are cleaned up to bolster that company’s online appearance, but it still serves the same purpose for your interview. Just use a little bit of common sense and, if all else fails, a shirt with a tie and a nice pair of slacks is your best bet; match the color of your shoes to your belt.

You can prepare for the interview questions you may be asked by typing the phrase "common interview questions" into Google. It is not cheating to have a heads up for some of the more common interview questions that you may be asked. In fact, it may help you prepare for a broader job search as it will expand what you think of as your future career. It may help if you have a friend or family member run through some of the more common questions with you to prepare you for the interview. (Green, 2015) Here’s a few of the questions you’ll probably be asked:

  • Tell me a little about yourself?
  • What interests you about working in this field?
  • When did you leave your last job? Or, why do you want to leave your current job?
  • Why would you excel at this job?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Tell me about a time when . . . (you needed to make a tough decision; or you needed to mediate a difficult situation; etc.)?
  • What would you do in your first 90 days of this position?
  • What’s most important to you in a new job position?
  • What salary range are you looking for?
  • What questions do you have for me?

Again, remember to be clean-cut. Make sure you have groomed yourself well and look good in the mirror. Appearance really does matter and will set you apart from the rest of the applicants. Typically you should wait 5-10 business days before sending a follow-up email or phone call to find out the time frame of when the company will be making a decision for the position.

Just be patient with yourself in this process. I have met plenty of felons who have gotten jobs within one week, as well as those who have had to wait months. I know it is hard to hear a lot of rejection, but the spirit to persevere is your greatest ally.


First Stop:
Probably the best place to start your job search is the unemployment office. You can sign up for unemployment benefits as well as use their computer databases to find local jobs. The goal of any unemployment office is to find you work so you do not rely on government programs to pay for your daily needs. They want you in a job as much as you do. You just need to be a bit patient with them as they are usually very busy due to the high demands from those who have been seeking work for a long time. Keep your head up and keep trying every avenue possible until you have at least a small trickle of income heading your way.

getting out success after incarceration by j. m. wieland available on amazon button


(back to book overview)