Finding Jobs For Ex-Felons

A reader writes….

How can a person, recently released from prison, find employment?  If I admit to being convicted of a felony (on the application), I don’t get called back.  How do I get my foot in the door by being honest?

Dear “Honest Engine,”

Before I deliver my advice, I want to start by commending you for trying to get back on track in the working world.  Finding a job can be difficult for ANYONE . . . . Add the dreaded question, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” to the mix – and you’re in a real pinch.     

To lie?  Or not to lie?

Well, judging by your question, I can see that you’re not only on the right track… but on an HONEST one.  To you and ALL my readers out there… honesty is the best policy… ALWAYS!

While it’s true that there are several employers (including many temporary staffing agencies) that will not hire anyone with a criminal background, there are other options and opportunities.  You just have to look in the right place, be persistent, and remain truthful.   Consider these words of wisdom:

  1. Be open about the fact that you have “paid your dues,” and let the employer know that you are ready to get your life back on track.  Stress your willingness to work hard and your dedication to the job.  More than ever, companies are conducting background checks on new hires. Falsifying information on the application will not only jeopardize your chances of getting hired, but it’s leading you back down the wrong path.
  2. Do not apply for jobs that are close in nature to your conviction.  For example, if your crime was theft, you should probably avoid positions that involve cash handling (such as cashiers, etc.)
  3. Aim for entry-level positions.  I know you may be overqualified, but it could be the gateway to bigger and better things.  Many employers are willing to take a chance with “at risk” employees and are often pleased by their performance.  Though I don’t know the type of work you were doing, here are a few positions to ponder:
    1. Food Prep
    2. Fast Food
    3. Dishwasher
    4. Retail Stores (hardware and appliance, nurseries, automotive)
    5. Telemarketing / Call Centers.
    6. Carpentry / Masonry / Construction
    7. Gardening / Landscaping
    8. Warehouse  / General Labor
    9. Machine Operator
  4. You may also want to look into city or government jobs.  Naturally, these groups want to encourage crime-free communities and are supportive of putting people back into the workforce.  I did a little research and found this list of possibilities:
      1. Water and Sanitation services
      2. Recycling services
      3. Joining the military
      4. Joining the Peace Corps (paid volunteer services)
  5. What about local nonprofit organizations, social services, or ministries? Goodwill Industries or the Salvation Army may have employment placement programs for you to explore.
  6. Look for local job fairs in your area.  Find out, upfront, whether jobs are available to ex-felons – that way it is addressed early on in the process.
  7. Do a little research on the Federal Bonding Program, a FREE Fidelity Bond that insures “high-risk” job applicants.  Contact the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Association for more information.

To any potential employers reading this article….

There are a lot of solid candidates, like this fellow, who are ready to work. Keep in mind that as a business, you can earn tax credits by hiring ex-offenders and keeping them on the job for a certain number of working hours.  Is your company currently implementing the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program?

Good luck!  Please keep me posted on your progress!


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Diane Simmons
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 20:36:31

    I too received a D felony for drug possession which I did a few times and ended up not doing it again and it’s been a couple of years since. I don’t owe any one anything, I keep my yard looking good, I keep a clean and tidy home, I am a clean, polite, respectful, reliable, truthful, kind, intelligent, physically attractive and energtic person. I have worked hard in management and I have a Masters degree too, but it seems to be all for nothing.

    I am getting really depressed about societies opinion of me, which seems to be that of a liar, lazy, uneducated, dirty, unkept bum who has no respect for his or herself or society. When in fact, I am a human being who like them have made some wrong choices in my life for which I have disappiointed others and myself. However I am not ashamed of myself because I am not perfect, I am only human like everyone else in the world. I thought when you made a mistake you got punished learned from it and went on with you life, but I have found that in todays world you are punished in silent for the rest of you life by being looked upon as menance to society. All my years of hard work, discipline, reliability, honesty, kndness, helpfulness and eagerness means nothing because one evening I made a wrong turn. It is really hard to keep trying, but I along with many other, “good people” have faith in Jesus and I know that I will one day find employment where I will not be stifled only to mop floors or flip burgers. I will be given a chance to proudly give my talent, skills and creativity to not only to help myself, but will help others to prosper or be happy which makes me happy too.

    I hope it changes in the near future because there are around 3 to 4 million people living in the US who are convicted felons. If the public did their homework they would honestly see that it does not take a evil, selfish, mentally disturbed person to receive a low level felonly in todays’ legal system. They hand them out pretty freely. Thanks everyone for listening. Have agreat day!



  2. Steve
    Apr 24, 2012 @ 13:18:25

    Hey, folks I have been reading your post and I want to offer some advice. I teach convicted felons how to dress, prepare resumes, look for work and interview answering the tough felony question. I discovered that the people who change the way they percieve themselves are the people who find work. There are keys words that you must always use, ‘Team Player’, ‘I am Customer Service Oriented,’ ‘I am Seeking Work (not a job).’ Remember that you made a poor choice, not decision as decision implies a way of thinking and ‘made a poor choice’ is a softer terminology. Don’t lie be honest and open about your poor choice but remember when you tell your story leave out penal code numbers and action words like hit, hurt, stole or arrested instead say “I made a poor choice that I am not proud of,” or “I got into an argument that resulted in my getting into trouble because it became physical” or “I took something that did not belong to me which I regret.” Do not say you are sorry if you are not, as it will come across insincere. Remember forgive yourself, generally your crime took only a few seconds, minutes, hours to happen and does not have to define who you are if you don’t let it. Forget those who do not forgive you, this is your new power. Most importantly do not stop seeking work, looking for work is your new work, until you find your new work. Good luck to you all.



  3. Chris
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 10:39:15

    There is no way to look down the road and see how the consequences of our actions will affect our lives and the lives of everyone around us. Everyday, live like your actions will affect everyone in a positive way. I too am a felon, a label in which there is no escape. Only a change in behavior and attitude will change your circumstances…



  4. Trackback: Disclosure of a DUI « Job Talk with Anita Clew
  5. Larry Montgomery
    Apr 15, 2011 @ 05:18:25

    Please respond back to me soon,i will love to have a oppertunity to work,thankyou very much,



  6. Bob Gosford
    Dec 16, 2010 @ 09:26:25

    I am in the same situation of being a convicted felon that gets turned down for jobs that I am way over qualified for. I have many years experience and skills in many different fields and still cannot find work and am in college for new career skills in computer technology. I did not even commit the crime I was convicted of in 1994 but still paid the dews. There seems to be no second chance.



    • Alison
      Dec 18, 2010 @ 08:51:06

      My son didn’t serve time in prison but is a convicted felon at 21. :o(( He did the crime, doing his probation but desperately needs a job. He is running into the same problem. Nobody will hire him because of his prior conviction. His crime was done when he was 17 & as he is learning, you end up paying for what you do for a lifetime. As a business owner I would never hire someone that had a theft conviction but depending on the crime, I would consider hiring someone with a different offense. Good luck & maybe they will have more incentives for employers to hire ex-felons in the future.



    • tammy
      Nov 14, 2011 @ 13:15:21

      Bob I too am in your situation, everyone deserves a 2nd chance, God doesn’t judge as long as you make the correct changes in you life people are too judgemental and judge others before they know the facts and if it were them how would they feel? everyone makes mistakes no one is perfect.



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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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