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3 Tips on How to Talk About your Criminal Background on a Job Interview

Job interview with a felony.

Interviewing with a felony is frustrating for many reasons. You want to be upfront and honest about your past, but you don’t want to eliminate your chances of getting the position. At Honest Jobs, our purpose is to minimize this stress throughout the hiring process and match you with second-chance employers who are open to accepting your situation. However, it is still important for you to understand how to explain your background in terms of the values you have gained and the lessons you have learned throughout your experiences with the criminal justice system. As long as you’re honest about your record and can prove to employers that you’ve turned your life around, many will give you a chance. Therefore, here are some tips on how to bring the best out of your interview with a felony.

1. Be Honest

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to interviewing with a criminal background since there is a lot depending on the type of criminal record you have and the employer with who you are interviewing. However, we suggest being upfront and honest as soon as you have the opportunity to talk about your background. This approach takes more time, effort, and resilience, but getting hired after being honest with your interviewer is your ticket to building a solid reputation and career with the company. Additionally, most people will appreciate your honesty and the fact that you are working hard to overcome your past mistakes.

2. The C.O.D.C. Storyline

Following the C.O.D.C. storyline can help you explain your background resulting in a positive outcome.

  • C = Circumstances: What was your life like before the crime?

Explain what may have led to you committing a crime. There are many factors, such as depression, hard times, or hanging out with the wrong crowd that even people without a criminal record can often relate to. Understanding the circumstances can help your interviewer to see past the crime and focus more on your potential.

  • O = Ownership: Take responsibility for the crime and punishment.

After you have communicated where you were in life at the time of your offense, make sure you do not avoid taking responsibility for your actions. You want your interviewer to know that you recognize the importance of your punishment and the positive effect it had on your character.

  • D = Development: What have you learned from your mistakes?

Once you have explained how your punishment affected you, point out 3-4 things you have done/are doing to turn your life around. Your family, work, school, church, community, and personal passions are excellent topics to talk about. Do your best to relate these things to the job for which you are interviewing. For example, you could share how hard you've worked to rebuild your relationship with your family, and you are excited by the opportunity to be able to financially support them if hired.

  • C = Change: What actions you have taken to better yourself?

Summarize who you are now and what you have to offer. Highlight your personal mission and values to show that your actions are built on a solid foundation. The hiring decision often comes down to the candidate’s core values and personality. Also, remember to talk in terms of the job position you are applying for when explaining what skills and abilities you have.

3. Follow the Employer’s Lead

After you have disclosed your background, some employers won’t ask for additional details about your criminal record, or they might only want to focus on job-related topics like the skills you gained during incarceration. If this is the case, be honest, but only share the details you feel are important for them to understand your situation. You don’t have to overshare what happened in the past. The interview should be about your values and personality, rather than thoroughly explaining your offense.

If have questions about explaining your background or need help preparing for an interview, click the chat bubble to reach out to one of our Employment Specialists!



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