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Tips for Creating a Resume When You Have a Criminal Record

Have a criminal record? Honest Jobs is here to help you connect with second-chance employers!

We see more and more employers changing their policies to be more open to hiring ex-felons. However, it is important to make a good impression and set yourself apart. Having a professional resume can be an essential part of getting hired at your desired job. Here are some tips on how to write a resume that will be appealing to employers with felony-friendly job offers.

1. Must-have items to include in your resume:

  • Current and reliable contact information (phone number, email address - ideally, both). It's important to quickly reply to calls, texts, and emails from employers who are interested in you.

  • A skills summary at the top, highlighting your skills and knowledge related to the jobs you're applying for. Employers often have a lot of resumes to sort through and this makes your qualifications pop out.

  • Details about your work experience, including job title, employer name, employer city and state, dates you were employed, and a short summary of your job duties. Include accomplishments, recognitions, and skills you gained. Focus on anything relevant to the jobs you're applying for.

  • Your education and certifications, including diplomas, degrees, certifications, work programs, or training courses that you completed or are currently enrolled in.

  • Include your volunteer work. Showing that you care about the community appeals to employers. You can also include valuable skills gained during volunteering, which is particularly helpful if you don't have a lot of paid work experience.

2. Common challenges and questions we get:

Here are a few questions we hear from job seekers and our advice.

What about the employment gap while I was incarcerated? Gaps on anyone's resume can raise employers' eyebrows. We often advise people to put the abbreviation (e.g., TDJC for Texas Department of Criminal Justice) as an employer, and list the work they did there, skills they developed, etc. Basically, to treat it like a job under Work Experience.

What if I don't really have any skills? It can be demoralizing to search for work when you don't have much experience in the workforce. However, you DO have valuable skills to offer an employer. Think of what you're good at, what you enjoy doing, what you did to stay busy and productive while you were incarcerated, etc. Those are often things an employer would value, but you may need to put them into terms employers recognize (e.g., "Good at math" --> "Analytical and good with numbers", "Good with people" --> "Easily build rapport and credibility").

3. If you don’t have a resume, Honest Jobs helps you make one:

If you don't have a resume, don't worry. By completing your profile on Honest Jobs, our system automatically generates a simple, professionally formatted resume for you. When you add or edit things on your profile, you can automatically refresh that resume to include your latest updates.

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