Answering Job Interview Questions about Serving Prison Time

If you've served time in prison, expect to be questioned closely during a job interview. The key to dealing with prison or jail time when responding to interview questions is to make the experience as positive as possible. Work double-time to outshine the other candidates with your positive outlook and qualifications for the job.

Here are several tips you may find useful:

  • Find the best collection of resources that address the criminal record employment dilemma on the ExOffenderReentry.com site. The resources include books, DVDs, free articles and more. Inmates without access to the Internet will have to rely on family and friends to obtain these resources.

  • Don’t count on expungement — the court sealing of criminal records — to keep employers from knowing that you’ve served time in prison. Expungement is no longer a reliable strategy for ex-offender job seekers because in this digital era, commercial databases are slow to update what courts have forgiven; expunged records now often turn up in criminal background checks ordered by employers.

  • Job seekers with prison records should be aware of the Federal Bonding Program. It basically provides insurance guaranteeing worker honesty — an incentive to employers to hire an at-risk applicant.

  • The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a tax break for employers who hire certain workers, including ex-offenders.

  • The U.S. Military accepts enrollments from those who have served time for misdemeanors and felonies. The pathway to enlist begins with applying for a moral waiver. The moral waiver process varies with each military service. Ask military recruiters for more information.

If the job interviewer says, "Tell me about your incarceration . . ." here are some possible responses:

  • Describe how it was one of the best learning experiences you’ve ever had. Explain the crossover (transferable) skills and education you acquired in prison.

  • Say that it helped you make changes in your life so that the behavior that got you in trouble is history. Part of your old problem was hanging out with the wrong people. In your new life you hang out with a different group of people who do not get into trouble.

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