what's an ex-con to do.?
August 2, 2009 9:28 PM   Subscribe

What's an ex-con to do.? I have a friend who just finished a 6 months sentence in another state for "felony theft". (I think of it as "felony stupidity", he pawned stuff from his employer). Any thoughts on how to write a resume and a job application. Google gives me nothing.

this is now in Massachusetts.
posted by lemuel to Law & Government (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Honestly, being an ex-con carries a terrible and mostly unfair stigma in our society.

Basically, I wouldn't mention the time served. I'd pad his resume out to cover that time (yes, lie) and let the chips fall where they may.

Obviously if he seeking a job with a larger employer he will be asked if he has been convicted. He has to choose then and there whether to check that box.

If he's lucky, maybe he can get a job with a smaller organization, one which doesn't do background checks, where he can keep his act together for a few years before moving on.

Good luck to him. He's paid his due, and I hope people recognize that and give him a fair shake.
posted by wfrgms at 9:44 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't have any personal experience with this, but this is a fantastic organization in Worcester, MA that might have advice.
posted by availablelight at 9:49 PM on August 2, 2009

Don't lie about it or lie by omission. Any employer that does a background check will find this. Many, if not most, employers will not hire this person knowing that he's been convicted of a felony. Some that would hire him wouldn't if they discovered he'd lied about it.
posted by sanko at 9:55 PM on August 2, 2009

First, he has to be forthright about his conviction. Criminal background checks can be purchased for $20 online, so there's no point in trying to hide it. Assume that any employer that would want to know, will know.

Since as a felon his character is already in question, any shenanigans with the resume will result in an automatic disqualification. He should leave the resume with the six-month gap, and use his cover letter to explain the reason for the gap. Without going into excruciating detail, he should explain that he made a mistake, paid for it, and learned his lesson, and now he's dying for a chance to prove that he can be a responsible and productive member of society again. He should provide some convincing references who will attest to his character.

Working in his favor is the fact that many areas provide tax breaks for employers who hire ex-cons. Here's some information about one such program in Massachusetts.
posted by ctab at 10:30 PM on August 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Another +1 to "don't lie about it by omission" -- that would have the effect of compounding his stupidity. If he's out on some sort of early release arrangement and/or has a period of probation after his release, that could harm him because it would appear as if he had not taken his previous incarceration seriously. He needs to be 100% honest.

I wouldn't go out of my way to call attention to it in a coverletter or resume, but when an employer asks why there's an employment gap and why the "please do not contact previous employer" notation on an application -- don't fib.

If a potential employer asks him about it, "Did something stupid and paid for it. Did my time. Trying to move on. Give a man a hand and let me show you I'm honest."

Of course, this all sort of hinges on that last part. Did he learn anything?
posted by SpecialK at 10:31 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Omission is fine, but if asked about it on his application he needs to be honest. If they ask about it theres a chance they will do a check and he will almost undoubtedly be fired when they find that out.

Additionally if there is ever something that the company needs him to do that the felony will prevent (licensing, etc) it will come out then.

With the way the economy is I dont think most HRO offices are going to be surpried with a 6 month gap.

Alot of how he should approach this will be based on the type of job he is looking for, blue collar or white collar and if hes looking for a JOB or a Career.

Good luck!
posted by crewshell at 10:32 PM on August 2, 2009

I might hire someone who had been convicted of theft from an employer to a position where they weren't able to fuck up the same way again if they were honest about it.

I wouldn't give them the time of day if they tried to cover it up during the hiring process.
posted by rodgerd at 12:25 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't lie about it. I tried to hire someone who had a minor conviction for shop-lifting, which he didn't tell me about during the interview or on his application form. I wanted to hire him anyway, but was over-ruled by my managers: "If he lied to us, why should we trust him?" If he hadn't lied, I could have won that battle, but as it was ...
posted by BrokenEnglish at 2:47 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another strategy for ex-offenders is to join labor unions, like the Teamsters, who often have lucrative labor concessions. The Mass Department of Labor and Workforce Development offers hands on resume assistance, and interview workshops, at their One Stop Career Centers.

I think it's also pretty important that ex-offenders work at making many kinds of community connections, besides just looking for a job, although, obviously, finding work is a primary concern; nevertheless, ex-offenders often build their referral networks, and hear about opportunities, while involving themselves in volunteer community service work and church groups. People do go to church for many other reasons than having a personal religious experience, and congregations know this; many are good networks for people trying to turn their lives around, on many levels. A surprising number of small business jobs are still filled informally, without ever being advertised, by personal recommendation and introduction, through contacts in such networks.
posted by paulsc at 4:27 AM on August 3, 2009

I was going to suggest an entirely upfront and honest approach - on your interview, tell them you f****d up and learned a VERY valuable lesson which you'd rather not repeat. Despite your jail time, you're looking forward to rebuilding your life, and a job is a big step in the right direction. Watch me, make sure I don't screw up, etc.

Best of luck :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 5:41 AM on August 3, 2009

It wasn't just felony stupidity, it was felony theft. Employers don't like to hire stupid people, or people who might steal. Employee theft is a huge expense for employers. He must address this with any employer. I made a very stupid mistake, with serious consequences. I made restitution, and am rebuilding my life. or I am making restitution, and am rebuilding my life. If drug use was part of this, he should be getting help with staying clean.

Most job applications ask if you have been arrested. Lying on a job application is grounds for dismissal. Omission on the resume, with full disclosure at an interview? maybe.

Now is the time for him to use every family and friend connection to get a job, any job, and prove himself. If your state has any resources for ex-offenders, make use of them.
posted by theora55 at 7:24 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's probably going to be really hard for him to start out. He needs to be honest about his record on the application...that's the best chance he is going to have.

Employers REALLY do not like theft convictions (is this person going to steal from me now?), so he should really just apply everywhere he can. Start out doing whatever he gets hired at, and try to build up a good resume, so an employer can take that with the criminal record.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 7:24 AM on August 3, 2009

If he does not report the conviction and his employer finds out about it later, they could fire him for it. I have seen that happen several times, once to a guy who was with the company for several years and had a good employee file.

Luckily for your friend, he did not commit a violent crime. Many companies have blanket policies which prevent the employment of anyone with a violent crime on record.

Unluckily for your friend, he stole from his employer. Anyone considering employing him will be taking on a risk that the behavior will be repeated. I don't know your friend, and I don't know if he will repeat his behavior or not. I will take your word for it that he won't. But think of it from the perspective of an HR employee. If you worked in HR and were tasked with filling a position, and interviewed several candidates, would you hire the candidate that stole from his previous employer? Or would you rather hire another candidate, because you know full well that it will reflect badly on you if you hire a guy who stole from his previous employer and he does it again?


These are the things your friend should not do:

1) Lie about the conviction.
2) Omit the conviction.

It is very easy for companies to find these things out.

These are the things your friend should do:

1) Use any old connections he might have from his previous careers. This is by far the best way for an ex-con to get a foot in the door.
2) Get in touch with some sort of organization that can help or give advice.
3) Be completely up front about his conviction.
posted by twblalock at 8:01 AM on August 3, 2009

Many places have good social services for this. Most are affiliated with some sort of church but do not let that stop your friend from talking to someone at them. The service is (generally) motivated by the religious conscience of the volunteers; not related at all to the religious inclinations of the person needing aid.. Call any friend you have affiliated with the public defender or the court system at all and ask them what services exist in your community. Call the YMCA or Catholic Charities in your community and ask them. You know how they say finding a job is a full-time job? Finding a job for an ex-offender is a two-person full-time job with overtime.

Often the best thing to do is as Theora55 suggests: find someone, anyone, who will hire your friend and have him rebuild from there. As I type this, I see I am just echoing the suggestions of most people above, but they're pretty much right. In addition to making use of personal connections and social services to get a job, your friend should find some charitable organization (food bank, for instance) and start volunteering with them. It's going to be very hard without people to vouch for your friend's trustworthiness, rehabilitation and general good-person-ness for him to put this behind him.

It's unlikely--in fact, I'd say it's impossible, but it can't hurt to look into it--that he can have the conviction sealed. If it's sealed, he won't have to disclose it to most employers. Start calling legal aid agencies in your area until you find one that can explain post-conviction sealing and expungement procedures to you/him. Then give them as generous a donation as you can.

Good luck.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:25 AM on August 3, 2009

As an aside, I'd suggest looking at volunteer work in parallel with job-hunting. Obviously a history of theft from employer won't see people jumping to let him work as a collector or in similar roles, but if your friend can score a gig doing, e.g., general care & feeding of animals at the local SPCA it helps build a record of doing something job-like and productive while he looks for a job, and will lift his character in the eyes of potential employers.
posted by rodgerd at 11:46 AM on August 3, 2009

My company recently hired someone who had a conviction for assault.

I don't think they did a background check on the guy first, though -- he apparently came in on his first day and filled out the HR forms, including the standard "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" question. He answered yes to that and was sent off to get proof from his parole officer(?) that he was entitled to work.
posted by vickyverky at 12:03 PM on August 3, 2009

Basically, I wouldn't mention the time served. I'd pad his resume out to cover that time (yes, lie) and let the chips fall where they may.

I work for a small company (50-75 people), and am their only HR pro. I do everything from placing want ads to doing orientation. Even then, I have time to run background checks on candidates.

I've hired TONS of people who had past "transgressions"...even some pretty serious ones. There really is a stigma against people who have been in prison, but I try not to let it affect my decisions.

ONCE...and ONLY once, did someone try to omit their past criminal background. That person was fired immediately once I found out that he had a warrant out for his arrest (it was an administrative error...but why did he lie on the application?). Had he mentioned his past, I wouldn't have thought a thing about it.

So don't lie.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:35 PM on August 3, 2009

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