Interview tips

Now that you have the interview, here’s what to do


In preparing for an interview, begin by thinking about a time when you felt most secure and at the top of your game, or imagine what that might feel like. Get in the mindset that you are an excellent candidate for the job and will get it. More tips can be found here.

  • Always begin the interview by thanking the interviewer for the opportunity to be interviewed. Politeness opens a lot of doors.
  • Provide short answers to hard questions and long answers to easy questions. Focus more time on the things you want to talk about.
  • Prepare and practice answers for tough questions you think they might ask.
  • Steer the conversation to what your strengths are.

Come prepared with questions, such as “Why did the person who had this job before leave? What in the end is most crucial for you (my boss) to be happy with me if I get this job? What would you like me to accomplish in the first couple of weeks on the job?”

It’s extremely important to keep in mind that the words you use are just a small part of the way you communicate. It is said that the impression you make is based just 7% on the actual words you use and 38% on the tone, pitch, volume and rate of your speech and 55% on your body posture, clothing, facial expressions and gestures.

Dealing with your record during the interview

Be honest. Most employers run background checks and are going to find out about your past, so you do not want to take the risk of getting fired by lying. On the application answer any questions regarding convictions with “will explain in interview.” It is also a good idea to rehearse what you are going to say beforehand. Be brief and concise by spending just a minute on the subject. Have good eye contact with the hiring manager and a sense of openness, compassion, and peace. This energy can be picked up. Remember to smile regularly during the interview.

Larry Robbin, a nationally-known expert in the area of workforce development, advises ex-offenders to give what he calls a “turnaround talk,” which means to be honest and tell that you’ve been in jail or prison but also explain what you have done to turn your life around. This talk is designed to turn the employer’s way of thinking around, so he or she will understand where you’re coming from, and be empathetic to your situation—and, hopefully, ultimately offer you a job. You must practice this talk so you can deliver it well and with sincerity. It should never sound rehearsed or canned.

Here are some things you can say (only if heartfelt and true):

“I had a problem.” (Share enough detail to help them understand that it was not work-related, assuming it wasn’t). Make it a brief explanation with no trigger words Show extreme remorse—understanding what you did and understanding what you did in terms of the family, the victim and yourself.
“I paid my debt to society by being incarcerated.”
“My crime does not define me.”
“I have been rehabilitated.” Convince them that it won’t happen again, because you are a changed person.
“I am now clean and sober (if it was a drug or alcohol problem) and am going to NA or AA meetings each week.”
“If you have any questions about what I have said please ask.”


Robbin also recommends putting together a turnaround packet, which may contain:

  • Any training, schooling or DEUCE (or other institutional substance abuse treatment program) certificates.
  • Letters of reference.
  • Letters about any volunteer work you may have done.
  • Clean print out from DMV if available.
  • Pictures of accomplishments.
  • Papers stating honorable or general discharge from military, if applicable.
  • Evidence of enrollment in GED or Adult Education.
  • Letters of recommendation from former employers even if before incarceration.
  • Evidence that can be shared that demonstrates that you have turned your life around and your incarceration experience has turned out to be a strength and character builder.

Remember what Mark Twain said: “Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment.” Your rehabilitation should now help you to use good judgment.

Remember too that your probation or parole officer may be helpful by speaking to the prospective employer by telephone. Try and make him or her your friend. If you get to your parole appointments on time, demonstrate a good attitude and work your program, the officer can help you in your job search by sharing their experiences with you to an employer.

Many employers are willing to give someone a chance but don’t get too invested in any one potential job. If that employer does not want you, it is the wrong employer. The right employer will say yes!

Six tips to landing the job—and even enjoying the Interview

1. Make the hiring manager like you. Make sure that by the time you leave the room, you’ve found a way to make the person like you. Make a personal connection.

2. Find a reason to care about the hiring manager. Do your homework in advance. Check out their profile on LinkedIn and Facebook to see where they’ve worked and what their interests are. Try to draw out the stories of their life that make them human. When you connect with them, and start to like them, they’ll start to like and care about you.

3. Show them your passion. Display passion for the job you’re interviewing for. Passion and charisma go a long way. Carefully research the company beforehand and figure out how you can benefit the company and help the hiring manager solve its problems.

4. Tell PAR (Problem Approach Resolution) stories related to your skills. Tell each story in 30 to 60 seconds. These can be from a job or volunteer position and demonstrate how you are a problem solver. They include the Problem you faced, the intelligent way you Approached it, and its positive Resolution. Hiring managers are not used to hearing PAR stories, but telling them can help move you to the top of the stack and can be effective in resumes too.

5. Traffic-Light Rule for when it is your turn to talk. The first 30 seconds, the light is green, and the hiring manager is paying attention. The second 30 seconds, the light is yellow, and the hiring manager may think you are rambling or are concerned they will forget what they want to say next. The third 30 seconds, or 90 seconds into your answer, the light is red, and it is time to shut up if you are still talking.

6. Unless the job is not of interest to you, always, always ask for the job at the end of the interview. In the language you feel comfortable using, you need to close the sale. If the hiring manager says something to the effect of “We’re still in the interview process until ’date,’” say “May I follow-up with you on ’date’ if I have not heard from you?” You want to come from a place of confidence, never sounding desperate.

Interview Cheat Sheet and Network Tracker

An organization called Cancer and Careers has created two excellent forms to help you in your job search. Their Interview Cheat Sheet lets you put all your strengths on paper so that you will have something to refer to in the interview.

Their Networking Tracker helps you keep track of all the people you meet, their details, where you met them and how you followed up. If you know Excel you can do the same thing on an Excel spreadsheet and then sort it by name, date or other details.