Dennis Jarmon, Sr., an employment specialist with the Criminal Justice Resource Center of Durham County, North Carolina, has developed a four-step process that ex-offenders can use during their job interviews.
Here’s how he explains his four-step process that is built on what he’s learned in a more than two-decade-long career that included working for an employment agency, as well as being a corporate trainer and teacher. He’s used this process with many of the formerly incarcerated job seekers he counsels in his current position and says they have found great success with the method.
Step 1: Answer the question about your record. When it comes to answering the question about their criminal background, most people go into a story about this is what happened and end up giving an answer that makes them look like a criminal. Either they don’t acknowledge anything and just say that they made some mistakes in their past or they run down a laundry list of what they’re convicted of.
Instead Jarmon recommends that applicants acknowledge their entire criminal background but only refer to the most recent conviction. For example if your last conviction was in 2012 for a misdemeanor break-in, you could say, “My background is both misdemeanor and felony convictions with the most recent conviction in 2012 for misdemeanor break-in.”
You only give the year, unless it makes a difference. For example, if the crime occurred early in the previous year, specify the month. If it was early in 2012, say January, February or March, because it is further in the past.
Step 2: Explain the reformation process. At that point you should mention anything that you’ve done to improve yourself that puts you in a better light. Any community service, any classes you’re taking that shows you’ve tried to make yourself a better person. That’s what you should talk about next.
Step 3: Emphasize your skills and work experience. You should include the work experience you had while incarcerated, because it’s utilizing, developing and enhancing skills that are relevant in the outside world. I had a gentleman who came into this program who worked in water management for three years in prison. He didn’t want to include it on his application, because it would show that he was locked up. But the experience he had was applicable to jobs that he could apply for. He got interviewed by three managers at one company, and he’s now been there for five years and has been a supervisor at that company for the last two.
Step 4: Make an affirmation statement. This is a closing statement. You should say something like, “Hopefully you will consider all of these things while you’re evaluating me for employment with this company.”
The importance of rebranding
Jarmon also recommends that ex-offenders rebrand themselves.
“There are stereotypes that exist for people who have been incarcerated. Regardless of age they have to reinvent themselves so that they’re not ‘the typical criminal.’ You can say no to a criminal, but it’s harder to say no to a human being who has a record. When ex-offenders get into the employment game they have to know the rules and figure out what they have to do to fit into the mold. How are they like everybody else and this is the value-added person that they are. What makes them stand out,” he says.
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