New California law — Assembly Bill No. 2147 — helps inmate firefighters gain employment once released

inmate firefightersCalifornia’s inmate firefighters, who have risked their lives for little pay fighting some of the worst fires in the state’s history, will now upon release be able to gain employment in jobs, including firefighting, that require occupational licensing.

This comes thanks to California Assembly Bill No. 2147, sponsored by Assemblymember Eloise Reyes (D-San Bernardino) that was passed in the state’s assembly and senate on Aug 20. It covers inmates who successfully participated in the California Conservation (Fire) Camp Program or a county incarcerated individual hand crew.

Benefits under new law

With certain exceptions, including sex offenses and some violent felonies, the new law proclaims that those leaving prison:

  • Will be given court-ordered “early termination of probation, parole, or supervised release.”
  • Will “not be required to disclose the conviction on an application for licensure by any state or local agency.”
  • Will be able “to withdraw the plea of guilty (for their conviction) and enter a plea of not guilty.”

“Signing AB 2147 into law is about giving second chances,” Assemblymember Reyes says. “Rehabilitation without strategies to ensure the formerly incarcerated have a career, is a pathway to recidivism. We must get serious about providing pathways for those who show the determination and commitment to turn their lives around.”

AB 2147 offers new job opportunities

California is the first state in the nation to sign this type of law offering relief to previously incarcerated individuals who worked as inmate firefighters.

And it’s well deserved. According to the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation, there are about 2,200 inmate firefighters working at fire camps annually. This year, however, there were about 500 fewer, due to the early release of some inmates because of the Coronavirus. According to San Francisco NPR affiliate KQED, the inmates receive between $2.90 and $5.12 per day, depending on their skill level, with an extra $1 per hour when they are deployed to an actual emergency.

AB 2147 allows those who participated in a state or county fire camp to apply for expungement upon release. As a result, they will be able to seek a variety of jobs, including those that require an occupational license.

Occupational licensing necessary for many jobs

In California nearly 200 occupations require licensing from one of the state’s 42 government departments and agencies. An estimated 2.5 million California workers (nearly 20% of the state’s workforce) need an occupational license to work. These include an EMT (emergency medical technician) license that most fire departments require of their firefighter candidates, a license that can be extremely difficult to acquire with a felony conviction.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom wholeheartedly supported this legislation, as it will give thousands of “heroic” individuals who are incarcerated and also firefighters real opportunity and hope, knowing that they have the right to later work as a professional firefighter.

AB 2147 will become state law on Jan. 1, 2021.

Developing resilience can help ex-offenders deal with the challenges they face upon leaving prison

resilienceThose in reentry need to develop a strong sense of resilience to help them deal with the challenges they will face in the weeks and months ahead.

Sometimes referred to as the yo-yo effect, resilience is the ability to bounce back when things don’t go quite the way you expected. You may be depressed and discouraged, but with resilience you’ll likely have more capacity to succeed in your job search and personal life.

Consider this situation: You had an interview a few days ago, and the hiring manager just emailed to say they had chosen someone else for the position. You could just mope around and feel sorry for yourself, or you could say to yourself, “The interview I had with that person gave me more experience in answering job-related questions, and I know that will benefit and serve me well. If I call enough people I’ll find a match and be hired.”

Or how about this one: “You spent the afternoon delivering your JIST card or resume to local small businesses from the list you compiled. In every case the hiring manager was either too busy to talk to you or not in. Instead of feeling discouraged, you could say to yourself, “I will come back in a week or so and try to meet with them again. And besides, I still have 45 more small businesses on my list to visit.”

That’s what we call resilience. You look past disappointment and adversity to the next opportunity. And you’ll keep moving toward your goal of finding a job by paying attention to your activities that support your efforts.

Please always remember, the hiring process is typically very subjective and arbitrary and at best an imperfect process, and to not take it personally.

How to develop resilience

Resilience is a life skill that may not come easy for some people, but it can be developed. And here are a few ways to do it:

  • Practice self-affirmation. Look in the mirror every morning, smile at yourself and say, “I will be a good employee. I’m going to find a job. It just may take a bit of time.”
  • If you don’t succeed at something, look at it with a growth mindset as a learning experience by always praising and rewarding your efforts. And ask yourself how you would do it differently – and better – the next time around.
  • Concentrate on those things you have control over, and take action. Call the hiring managers from the list of companies you’ve compiled, and try to get in to see them. This will help build a sense of hopefulness and even confidence and will work much better than answering online job listings and passively waiting for them to contact you.
  • If something disappointing happens – like you didn’t get the job you were hoping for – consider it to be a temporary setback and look forward to better opportunities in the future. Keep working toward your goal.
  • Don’t waste time thinking of yourself as as unlucky, not likable or overlooked and then feeling discouraged. Instead imagine the life you’d like to live as a movie, and you are playing the leading role. You, the star, will be successful and achieve whatever you hope for. Keep looking forward not back.
  • Develop confidence in your ability to overcome adversity by joining a support group  or an organization like Toastmasters where you may make friends with, and get support from, other members.
  • Make an effort to connect with empathetic and understanding people. These could be friends and family members or new people you meet at support group meetings. Or it might be finding other types of social groups that interest you on Meetup. There are many places to find individuals who might be compassionate, trustworthy and supportive.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep, so you can handle whatever situations may arrive the next day.
  • Exercise regularly, whether taking long walks, running, cycling or going to the gym.
  • Practice meditation or yoga (there are many other free classes on YouTube in addition to this one) or participate in a spiritual pursuit to develop ways to deal with stress. These can especially help one to reach a point of greater equanimity, which fosters resilience.
  • Volunteer. You will get a sense of satisfaction from helping others.
  • Be flexible. If something doesn’t work out one way, try another.

Practice most or all of these tips, and your sense of resilience will increase, along with your ability to perform better in your job search and in life.

And those who’ve experienced serious trauma or severe stress may want to learn more about the Community Resilience Model, which has been used to help people embark on a journey to healing.

For greater success, start your job search with an interest assessment

interest assessmentAt Jails to Jobs we often talk to people who are coming out of prison or jail and are not sure what kind of work they’d like to do. Finding a job that matches a person’s interests may also be a challenge for those who are now unemployed because of COVID-19. Some of their employers have gone out of business, and those people forced to look for jobs may want to explore something new. But maybe they’re not sure what that “something new” might be. And maybe that’s the case for you too.

A good place to start is to take one – or several – of the online free interest assessment evaluations. They’re easy and don’t take too long to complete. They also can provide some excellent ideas for possible types of jobs that those looking for employment might want to consider.

Examples of free career assessment evaluations

CareerOneStop Interest Assessment – This evaluation can be completed in 10 or 15 minutes and requires answering 30 questions related to what activities that people might do as part of their jobs. You indicate in the boxes below the activities how much you would enjoy or not enjoy doing each one. The Interest Assessment compiles a profile of your interests and determines the types of jobs most likely to match those interests.

The next step is to explore those jobs and learn what sort of education is needed to perform them, the median wage for each type of job and the outlook. In other words, what sorts of opportunities will there be for that type of work in the coming years.

O*Net Interest Profiler – In answering the questions, which are nearly identical to those of CareerOneStop’s Interest Assessment, you will rate how much you like to perform various tasks, ranging from writing a book or managing a retail store to building cabinets or repairing appliances.

After completing the assessment, you will get a chart ranking six interests and explaining what kinds of tasks people with those interests like to do. Then you choose from a list of how much preparation – i.e., education and experience – you would be willing to put into getting a job. The site then gives the types of jobs that match particular interests with links to find out more information about each job.

Truity Career Personality Profiler – This simple assessment with basic questions about what people like to do and their personality traits only takes about 15 minutes to complete. When you finish the evaluation you will receive an instant personality profiler with some of the results. To get the full profile costs $19.

Career Explorer – This assessment begins like the others but then goes into more detail, asking whether you are interested in specific careers (mostly professional, which means they usually require a college education) and interested in studying specific fields. It also asks for your name, age, ethnicity and level of education, as well as your email address. (It asks these questions as part of the company’s extensive testing against age, ethnicity and gender bias, so that it can deliver an “Impartial and unbiased” list of questions.)

Other questions relate to skills that might be used in a career. After an extensive drill of questions, you will receive a list of your characteristics, top career possibilities and top degrees you might be interested in studying for. You can also become a member for $48. Membership offers additional information, access to a members’ network and a career library. In addition, there’s a database to search for scholarships. This website is clearly for professionals and wanna-be professionals.

Transfer your skills to another job or field

Also, if you want to know what other jobs you can do with the skills you’ve developed, go to mySkills myFuture, put the name of the jobs you have done, and it will tell you other jobs that require those same skills. You can compare careers, find training and search for jobs.

Consider bringing it up in the job interview

Finally, you may want to bring up in the interview that part of your job search preparation included utilizing job interest assessments that were built by data scientists and expert psychologists. And the assessment is another indication that you are a strong match for the job. This could be a convincing reason for the hiring manager to consider extending a job offer.

How to research companies when looking for a job

research companiesLooking for work is not just about finding a job. But its about finding a place that will be a good fit and where you’re likely to be happy. The best way to achieve this is to carefully research companies that you can target in your job search.

This is an important step in the job search process. The more time and effort you spend upfront, the more likely you are to find a place that’s right for you.

Forget the job search boards. They usually don’t yield favorable results. Instead be proactive. Research the companies in the industry you’d like to work in. Find out the name of the hiring manager, and contact them directly for an informational interview. Not that many people use this tactic, but it works.

A good resource to find the hiring manager, the person with the power to offer a job, is the American Job Center’s employer locator. There are more details on this subject at our website.

Best ways to research companies

But what’s the best way to research companies? You can do the obvious like check out their websites, if they have one, and their profiles on LinkedIn. You can search the internet for information and articles about the company and possibly its executives. A good place to find articles and names of local company executives is in an American City Business Journal weekly newspaper, if you live in one of the 43 cities where they are published. All ACBJ newspapers are online and are invaluable resources, but they do require subscriptions. Many libraries in the cities where they are located have the publication in both hard copy and online formats, however.

Local chambers of commerce serve as excellent resources for those looking for jobs, especially at small companies. These chambers are not just for big cities either. Many medium-sized and small towns have them as well. And many, if not most, have a website with a directory of member businesses, their owners and contact information. The easy way to find them is to do an internet search using the name of the town or city and state followed by “chamber of commerce.”

Be creative in your research

If you really want to find out what it’s like to work in a particular company, you need to be a bit creative and dig deep into internet resources. And don’t neglect to do this. If you think these are only for white-collar, managerial or administrative work, they’re not. These sites include the whole gamut of companies and job types.

Here are a few sites that can help you:

LinkedIn – If you have a LinkedIn account you can check a company you’re interested in, see who in your network works there and get together with them to learn more about what it’s like to be an employee. Once you get an interview, it’s a great place to find out more about the hiring manager’s background.

Great Place to Work – Not many job seekers seem to use this resource, but it’s a good way to find companies with workers who are happy to be there. You can search lists of the best places to work in certain industries or places. You can also search certified companies by search terms, industry, state or size.

GlassdoorGlassdoor offers reviews written by current and former employees about life at particular companies. There’s even a section with reviews of people’s interview experiences, often with the questions they were asked.

Indeed – Another website that offers reviews and salaries, Indeed includes companies – from Sittercity and Starbucks to Apple and AT&T – that provide all kinds of jobs.

CareerBliss – Although similar to the others, Careerbliss provides a bit of a twist. Dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace, it features a list of the 50 happiest companies in America with links to job openings at each of them.

Fairygodboss – Unique in that its reviews are written by and for women, Fairygodboss emphasizes things like maternity leave and work-life balance. It also incorporates articles and a pregnancy newsletter.

Comparably – Another, newer, review and salary website, Comparably has the tagline “Making Work Transparent & Rewarding.” It includes a company culture rating that measures how employees feel about their (non-monetary) benefits and the company’s culture – in other words how happy they are to work there.

Social Media – Although not everyone has them, you can get an idea of how a company wants to present itself by checking out its social media sites. Their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts can offer insights that you may not be able to get elsewhere.

How to start a cell phone repair business


cell phone repair business

Matt Rubio, Jr.

Getting out of prison and not sure what to do for work? Are you a technical oriented person who likes to fix things? If so, you might consider starting a cell phone repair business.

According to business industry research company IBISWorld, the cell phone repair industry is a $4 billion business in the U.S., and it’s expected to continue to grow. There are no major players with more than 5 percent of the market. In fact, many businesses who do cell repair are small shops or single proprietors.

It could be a good business for the right person. But who is that person?

What it takes

We asked Matt Rubio, Jr., the store manager of MD Wireless in Pleasant Hill, Calif.,  who began repairing phones in his father’s shop when he was 13 years old – 12 years ago. And here’s what he had to say about the qualities you need to be successful running a cell phone repair business.

“You need good eyesight, because the screws are very small,” he says. “You also need a steady hand and the patience to continue working on things that don’t always want to cooperate with you. You must have attention to detail and be able to focus on what you are doing.”

You also must be a quick learner, using past knowledge to work on newer phones. Retail skills are very important too, and it doesn’t hurt to be friendly.

“If you find it rewarding to solve problems, this may be the type of job you might want to get into,” he says.

Where to begin

Once you’ve decided that cell phone repair might be the job for you, you need to learn how to do it.

MD Wireless offers a four-day training course. The hands-on instruction covers basic repair for different types of cell phones, a day devoted to iPhones, an introduction to microsoldering and information on how to set up a business, create a business plan and get parts. The classes are small, and the tuition is $1,000.

Other hands-on classes are offered by:

Learning online

With tons of Internet resources these days, is it possible to learn cell phone repair for free online?

“It’s possible, but you don’t really have the help. You can go on YouTube, but it’s sometimes difficult to get answers to questions. It’s also possible to get misinformation online,” says Rubio. “We only have two or three people or even one person in our classes. So it’s one-on-one.”

He also said that once people take a course, they can go online to learn more in-depth information.

There are multiple sites with tutorials about cell phone repair. Some are free, and some cost money. Here are a couple of the better examples:

Udemy – Udemy has a variety of cell phone repair courses, including some that are free.

ifixit – The ifixit website includes an incredible number of easy-to-follow instructions on how to fix specific cell phones. Once you understand the basics, this is an invaluable resource.

Planning the business side

After gaining knowledge of, and experience in, repairing phones, it’s time to try to make money.

It’s possible to do this in several ways. You may want to approach existing cell phone repair shops to see if they need any extra help. Doing that will increase your experience level, if they decide to hire you.

Or you might decide to go out on your own from the beginning. There are two ways to start your own business. The easiest and cheapest way is to start small, and do it yourself.

“If you’re doing it yourself, you might need from $2,000 to $5,000,” says Rubio. That would be used to buy tools and parts for the various phones you expect to fix and expenses related to the vehicle used for the business.

“To advertise, most people post stuff on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp, and tell their friends. And they do their repairs in their home. Or in a car or a van with a stable flat surface,” Rubio says.

Once you get some experience, it’s possible to set up a store, which, according to Rubio, will cost between $20,000 and $40,000. And when you decide to open a store, he recommends carefully checking the demographics of the places you’re considering for the location of that store.

Large cities have a lot of competition, but if you were to open a store in a city of 50,000 to 100,000 in population without much else around for another 50 miles or so, you would have a good chance of succeeding, he says.

Marketing is crucial to success

Keep in mind that, like all businesses, marketing is key. You may be the best cell phone repair person around, but if you can’t attract customers, then you won’t be successful. A lot of business, at least at the beginning, may come from word of mouth, whether through friends and family, or satisfied customers.

You also need to create a marketing plan that may involve a variety of tactics but should include a website, social media (a Facebook page, for example), flyers or brochures, and business cards to hand out to people you meet. You may also want to join your local chamber of commerce, especially if you’re in a smaller city or town. This will offer lots of networking opportunities and a chance to get to know other businesses that might refer work to you.

Some cell phone repair technicians partner with someone who can do the marketing for them, so they can concentrate on what they do best – fix phones.


Editor’s noteAt this year’s Global Homeboy Network Gathering, we discovered Cracked it, a London-based nonprofit that, like Jails to Jobs, is a member of the network. A unique social enterprise, Cracked It operates a five-day repair bootcamp that teaches formerly incarcerated young people and at-risk youth between the ages of 16 and 24 how to repair cell phones and create a business doing so.

Learn how to find and apply for federal jobs

federal jobsThe federal government has thousands of job openings every year. From positions as national park rangers, lawyers and medical professionals to carpenters, electricians, cooks and clerical workers, federal agencies provide an exceptional range of opportunities. They also offer competitive pay and excellent benefits. And most people with criminal records are welcomed and eligible to apply — with some exceptions.

The only issue could be how do you manage to navigate the bureaucracy and get one of these positions? Applying for government jobs can be more involved than applying for those in the private sector. Although they may have the appropriate qualifications, many applicants are disqualified because they make minor errors, such as not including a date or sufficient work experience details. Or they forget to upload a required form.

Government officials realize that applying for federal jobs is a challenge for many people. And, in order to broaden the pool of diverse candidates, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has created a series of webinars. They are presented by the staff of the OPM’s Recruitment Policy and Outreach division. Although the webinars are free, each is limited to 1,500 participants. And registration is required.

The webinars, and the dates they will take place are:

Writing Your Federal Resume

In this webinar, participants will learn how to write a competitive federal resume. It will be offered on:

  • July 23, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
  • August 10, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
  • August 27, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
  • Sept 15, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
Navigating USAJOBS – Finding and Applying for Federal Jobs

USAJOBS is the federal government’s employment website. This webinar will help job seekers navigate the site. They will learn how to create a profile, search for desired positions, apply for jobs and check their application status. It will be offered on:

  • August 5, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
  • August 26, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
  • Sept 9, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time

Learning how the federal government conducts interviews will give applicants a better understanding of what will take place when they happen. This webinar covers the types of interviews that federal agencies conduct, how they conduct them and how to prepare. It also includes information on the questions that interviewers are likely to ask and how to respond using the S.T.A.R. (Situation/Task, Action, Result) method. The dates for this webinar are:

  • July 27, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
  • August 6, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
  • August 25, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
  • Sept 17, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern Standard Time
  • Sept 30, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

Once you are ready to find and apply for a federal government job (or jobs), in addition to exploring USAJOBS, you may want to consider The U.S. Postal Service. They are constantly hiring new employees and provide excellent opportunities for those who qualify. One of our most popular articles offers information on just how to go about applying for a postal service job. Good luck!


The importance of letters of recommendation in a job search and how to request them

letters of recommendationLetters of recommendation can be essential items to gather in preparation for a job search, but they’re especially important if you’re coming out of prison and looking for work. Along with a well-prepared resume or JIST card and your turnaround packet, one or more letters of recommendation may be what convinces a hiring manager to offer you a job. And you might want to request these before leaving prison.

That’s exactly what Dana Wilson of Fresno, Calif., did.

During her 9-1/2 years in prison, Wilson took advantage of every opportunity that came her way. “I felt that something must be wrong with me on the inside that I made choices that made me end up where I did,” she says. “I checked out what kind of groups they had (in prison) and jumped right in. I took advantage of every single self-help group I could get my hands on. I got certificates left and right. It was a never ending growing experience for me.”

And part of that growing experience was training for several types of work inside prison and deciding to concentrate on one of them. For 4-1/2 years, Wilson worked at the CALPIA Dental Lab, where she learned how to create dental protheses. And while doing so, she was thinking ahead to how she would find work once released.

Dana Wilson

Dana Wilson

Get letters of recommendation from multiple supervisors

As part of her planning process, she requested letters of recommendation from a series of supervisors.

“When I knew my first boss was going to retire, I asked him for a letter of reference. The boss underneath him got that position. So I waited a couple of months and asked him for a letter of reference. Then they hired a new guy and I asked him too,” she says.

And those three letters came in handy when she got out of prison, returned to Fresno and applied for a position at a dental lab. She gave all of them to the hiring manager.

“When I applied for this job I laid everything out on the table,” Wilson says. “When they asked what’s PIA (officially known as CALPIA), I told them it’s the (California) Prison Industry Authority. They looked kind of weird. So I said I’ve been in prison, but let me tell you what I’ve done.” That’s when she told them about all the classes she had taken, the groups she had participated in and the certificates she had earned, all of which are kept in a neatly organized binder, what we call a turnaround packet.

The lab where Wilson worked as a dental technician – her first job out of prison – closed, and she’s had two other jobs since then. And she gets a letter of recommendation from every place she works.

“I think it’s really, really important for people who have been incarcerated to do that. If they run a background check and things pop up it will bring questions to the employer’s mind,” she says. “I can say this is who I was but this is not who I am today. My past doesn’t define who I am now.”

Tips on how to solicit letters of recommendation

Getting a supervisor from a prison job to write you a letter of recommendation may be the best way to begin. That way you’ll have something to start out with. But if you didn’t bother to do that or don’t have a good working relation with your prison job supervisor, don’t worry. Here are some other approaches you can take.

When soliciting letters of recommendation:

  • Make a list of potential people to ask. These could be former supervisors both inside and outside prison, teachers of courses you’ve taken or supervisors at places you’ve volunteered.
  • Contact your possibilities first by phone – or in person if you can – to see if they’re willing to write a letter of recommendation for you. And, if they are, follow up with an email. Be sure to send them your resume or JIST card and describe the type of work you’re looking for. You may feel shy and afraid to ask for recommendations, fearful that they might say, “No.” It’s important to overcome your fear and just do it.
  • If it’s a former supervisor, you may want to remind them of the skills you bring to your work and some of the specific things you accomplished while on the job. You need to make it easy for someone to write the letter and also make sure they highlight your most important strengths and accomplishments.
  • Include the date by which you would like to have the letter completed. (It’s best to ask for a date at least a week or more before you actually need it.)
  • Be aware that these letters can be written so they can be given to hiring managers at a variety of places you will apply to, like Wilson did. Or they can be addressed to an individual hiring manager for a specific job you’re applying for.
  • Make sure to send a thank you note – either hand written or by email – to every person who writes a recommendation letter for you.
  • It’s possible, but unlikely, that someone will ask you to write the letter of recommendation yourself and they’ll sign it. If that’s the case, you can find lots of examples online. It’s best to use these examples for ideas of what to include and not copy them word for word, however.

How to create a turnaround talk to convince employers to hire you

turnaround talkOnce you have your turnaround packet together for your job interview, it’s time to create a turnaround talk to go along with it.

The purpose of this “talk” is to tell the truth about your conviction and to emphasize that you’re not the same person you used to be and that you have turned your life around. And the evidence is displayed in your turn around packet for employers to clearly see. Your goal is to engage their interest and empathy, to shine a light on how you’d make a good employee and hopefully be offered a job. As in the case of the turnaround packet, the idea for the turnaround talk originally came from Larry Robbin, a nationally-known expert in the field of workforce development.

Things you might want to say

Here are things to consider, as you think of what you’re going to say:

  • Plan for the fact that once the interview has progressed sufficiently and you’ve also established rapport with the hiring manager, say something like, “Before we move on, I just wanted to let you know about my life situation and give you a little bit of information about myself.”  Then lead into your turnaround talk.
  • Explain your situation. Maybe your parents stopped supporting you as a teenager and you ended up homeless. Or you did something without thinking, but learned your lesson and won’t do it again. Or you hung around with the wrong crowd but don’t do so anymore.
  • Give a brief explanation of the facts. Think of what you did and rephrase it in more gentle terms. Instead of talking about burglary, say you took some things you shouldn’t have taken. If you were a drug addict, say you had a substance abuse problem and, if true, you went through a recovery program and are committed to the maintenance of your recovery. If you killed someone, say you took a life.
  • Express the fact that you’re deeply sorry for your crime and you understand how it affected the victim, their family, your family and yourself.
  • Tell the hiring manager what you learned from the experience and how you turned your life around. Show them the turnaround packet and go through all of your accomplishments before, during and after incarceration.
  • Ask them if they have any questions, and tell them you’ll be happy to answer them.
Practice your turnaround talk

Carefully prepare your talk and practice it over and over again, so as not to sound memorized or rehearsed. And delivering it sincerely from your heart and effectively should help the hiring manager see that you have learned from your experience, worked hard to improve yourself and are ready to be a productive and valuable employee.


Tips on how to succeed in a video job interview

video job interviewThe coronavirus has changed our lives in many ways, including how we interview for jobs. Although unemployment numbers have soared, some companies are still hiring. They are, for the most part however, using a technique not usually employed in the past – the video job interview.

Tech companies, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Google, were onboard early with the practice, and many others have followed. It’s impossible to know what will happen in the future, but video interviewing may go on for months to come.

How to prepare for a virtual interview

A virtual interview requires the same preparation as a regular interview. You need to:

  • research the company and the hiring manager.
  • put together a list of questions that you will ask.
  • study a list of potential questions that you may be asked and practice them.
  • get a good night’s sleep beforehand, etc.

There are, however, different requirements for these interviews that you should be aware of. Here are some of the things you need to do in preparation and during the interview:

What you need to do differently

Learn how to use the video conferencing software. If you’ve unfamiliar with the video conferencing software the hiring manager will use, look for some online tutorials on how to use it and go through them a few days before the interview

Make sure your technology works. First of all you’ll need a computer with a working camera and microphone. Make sure you have the bandwidth that can accommodate video streaming. Although a computer is preferable, if you don’t have one, you can use your smart phone or tablet. But be sure that whatever you use is propped up and doesn’t need to be held.

Choose a place with no distractions. Choose a quiet place for the interview. This could be a home office, if you have one, or the kitchen table or another quiet place at home. Make sure no one else will be around, and if you have a dog that barks, it might be best to put it outside or ask a friend to take care of it for an hour or two. It’s best to have a blank wall behind you so there are no distractions, and the hiring manager will concentrate on you instead of what else is in the room.

Make sure there’s plenty of light. This could be natural or artificial light, but it’s important that the hiring manager can see you clearly.

Dress professionally. Yes, you’re at home, but you still need to make a good impression. Wear the same sort of outfit that you would if you were going to an in-person interview. Avoid bright colors and elaborate jewelry, however, because these may be distracting online. 

Get there early. This is just as important as when participating in a face-to-face interview, maybe even more so, since it may take a while to sign in.

Look into the camera. This may take some practice, maybe with a friend beforehand, but make sure you’re looking into the camera on your computer rather than the face of the hiring manager on the screen. Looking directly into the camera means you will be making eye-contact with the person interviewing you. And if you’re using your smart phone or a tablet, make sure you’re centered on the screen.

Speak carefully. When video conferencing, there can be lag time between what you say and when the person on the other end hears it, so speak slowly (but not too slowly to sound unnatural), and enunciate clearly. Also wait several seconds after the interviewer speaks to make sure you don’t interrupt them.

Don’t forget the importance of body language. Sit up straight with feet planted firmly on the floor. Make proper eye contact by looking into the camera on your computer. Don’t forget to smile.

Show enthusiasm. You won’t be able to start off the interview with a handshake, but you can show your enthusiasm when you first connect. Begin the interview by saying that you are happy to meet the hiring manager, and thank them for taking the time to talk to you.

Try a power pose. Right before the interview, you may want to try a power pose, but not in front of the computer or with the microphone on. Researchers have found that assuming a power pose for two minutes before an interview gives people the confidence they need to make a favorable impression.

Send a thank you note. Don’t forget to send a thank you note after you finish the interview. Since this can be an email or hand-written note, make sure you have the hiring manager’s email address or physical address, depending on which type you choose to send.


How formerly incarcerated job seekers can create a turnaround packet that will impress potential employers


turnaround packetOne of the most important things those in reentry can do to help conduct a successful job search is to create a turnaround packet and the talk to go with it. And with people sheltering in place, there’s no better time to do it than now.

While we’ve covered this on our website and extensively in our book Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed, we’ve never written a blog article about it. And I suddenly realized that fact while sitting in on “Ready, Set, Goal,” an online forum conducted by Oakland, Calif.-headquartered nonprofit Root & Rebound. It was all about what they call a rehabilitation packet and we refer to as a turnaround packet. But it’s basically the same thing. And it can be a very powerful tool.

Packet shows you’ve turned your life around

We originally got the idea from Larry Robbin, a nationally-known expert in the area of workforce development. And its purpose is to convince hiring managers that you’ve turned your life around. You’ve made the effort to improve your skills, character and relationships. You are not the same person you were when you made the mistake that got you incarcerated.

This packet should affirm how you have been rehabilitated and won’t reoffend. It can include a variety of items and be reconfigured depending on the type of job you’re applying for. With people staying at home and many businesses on hiatus, now is the time to spend putting a turnaround packet together.

“Start by making a list of all the accomplishments you’ve achieved since release and even before being incarcerated — leadership positions inside, if you were in the honor dorm, had access to the honor yard, your Involvement with a faith-based community, classes you took, mentoring or sponsoring that you’ve offered, inside and out, everything you can think of,” said Nicole Jeong, Root & Rebound’s Los Angeles site director and senior staff attorney during the forum.

Things to include in a turnaround packet

Here’s what we recommend including (but be sure to only include items that show you have been rehabilitated and are not the same person who offended):

  • Letters from groups you’ve done volunteer work for.
  • School enrollment forms.
  • Certificates of completion of training programs (both pre- and post-incarceration).
  • Courses you took while incarcerated.
  • A clean printout from the DMV, if you have a good driving record. Visit your local DMV office, and ask them to print one out for you.
  • Honorable or general discharge papers from the military, if you served. If it was a dishonorable discharge, don’t include it.
  • Photos of your accomplishments as a volunteer.
  • Copies of award certificates or other forms of recognition.
  • A copy of a clean drug/alcohol report, especially if you were arrested for drug use or have been in an alcohol or a drug rehab program.
  • Documentation of restitution, if you had to pay restitution to a victim or victims.
  • Photos of any hobbies or interests you might have, such as car or motorcycle restoration, dressmaking, artwork, furniture refinishing, gardening or whatever.
  • Photos of family, children and even pets. It can demonstrate you care, that you’ve rebuilt relationships, and are responsible and share common values with the hiring manager.
  • Accomplishments before the offense/incarceration can be good to include as well.
  • Your resume and master application.
  • Copy of your sobriety coin/chit, especially if your conviction was alcohol or drug related.
Don’t forget letters of recommendation

You should also include letters of recommendation, four if possible and two from people that recognize the fact that you have a conviction.

‘Sit down and think about your life and all the relationships you have. It can be someone with whom you volunteer, an employer. People at your church. The pastor. If you’re a member of a community group, get the leader to write a letter,” said Felicia Espinosa, Root & Rebound’s Fresno site director and senior staff attorney, during the online forum. The recommendation letters can also come from former employers or even a landlord who you have a good relationship with.

When you ask people to write a recommendation letter, “Give them as much information as possible. Tell them what you want them to talk about. Be very specific. It makes it easier for them, and you’re going to get exactly what you want,” she said.

For example, if you volunteer for an organization, you might ask your boss to include the fact that you’re a very hard worker, you always show up on time and get along with the staff employees or other volunteers, if that is the case.

Friendly reminders are sometimes needed. Give the person who has agreed to write the letter a sample of what you want included. Offering to draft the letter for them can be helpful for some. And if you do draft any letters, remember that each person’s must be totally different.

Once you gather all of the items together, put each of them into a protective plastic sheet and arrange them in a binder. Make sure the first page has basic information about yourself and a note thanking the hiring manager for taking the time to interview you. If you’d like to give the prospective employer a copy of your turnaround packet, never give them the originals. Take copies of everything.

A lot of work, but worth it

It’s quite a lot of work, but your potential employer is sure to be impressed by your effort and, hopefully, by the changes you’ve made in your life. The process of putting together the turnaround packet will help you realize many positive things to talk about in your interview and give you confidence when the day arrives.

Remember to plan ahead and decide the things to highlight and emphasize that will demonstrate your rehabilitation. This is important, since you may not have enough time to go through your entire packet with the hiring manager during the interview.

A turnaround packet can also be useful to share with your family and friends, as well as in family court and other court proceedings, emphasizing to the court and all those who review it how you truly have changed and been rehabilitated.

In a later blog article, we will discuss the turnaround talk that you can prepare to go with the turnaround packet.