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.

 

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.

If you have a criminal record and are looking for work, don’t ever give up

Caroline Trude-Rede

Caroline Trude-Rede

Looking for work if you have a criminal record can be a Herculean task. One that requires more than a little out-of-the-box thinking. And perseverance that compels you to never give up no matter what it takes.

A woman in Florida named Caroline Trude-Rede is a perfect example of this. She left a comment on our Facebook page, and we knew from what she wrote that her story needed to be told.

Her message: Never take “no” for an answer. If you think you’re the right person for a job, make sure they know it. And don’t let them turn you down just because you have a record.

Here’s her story. The reason for her felony conviction and incarceration is a bit complicated, but it has to do with the fact that she received Veteran’s Administration benefits based on her father’s military service. The payments, which she thought were like a pension that would continue to be given to her, were actually supposed to stop at her mother’s death in 2003. The result was a felony charge of grand theft and a six-month sentence in federal prison – FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas – that began in January 2018. Up until that time she had never been arrested for anything.

But like most others with felony convictions, surviving prison wasn’t her only challenge. After release, she needed to find a job, not only to pay the bills but because her probation required that she work 32 hours per week.

Two-hundred applications, 10 interviews and no job

So Trude-Rede applied for about 200 jobs during the 3-1/2 months between the time of her release and until she became employed. She applied for a variety of types of work, including taking orders at Panera Bread, answering phones in call centers and stocking items at places like Target and Sam’s Club.

“I was willing to take anything to get employed. I have two college degrees and I was applying for jobs at entry level just to try and get a foot in the door,” she says.

Although Trude-Rede had about 10 interviews, no one would hire her, not even Universal Studios, where she had previously worked for five years in a professional position in the creative department.

And then she interviewed for a graphic designer position at an architectural firm. The interview – which was conducted by her direct boss, the president of the firm and a potential coworker – went well, and she knew that she was the perfect candidate for the job. In fact, she thought she would get it.

Trude-Rede brought up her felony conviction in the interview, but the president of the company had already left, after saying, “I see all I need to see. She is perfectly capable of doing the job.”

The human resources department then emailed her a form to complete for a background check. But 10 days after the original interview, she received an email stating that they had gone a different way.

She refused to take “no” for an answer

When she saw that the position was reposted online a few days later, however, she decided to take action. She refused to take “no” for an answer.

Trude-Rede sent an email stating why she’s the person they should hire. In the email, she included a link to an article on her blog explaining her incarceration, said that she’d never had any interaction with law enforcement before that point and mentioned all the things she had accomplished in prison.

In addition she explained the Federal Bonding Program that protects businesses from financial or property loss that might incur from hiring workers in “at risk” groups and mentioned that his company could also qualify for tax breaks and/or credits if they hire her.

And it worked. She sent the email on Friday, and on Monday she had a response and invitation to interview with the firm’s CEO/owner.

“He started off (the interview) by thanking me for my email and said that he was impressed by my tenacity. The fact that I wanted the job so much and was so determined was extremely impressive to him,” Trude-Rede said. “He also appreciated my honesty and candor. He said he wasn’t quite sure that everything went down exactly how I explained the story, but my frankness about everything was refreshing.”

The next day she received an offer letter and is now very happily employed. “I absolutely love the company. Not just because they took a chance on me, but I truly fit in there. I am not treated any differently by anyone who knows my story and was given a Christmas bonus after only being there three weeks,” she says.

The moral of this story

“Job seekers with a felony on their record should never give up on themselves or their dreams,” Trude-Rede says. “If they want to go back to school because they would like to do something they need a degree for and are worried about employment afterwards with the felony, I say go for it.”

“You define who you are, not what you did in the past. Be humble. Be brave. Know that it is going to be hard, but we all start somewhere. Take chances. A few minutes of courage could change your life. A five-minute email changed mine.”

From the editor: In preparation for interviewing, we suggest that you check out our interview tips, including how to create a turnaround talk and turnaround packet. Preparation and having a plan can make a big difference between getting a job offer or not. Good luck!