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The Dreaded Question

Job Readiness | Job Seeking | Interviewing | Resources | For Employers

Have you been convicted of a felony?

Thanks to your well-written resume, you got your foot in the door for an interview. Based on your confident answers during the interview, the employer is impressed with your skills, abilities, and motivation. Then, the employer asks, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" You freeze and think to yourself, should I lie? The answer is NO! Many employers will hire individuals with criminal history; however, employers are quick to fire a person for lying on their application or during the interview. Be truthful when answering this question and the way you communicate your situation is just as equally important. Use the examples below to help formulate your answer. Practice your answer in front of a mirror until you feel comfortable with it.

Interviewer: On your application, you indicated that you have been convicted of a crime. Will you explain this to me?

Applicant: I'm glad you asked because I want you to feel comfortable about hiring me. I want to assure you that it had nothing to do with my previous employers. I took some things that didn't belong to me, and as a result, I spent some time in jail. I used that time to improve myself and decide what field I wanted to get into. I enrolled in clerical courses and can type 50 words per minute. I am familiar with several word processing software programs and have excellent phone skills. I am very interested in learning all I can about this industry and I know I would be an asset to your organization.

In this example, the applicant has spent very little time explaining the conviction in comparison to the time talking about his or her skills and abilities.

Applicant: When I was young, I got mixed up with the wrong crowd and got in trouble for breaking into cars. We all do things when we are young that we regret. I used the time to my advantage by completing a training program in air conditioning and heating, and received my certificate. I've researched several air conditioning companies in the area and your company is well respected. I would really like to be a part of your team.

In this example, the applicant briefly explains troubled past and shows genuine interest in the company.

Applicant: In my past, I was involved in drugs, but that is all behind me and I've taken control of my life. I have two years experience in food service and want to stay in this industry and learn as much as possible. As a result of my past, when you hire me, your company is eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which can save you up to $2,400. Are you familiar with this program?

In this example, the applicant uses the WOTC as an added incentive for the employer to hire him or her.

Before you go to an interview, write down your answer to this question and practice saying it.