Job Search and Networking: Interviewing for a Job with a Criminal Record

Lesson 11: Interviewing for a Job with a Criminal Record


Interviewing for a job with a criminal record

A job applicant pausing in front of an employer's office door.

Job interviews can be intimidating for anyone, especially if you have a criminal record. You have to deal with the feeling of being judged, the possibility of your record affecting your chances, and more. In this lesson, we’ll go over certain steps you can take to improve your chances of nailing your interview, including what to say about your record and how to bring it up.  

Click on the video below to learn more about handling job interviews with a criminal record.

Having an elevator speech

Going into an interview, it’s good to have an elevator speech prepared. This is basically a 30-second speech talking about your record and your experience. You should mention what your charge was and make a point of taking responsibility for it. Employers don’t want to hear excuses.

An illustration of elevator speech tips: Take 30 seconds or less, mention charges, and take responsibilty.

The bulk of your speech should focus on positive changes you’ve made, things you’ve learned and accomplished, and what you can offer to them and their company. This could include volunteer experience, groups you regularly attend, past work achievements, educational steps you’ve taken, and more.

When giving the speech, be sure to use good body language: make good eye contact, sit up straight, and don’t cross your arms.

A summary of good body language: eye contact, sit up, and don't cross arms.

An elevator speech example

Let’s take a look at an example of a good elevator speech...

Employer: So, I noticed on your application, you indicated that you have a criminal record. I was wondering if you could tell me a little more about that?  

Interviewee: Sure. So in 2007, I was charged with theft and I served one year for it. It’s something I really regret doing and I’ve been working to take control of my life since then. I’ve recently been mentoring at-risk kids and attending a support group for ex-convicts. I also enrolled in a training program for carpentry and got my certificate. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to turn things around, and I’d like to continue moving forward in this direction with your company.  

You’ll want to find the right moment to deliver your elevator speech. The interviewer may ask you about your criminal record, but this isn’t always the case. You might have to bring it up on your own if the opportunity doesn’t present itself. This may seem awkward, but the interviewer will be happier that you were honest with them, rather than finding out about your convictions from a background check.  

A job applicant giving their elevator speech to an interviewer.

Although it may seem tough at times, we encourage you to keep sending out applications and going on interviews. With commitment, hard work, and the tips from this lesson, we hope you'll find a job you love.