There are no definite guidelines to clear an interview. Each company is different and their hiring policies vary according to their culture and their overall attitude towards felons. But that does not mean you should not prepare for an interview.
No matter how skilled you are, saying the right stuff at the interview will get you the job. It’s all about confidence and you will be confident when you are prepared for the occasion.
1. Dress appropriately
An interview is all about the impression you make on the hiring manager or the interviewer. A well dressed person always makes a good first impression. And this lays a strong foundation for the entire interview period. An interviewer decides whether or not they want to hire a candidate within the first few minutes of the interview. So making an impression is essential.
Dressing appropriately doesn’t mean wearing expensive clothes. You do not have to buy a suit for an interview. But wearing neat and clean clothes and grooming yourself with a tidy hairstyle will go a long way in making an impression. For men with beards – trim it, comb it and keep it clean.
If you have any violent looking tattoos or marks on your body then try to wear clothes that cover them. If you are wearing a cap or a hat then take it off before you enter the interview room. Dress up in formals or business casuals while attending an interview.
2. Be Punctual
It is often said that “Time is Money” and that is very true in this age where people have busy lives. Nobody likes to wait for others and time is always of the essence. Being punctual is an underrated quality but it is the most essential one.
A person who values other’s time is always respected. You do not want to keep the interviewers waiting for you as they have a lot of candidates to evaluate. If you show up late for an interview you have already made a bad impression even before the interview starts.
Plan to reach the venue at least 30 minutes before the scheduled time. This gives you enough buffer time in case you get stuck in traffic or have trouble finding the address. Also, reaching earlier helps you calm down and be mentally prepared for the interview. You can also freshen up and wipe that sweat off before you face the interviewers.
3. Prepare typical interview questions
Personal questions asked in interviews are mostly the same no matter what role you are applying for. Some questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses” are always asked and most people are not able to speak more than a few lines.
You might feel that you know yourself well and can easily answer this question but that may not be the case every time. When you start describing yourself, you get overwhelmed with information and often times are unable to decide what to say and what to skip.
So the best way to tackle this is by preparing an answer. Note down the qualities you want to highlight and don’t add too many references to personal life. Talk more about past work experiences and achievements. Create a list of your strengths and weaknesses and also be prepared to tell how you handle your weaknesses.
Do not mention counter-productive traits like “short tempered” as a weakness. Nobody wants an employee who has constant arguments with co-workers. Mention weaknesses that won’t hamper your work.
4. Have a future plan ready
As a felon, you might face a lot of challenges and this might be discouraging. After release, most felons have a sense of uncertainty about their future and decide to live life one day at a time. But whether it’s life or sports, you always need a game plan. There are opportunities out there for felons and you can find one if you keep trying.
Make a plan about how you want to approach the next 5 years of your life. List down your skills and check if there is enough scope for them. You might have to upskill or reskill yourself to be job ready.
You can also plan to complete your education while working on a job so that you get better opportunities later. Tidy up your finances and try to maintain a good credit record going forward so that you can apply for a student loan or business loan whenever you need it in the future.
Talk about your future plans if asked in the interview. This is an excellent way to establish your credibility. Many felons end up in prison within a short period from their release. If you have a future plan ready, it assures the interviewer that you will stay out of trouble and work to achieve your goals.
5. Know the company and the role
The main purpose of an interview is to judge if the person can blend into the company culture and if the person’s thoughts align with the company’s vision. Your skills and experiences are already mentioned in your job application, the reason they want to talk to you is to know you as a person. To know if your goals can be achieved while working this job.
Study the company’s history briefly. Visit the company website and check out the “about us” page. Find out what traits they value the most. Some companies value hard work while some others value experience and knowledge. Almost all of them value loyalty. Go through their social media pages and find out about the organizations they associate themselves with. Evaluate if this is the company you want to work with.
Studying a company is not just to crack the interview but also to know if you are choosing a workplace where you will enjoy working. Money is no doubt a big factor but you feel satisfied with your work when you get the right environment. Prepare your answers as per the needs of the company and the role for which you are applying.
For example, a person working as a customer service associate must be a people person and enjoy working with customers and handling their queries and fixing their issues.
6. Be prepared to talk about your felony
Hiding your records is a risky deal. Most organizations have extensive background checks and any records from you past will most likely come out later.
Even if you manage to get a job by hiding you records, you will constantly be in fear of your employer finding out. To avoid this, be honest and upfront about your criminal records during the application process and be prepared to talk about it.
If you have cleared the initial screening process, it means that the company is willing to hire you despite your criminal record. So, you don’t have to fear getting rejected on the basis of your record.
If any question related to you felony conviction comes up during the interview, answer it with grace and dignity. Present your side of the story and explain the circumstances that led to it. Highlight that you have maintained a clean record since your release and what actions you have taken to avoid the same mistake again. Talk about your ambitions and how you plan to achieve them.
7. Work on your communication skills
Get rid of any slang that you might have picked up during your jail time. Speak with humility and be respectful towards the interviewers. They might ask you questions that you are not comfortable with but remember that along with the answer they are also observing how you handle the question.
If you feel you are losing your calm then take a deep breath and regain your composure before you answer the question. Although professionals, interviewers can be as human as any of us and they can have their prejudices and reservations when it comes to hiring felons and they might ask some questions to prove their point. You have to make sure that you assure them that you will be a valuable asset they can’t afford to lose.