Going for a job interview can be nerve wracking for anyone. You’ve got to make sure that you dress appropriately, arrive on time - or just a few minutes beforehand - and have a few copies of your resume printed out to take with you. Sometimes you’ll also need copies of your qualifications. For ex-offenders, there’s an added level of stress as you may have to answer questions about past convictions. It might seem particularly challenging to leave a positive impression in your interviewer’s mind.
If you’re an ex-offender, the key to having a great job interview experience is to ensure you’re prepared in every way possible. Here are some useful tips on how you can prepare yourself for your next interview:
Know your criminal record
Sometimes, your criminal record can contain false or inaccurate information. Your first step should be to check your criminal record so you know exactly what’s there, and review and take action against any incorrect information.
Even if the information is correct, it would be useful to remind yourself of the exact charges and convictions so you can tackle any questions that arise in that regard.
You can obtain an individual criminal record here for your potential job application. Please make sure that you provide the right purpose for your police check application.
Practice your answers
It’s possible that as an ex-offender, you might be asked to explain your criminal history or the steps you’ve taken to change and develop yourself since your last conviction. It’s important that you take the time to consider every possible question that could be asked during the interview, and start practising your answers before a mirror or a friend.
Once you have the list, start to generate answers that sell your skill set and why you are right for this particular role. Practising your answers will not only help you come up with great responses but will also give you a confidence boost, which will come across positively in the interview.
Remember to deal with questions relating to your criminal record briefly, and always finish on a positive note. Talk about your plans for the future and the changes you’ve initiated since your last offence, to make sure you never commit such an offence again. It’s always a good idea to talk about positive initiatives such as, joining an AA group, going to counselling, or even reconnecting with family for support.
Always respond truthfully and accept complete responsibility for past actions
It won’t help you to lie or provide false information during the recruitment process because the truth might come out when your potential employer does a background check or calls one of your references. It’s important to own your past. Highlight the skills and expertise you bring to the role, such as your work ethic, attention to detail, communication skills, etc. Impress the employer with your honesty and confidence.
Know when to speak about your past
For many ex-offenders, their criminal history will always be an area of concern for potential employers. Try not to talk about this when you first arrive or make it the last thing you discuss before your interview ends. First and last impressions always remain, so allow the conversation between the two of you to flow naturally.
At the same time, make sure that once your criminal history has been discussed, you shift the focus to your strengths and positive experiences.
Place a strong emphasis on your current goals and positive activities
A great way to steer the conversation in a positive direction after discussing your criminal record is to outline the goals you have for the future. These could be for further training and development, or for the field of work you are passionate about pursuing. Your contributions to the community could also reflect favourably on your character. Always tie in how your current goals relate to the job you are applying for now.
Be aware of your body language
Sometimes, we send out the wrong message through our body language, without even realising it. When you cross your arms, avoid eye contact and speak inaudibly it will appear as if you are not interested in the job at all. An employer may, as a result, think you are not interested in the job, or even hiding something when in fact, it could be that you are simply nervous or anxious about making a good impression. Here are some simple body language tips to remember during an interview:
- Always make eye contact - Making good eye contact shows that you are confident and have nothing to hide.
- Smile - Smiling shows that you are friendly and approachable. Sometimes when people are nervous they forget to smile, but smiling, shows a genuine interest in what the interviewer is saying and the role you are applying for.
- Have a firm handshake - Always wait for the interviewer to extend their hand first, and when they do, ensure your handshake is firm and you make eye contact when you shake their hand.
- Don’t slouch - Regardless of whether you are sitting in front of their desk or they are walking you to the lift, maintain good posture and don’t slouch.
Make sure that you are dressed appropriately for the interview. It’s far better to be overdressed than underdressed, so when in doubt, err on the side of caution and wear formal business attire.
Arrive early to your interview
Arriving 5 minutes early for your interview shows that you are eager and punctual. Just make sure you don’t turn up too early, as this can put pressure on the employer to potentially finish what they are doing quickly to see you, which could be inconvenient for them.
Following up after an interview is a great way to show that you are really interested in the role. It will also keep your application fresh in the interviewer’s mind. Allow for a few days to pass before you make a phone call or email, and keep it brief, professional, and friendly.
Preparing for an interview can be stressful for anyone. By following these simple steps you’ll be able to present your best self in any job interview. So do your very best at your next interview and hopefully land the job you’re applying for!