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How to Find Employment for Felons By Understanding Job Postings

By Last update January 12, 2015
Job postings - finding employment for felons

Employment for felons is difficult to find when you don’t have a lot of experience reading help wanted ads or job postings. There are a lot of unwritten rules and lingo you might not be aware of if this is your first time looking for a job or looking specifically for employment for felons. When the really good jobs for felons are few and far between, you want to make sure that you fully understand the process when you are applying to ensure that you have the best chance possible of being hired.

Check out our full Job Search Guide for felons to find additional job search information and our list of companies that provide jobs for felons at here.

Keys to finding employment for felons

Before you look at job postings or help wanted ads, it is vital to have a good awareness of your skills, knowledge and experience. You want to be able to match yourself to roles that suit your skills and needs. As a general rule, if you can meet 80% of the requirements that an employer is looking for, it’s worth your time applying. The 80% rule is for non-felons. When searching for employment for felons, you should loosen up your requirements a bit and apply to any job that you meet around 50% of the requirements.

There are large number of job listing sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, and Craigslist. Most of them will use the common terminology we discuss below.

Duties / Job Responsibilities / Job Description

This is what you are going to be paid to do. Be sure you read this section on the job application or ad carefully. You want to have a strong understanding of what your employer is looking for before you apply. Make sure that you are fully able to fulfill all of the duties that are listed in the section before applying. If you are unable to do so, you are going to have a hard time keeping the job even if you are hired. Finding employment for felons is hard enough once, let alone a second time in a short period.

When you are invited to come in for an interview, it is a good idea to reread this section as well. You want to not only know what you will be doing but have a few questions about the work you will be performing. Most people skim this section. If you can show that you are thorough and carefully read the job description you can stand out from other candidates.

Required skills and preferred skills

Required skills: These are skills you must have to do the job in the eyes of the company. When finding employment for felons, you ideally will be able to meet the majority of the required skills. If you don’t have these, it is going to be much less likely that you will be interviewed.

If you don’t exactly meet the requirements, think about what other experience you have that might be a good substitute. For example, if you are applying for a position as a janitor that requires two years of janitorial experience, you could make a strong argument to the hiring manager that you meet the requirements if you have two years of experience doing prison maintenance. Fixing things is close to cleaning things. Always try to find ways to substitute similar experiences to fill any gaps in experience you might have.

If you can make a strong case that you can meet at least half of the requirements, you should apply to the position. Traditional job search advice says you should meet at least 80%, but as a felon you need to cast a wider net. If you meet half of the requirements, especially the experience requirements, you should apply.

Preferred skills: These are the additional skills and experience that companies would like you to have, but are not essential to the job. Preferred skills are often what makes the difference between two similar candidates. A good way to think about it is that required skills are “must have” skills while preferred skills are “nice to have” skills that are not deal breakers.

Don’t be intimidated if you see a long list of preferred skills after a relatively small list of required skills. Companies love to put a lot of skills on the preferred list that they don’t expect most candidates to have. Companies almost never find a candidate that meets all, or even most, of their preferred requirements. If you meet the required skills for a job, but don’t meet any of the preferred skills, you should still apply.

You are going to see a lot of job ads with unrealistic requirements. If you think you would be a good fit and could do a great job, don’t be afraid to submit your application. When finding employment for felons, the worst thing a company can do is tell you “no.”

Overview / About the Organization / About Us

This section gives an overview of the company and the type of work that they do. Some companies also give a description of their company culture, which is useful to note when looking for employment for felons. Many companies are very interested in finding someone who fits their company culture. That is someone who has similar beliefs to those that the company holds.

As a justice-involved person, you are going to have your values and beliefs questioned. If you can show that you fit the values and beliefs of a company, it will be much easier for your interviewer to believe that you are rehabilitated and would make a good employee.

Common job listing lingo

Entry-level position: Entry-level position means that workers will help other employees that rank above them in the company’s pay system. Entry-level positions usually require the least amount of education and experience in the company. Entry-level positions usually pay the least amount, but can require some responsibility. Most employment for felons will be entry-level positions.

Mid-level position: Mid-level position means that workers will be paid more than entry-level employees, but that they will be helping higher-level employees or managers. Mid-level positions usually require some education and/or experience. They usually invole a fair amount of responsibility and are not the most common employment for felons. If you have had previous experience in the field you are applying to before prison, these positions will not be out of the question, though.

High-level or management position: High-level or management position means that workers will be paid the most in the company. However, these positions require the most education and/or experience. High-level or management positions also require the most responsibility in the company. These types of positions are very uncommon for felons unless they have personal connections or have been working in the industry after prison for several years.

Fast-paced environment: Fast-paced environment usually means that employees must work in busy and often stressful situations.

Works well with deadlines: Works well with deadlines means that employees will probably have to complete tasks within a certain amount of time. Employees will probably be expected to work extra hours or more hours to finish these tasks by the time they are due.

Team worker: Team worker means that employees will be working with one another rather than by themselves.

Self-starter: Self-starter means that employees will work without a lot of supervision by mid- or high-level employees.

Good communication skills: Good communication skills means that employees will probably be speaking and maybe even writing to customers and with one another.

Good English skills: Good English skills means that employees will have to speak and maybe even write to customers and with one another mainly in English. It’s iImportant to look at the word that comes before “English” in the job description. For example, fair English skills means that employees may not have to have to talk a lot with customers. Only basic conversation may be necessary. Excellent English skills, however, probably means that employees have to be able to speak with customers or one another in English a lot. Employees will probably have to be able to explain job-related information in detail using English.

Transportation: Transportation means that employees must be able to get themselves to either the job location or sites where jobs are being done. For example, a landscaping job may require that employees show up to the company location and the sites where landscaping is being done. However, many landscaping-type jobs require employees to show up at the company location while the company drives them to job sites.

Good driving record: Good driving record means that employees will be driving some sort of vehicle. Companies requiring good driving records will probably depend on workers to complete some part of their business. For example, a good driving record will be required for food delivery. An excellent driving record may be required for a truck delivery job since the merchandise in the truck may be very valuable.

Room for advancement: Room for advancement means that employees may be able to move from an entry-level to a mid-level position or from a mid-level to a high-level position.

This guide should put you well on your way to finding employment for felons. Don’t forget to check out our full Job Search Guide for felons to find additional job search information and our list of companies that provide jobs for felons at here. These resources are tailor-made to help find employment for felons.

Adam Sanders has worked as a reentry advisor, program leader, and teacher at San Quentin State prison in San Quentin California for several years. He co-founded San Quentin's financial literacy program and is passionate about helping former offenders successfully re-enter society and find personal and financial success. Adam also has nearly a decade of experience working in Marketing and Finance for large software companies and an MBA from Northwestern University.