Back to list

Strategy for Finding Good Jobs for Felons

By Last update December 30, 2014

Finding good jobs for felons requires a good strategy. Like any other difficult task, spending a little time at the beginning to plan your actions will give you a much higher chance of success. The fact that you are reading this right now shows that you want to improve your position in life and want to take the most effective path to that goal.

Gone are the days of every job being listed in the paper for everyone to see. We live in an age now where networks, relationships, and the internet are the most popular means of actually getting hired for a job. The Manpower Group recently conducted a survey of 59,133 recently hired people to find out how they got their jobs*. The results below may surprise you.

How people found their jobs:

  • 41% found their job through networking
  • 25% found their job on an internet job board
  • 11% found their job through a hiring agency
  • 8% applied directly to the company that hired them
  • 4% found their job through an online network
  • 2% answered a job advertisement (newspaper, radio commercial etc.)
  • 10% found their job through other options

These results are extremely important for the justice-involved to understand. As you assume the task of finding good jobs for felons, you want to make sure you are spending your time wisely. Unlike in prison where you are counting down the days, every hour matters on the outside — especially when you are recently paroled. You are on a timer before you run out of money, favors, and options.

Strategy for finding good jobs for felons

Through our experience teaching reentry to felons and non-felons alike, we have discovered how to most effectively manage your job search time. Those who follow the plan listed below have proven to be most effective at finding good jobs for felons.

Spend 60% of your time networking

Strategy for finding good jobs for felons - networking

Networking should account for the majority of the time you spend on your job search. It is proven to be the most effective means of finding available jobs as well as the best way to actually get interviewed and hired. If you look at the list about nearly half of all jobs are landed through networking.

What is networking?

Networking is a term that gets thrown around a lot in business. Essentially, networking is getting to know people who can help you develop your job prospects. You don’t need to be a big shot or the most outgoing person in the world to network effectively, but you do need to make the effort. Take it a step at a time. Begin with people you know, at work and in your social life. Keep your ears open and listen for information that could work to your advantage.

Why should I network?

A lot of good jobs never make it to the pages of a recruitment website or newspaper. They get filled by word-of-mouth and networking. The better the position, the more often it happens this way. This makes finding good jobs for felons difficult if you focus only on advertised jobs. Even if the job is advertised, it helps to know someone inside the new organisation who can give you the inside information. They may even end up interviewing you which will always make it a less stressful experience.

Networking is especially important for those looking to find good jobs for felons. Being able to find jobs with less competition (fewer applicants due to unadvertised openings) and finding someone who can refer you (tell the hiring manager you are a good worker) is hugely beneficial. There is always going to be the question of if you are rehabilitated or not, and having someone to vouch for you will often make the difference between hiring your or not.

For more information on how to network for felons check out our article HERE.

Spend 20% of your time applying for jobs


With only about a third of jobs being filled through job postings, it makes sense to spend a minority of your time on these listings. Searching for and applying for jobs online or through classified ads can be a time-consuming activity, but it is necessary. When you are not networking, you want to be spending half of your time searching through job listings and applying for jobs.

While you will likely find a lot of jobs to apply to online or through a newspaper listing, your odds of actually getting that job are low. This is because there could be hundreds or thousands of other job seekers that see that add at the same time, many of whom will not be convicted felons. On paper, without a recommendation from someone the hiring manager knows, most justice-involved people are not going to have an even chance against those without felonies. This makes a blind resume or application submission much less likely to succeed.

You need to have a little something extra to overcome the handicap of a felony conviction. There are many ways to do this, but few of them are possible when you are just blindly applying to a position. Finding good jobs for felons is very difficult if you only go after jobs that are being advertised broadly.

Spend 20% of your time contacting managers


You need to separate yourself from all the other job applicants in a positive way. Good jobs for felons don’t come without some work. With a negative mark on your application, you need to work harder than the rest of the people applying for that job. Employers are looking for the employee who is willing to try harder and go the extra mile to get something accomplished.

When you have a felony on your record, especially a serious felony, you need to reach out to the decision makers and talk to them. It is very easy to see an application with a felony conviction and say “no.” It is much harder to say “no” to someone in person who makes a compelling case for why they should be hired. Getting in front of the hiring manager is critical to maximizing your chances of being hired.

It isn’t always possible, but you need to make the effort to talk to the hiring manager. A great way to do this is to ask to speak to the hiring manager when you drop off your application. Simply state that you “wish to have a brief conversation with the hiring manager to explain something on your resume before they make any decisions.” If they say they are busy, ask to setup and appointment or to wait until they are free. Don’t let them brush you off.

If you don’t submit the application in person, you need to follow up by phone or email with the company. Again, try to setup some time to meet with the hiring manager or have a phone conversation. You want to be able to provide them with a positive first impression and explain your felony conviction before they have a chance to form any negative impression of you from your application or resume.

Employers will appreciate someone who goes above and beyond what others are willing to do as long as you are polite and professional. This won’t guarantee your success, but it will put you in a much stronger position.

Before you apply make sure you check out our Jobs for Felons list to find out additional information about companies that hire felons. Many good jobs for felons have come from the companies on this list.

* The full results of the survey from the Manpower Group can be found here.

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.