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Explaining Your Past

How do I explain my criminal record?

Most ex-offenders are challenged with how to respond to the question, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony? If yes, give details."

If you have been convicted, how should you best respond to this question on an application form?

Do not lie. Lying will just delay the inevitable; the employer will most likely find out about your conviction during a background check. Inform the employer that you will provide details at the interview. You want to do this because you need to be in control of the story relating to your conviction. This part of your story may take three to five minutes. But again, do not talk too much - write just enough to let the employer know you are a new and potentially very productive person.

Once you get to the interview, the interviewer may ask about your conviction. This is the time to follow "The 3 R’s": Responsibility, Regret and Redemption

  1. Responsibility: Take responsibility for your actions. Give a very brief overview of what happened to you - the crime, the conviction, the outcome. You should be able to do this in less than a minute.
  2. Regret: Honestly express being sorry about what you did. It is important to stress that you are sorry about the harm your offense had on the victim, not the harm it has done to you.
  3. Redemption: Focus on how you have changed your life for the better because of this experience. Remember, the employer wants to hire your future, not your past. Let him know you have taken steps to change.

Employers, like many other people. are sympathetic to those who have made mistakes, but who are willing to take responsibility and make sincere efforts to change their lives. It is part of our culture of forgiveness, redemption, and self-transformation.

Sample "Letter to explain your conviction"