If you’re like many job seekers, job interviews can get you nervous. You want to make your best impression and give the right answers to land a job. For people with less than perfect job histories or former offenders the prospect of a job interview can be more daunting. How should you answer questions about your spotty work record? How do you handle questions that hone in on your past criminal activity?
You can overcome these obstacles by practicing answers to difficult questions and paying attention to your body language.
Here we join our partner ISEEK in sharing these tips to improve your chance of landing a job:
Never lie. Don’t put false information on your resume or application either. Lying will disqualify you when the employer does a background check or checks your references.
Answer questions directly. Address any concerns an employer might have about your past. Then steer the interview back to your skills and the positive traits that you bring to the job. Don't give too much information or too many details about your past.
For example: “I can see why that gap in my work history might concern you. But that was several years ago and since then I have maintained a solid work record. I come to work on time. I am a very hard worker and quick learner."
Address your criminal history midway, if possible. Avoid talking about negative issues at the beginning or the end of an interview. Employers are more likely to remember their first and last impression. Give a summary of your qualifications at the end of the interview.
Talk about your activities and plans. Emphasize the education and job training, community service, and other activities you have participated in since your release. Talk about your career goals and how the job you are applying for fits them.
Assure the employer. If asked about your problems (such as convictions or incarceration) tell the employer that you have learned from your mistakes and have corrected them. Say that you will give 100 percent effort to the company and are willing to work late or come in early.
And send positive messages to employers even when you aren’t speaking. Employers hire workers who they trust and think will be enjoyable to work with.
That’s why you should also pay attention to your posture and eye contact during your practice. Some people might think that you are lying or hiding something if you don’t maintain eye contact with them. Send a signal to employers that you are interested in the job by standing and sitting tall and using facial expressions that show you’re engaged, friendly and likeable.
Need more help? If you need to address a criminal record, you can attend a free New Leaf workshop at a Minnesota WorkForce Center. This course gives you special job search strategies, including how, when and why to disclose your record, ways to address concerns from employers, methods for handling tough interview questions, and information on the Work Opportunity Tax Credit , Federal Bonding Program and Ban the Box law.
Check out our calendar of events for job seekers and search for New Leaf workshops for more information.