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How to talk about your incarceration in a job interview

Nearly 2 million North Carolinians have criminal records. Many of whom have faced barriers while seeking employment or obtaining an occupational license. In October 2019, North Carolina enacted House Bill 770 allowing the eligibility of returning citizens to obtain occupational licenses. This law is a big step in enabling returning citizens to become more marketable and thus more self-sufficient. A prior felony conviction should not prevent employment.

Yet, returning citizens must convince prospective employers that they are not a hiring risk. This can be a harder process when bias is placed upon returning citizens. As a returning citizen, it can help employers if you remain transparent from the application through the interview process. This allows a prospective employer to trust you, and employers appreciate knowing about a returning citizens incarceration upfront.

Approach the interview with a positive mindset. Believe you will make a good impression. Focus less on your criminal record, and emphasize the lessons learned from the mistake. Start your conservation with why the position will be helpful to your new life. Discuss your future and all that you would like to do. It will show how dedicated you are to your life-changing goals.

Every employer is not the same so don’t feel discouraged if the interview doesn’t go well. Interviewing is a helpful tool for engaging with people in the workforce. You will be successful in your chosen career by challenging yourself to keep going. Don’t give up!

These private sector companies have signed the Fair Chance Business Pledge, a promise to remove barriers for returning citizens when applying for work. The workforce can be intimidating for returning citizens, we encourage you to take it one step at a time. It can be helpful to take advantage of support from organizations committed to helping returning citizens find sustainable jobs.

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