Building a Resume When You Have a Criminal Record

A resume is your first introduction to a prospective employer, so you want to make it stand out. NDICA is here to help with some tips to make your resume the best it can be. NDICA members can also take advantage of online education courses to brush up on soft skills that can make a big difference in a job search. Join NDICA today to gain access to these valuable courses and take advantage of the other great membership privileges.

Tip 1: Do NOT lie on your resume, application or any other employer documentation.

False information will eventually be found out and it could keep you from any position the particular employer may have available. The four keys to a great resume is to make it truthful, targeted, brief and accurate. List your skills in a positive way. Highlight skills and abilities that pertain to the specific job you’re applying for. Limit your resume to one page, if possible.


Tip 2: Do NOT mention your criminal record on your resume.

A resume is a document designed to help you get a job. It lists your skills and accomplishments, so that an employer gets an idea of what kind of employee you would be. There is no reason to mention your criminal record on your resume. If a job application form asks questions about your conviction record, you must answer them truthfully. Then, once you get to the interview process, if you’re asked about previous convictions, answer truthfully and use the opportunity to tell the interviewer how you’ve learned and grown from the experience.


Tip 3: Use careful wording to your resume more compelling.


Use active language. Instead of saying “Responsible for front desk”, say “Created a positive welcome experience.” Using phrases that begin with an action verb helps show how you have created successes and took responsibility for your previous work roles.


Focus on results and accomplishments and be specific where you can. Instead of saying “unpacked shipments”, say “Stocked 15 shipments per week.” Being specific gives your prospective employer a more concrete picture of your capabilities and strengths.


Use “emotion words” when you are able. Instead of saying “Staffed retail counter”, say “Delivered outstanding customer service to all clients during their shopping experience.” This helps set you apart from the competition and helps prospective employers see the value you bring to their organization.


Tip 4: Use a traditional resume format.


Organizing your information in a traditional resume format makes it easier for prospective employers to review your information. It also shows a sense of professionalism and respect. A quick search for “resume template” will result in free, downloadable options to help you get started, but make sure your resume includes these sections:


  • Heading: Name, address, phone and email.
  • Objective: A short statement of what you want to do.
  • Employment: Names of companies where you’ve worked, years employed, job titles and responsibilities/accomplishments.
  • Skills and Abilities: List technical skills, soft skills, foreign languages, etc.
    • For help discovering your skills, read these books:
      • What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles
      • Strengths Finder by Tom Rath
    • Education: Names of schools you attended and the dates attended, including NDICA training. If you graduated, received a degree or certification, include your achievements.
    • Activities: Include any volunteer work or experience that may be related to your job search.


Once you’ve written your resume, proofread it carefully for grammar and spelling. Print it out and proofread the printed copy, rather than proofing on a screen. Read it out loud and read it slowly, examining every word. It’s useful to cover the page with a blank sheet of paper, uncovering one line at a time, so that you stay focused. You can even read it backwards, which helps uncover spelling errors you may otherwise overlook. Once you’ve thoroughly proofread your resume, have a trusted friend proofread it, too. Once you’re satisfied that it’s error-free, you’re all set!

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