Tips for Interviewing with a Criminal Record

Tips for Interviewing with a Criminal Record


You submitted your resume or application and they liked what they saw—you have an interview! Interviewing can make anyone nervous, but if you take the time to prepare and practice in advance, you’ll be set to shine. Review our tips below. They’ll help you navigate the interview with ease, even if questions come up about your criminal record. A good interview is all about staying positive, and we’re here to help. NDICA members can take online courses to polish soft skills and navigate the interview process. If you’re not already an NDICA member, join today and take advantage of the many benefits.


Tip 1: Learn What You Can About the Company Before Your Interview.


When you’re familiar with a company’s purpose and history, it can help fuel conversation at the interview and provide insights that may make you more comfortable when speaking with your interviewer. These websites are a great place to start:


Tip 2: Keep It Simple.


When speaking with your interviewer, stay on track and professional. Keep things simple for a successful interview.


Answer the question you’ve been asked and don’t stray. Keep your answers positive and upbeat. Always steer your answers to your skills and abilities—the value you bring to the company. Highlight your experience as it relates to the position you’re interviewing for and make it a point to state your interest in the job.


An employer may ask about your conviction record in an interview. (But not your arrest record.) Provide specific answers to the questions you are asked and answer truthfully. If you do not answer truthfully in an interview, the employer has the legal right to refuse to hire you. If you are hired and the employer later finds out that you lied during the interview, they may fire you. Focus on what you learned from your experience and try to keep the conversation about your conviction record in the middle of the interview. Toward the end, recap your qualifications and interest in the position to end the interview on a positive note.



Tip 3: What You DON’T Say is Also Important.


Make a good impression when you’re interviewing—whether in person, on the phone or online—by dressing appropriately and acting professional.


Dress for success. It’s important to wear the proper attire for an interview. Before your meeting, find out the employer’s workstyle. Dressing in proper business attire presents a visual image and sends a message that you’re professional.


If you’re interviewing in person and your interviewer extends a hand for a handshake, give a firm handshake. However, during the current COVID pandemic, you should be mindful of people’s personal preferences for touching.


Once the interview begins, maintain good eye contact without staring. Not looking a person in the eye suggests deceit. “Mirroring” the interviewer can help build rapport and agreement during the interview process. Mirroring is not mimicking; it is adapting to the body language of your interviewer. But don’t copy them exactly; simply adopt some of their physical and verbal behaviors to help form a bond and show you’re “on the same page”. Practice mirroring a friend before you try it in an interview. Smile and show interest. Pay attention, nod and smile at appropriate times. Be prepared for questions at any time. Stay positive.


For phone interviews, stand up as you speak and smile as you talk. Standing helps keep your energy up and even though the interviewer can’t see you, they can hear the smile and a positive attitude in your voice. Always speak clearly, using a calm, pleasant tone.


For remote or online interviews, be sure to test your technology before the call. Download any remote meeting applications that are needed and charge or plug in your computer or phone before the session begins. Secure a quiet space without potential interruptions. Choose a spot where people won’t interrupt you and where there’s no loud background noise. Ensure lighting is adequate. Be sure your face isn’t shadowed. If you’re sitting near a window, don’t sit with it behind you; instead, sit facing it to get the benefit of the natural light. Test your lighting to see how you look before your interview call. Minimize distractions. Turn off phones and put away anything that might distract you. Make your interview your complete focus. Don’t forget about body language!  Sit up straight, maintain eye contact, smile and nod at appropriate times.


Finish your interview by briefly stating how your qualifications align with the job description and express your interest in the position. Always finish on a positive note! After your interview, be sure to send a thank you note or e-mail to your interviewer. Thank them for their time and mention that you’re excited about the opportunity and would be a great fit for the job. It’s a small gesture that can go a long way in making a great impression.

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