How to Write a Resume With a Felony

When someone has a felony on their record, finding a job is not always easy. Employers are often hesitant to hire someone who has a felony on their record.

Felons may wonder how to deal with their criminal background when applying for jobs. Writing a strong resume is one way for a felon to gain an advantage when applying for jobs.

A strong resume will highlight a felon’s professional skills. It will increase the likelihood of getting an interview. In an interview they will have the chance to discuss their history in person.

What Is a Resume?

A resume is a document that summarizes your qualifications for a job. It will contain basic information such as your name, address, and contact information. It will discuss your skills, education, and training. It will also discuss your work experience and professional achievements. A good resume will explain to an employer what strengths you bring to a job offering. It will persuade them that you are a good candidate to hire.

Why Is a Resume Needed?

A resume is one of the first things an employer is likely to request during the job application process. A resume is generally submitted with an application. A good resume will help an applicant get a job interview.

During the interview, a resume often serves as an outline for interview questions. Employers will often ask you to expand on the information you summarized in your resume. Putting together a strong resume is an important step in the job search process.

How to Format a Resume – The Basics

A lot of information goes into a resume. Formatting a resume well can go a long way in getting an employer’s attention. It’s important to format in an organized, easy to read fashion. Below are the basic sections that should be a part of a strong resume.

Contact information

The first section on a resume should always be contact information. Contact information includes your name, address, phone number, and email.


This section describes your professional goals and why you are a good fit for the job you are applying for.

Work experience

Work experience is generally listed in chronological order from most recent to oldest. Include the length of time employed, job accomplishments, and positive performance reviews.

Volunteer experiences

If you have any volunteer experiences, this is the place to include them.

Education and Training

List education and training in chronological order from most recent to oldest. Include school experience as well as job training or other courses / training taken.

Other Information

This is the section to include any other relevant information. List special skills, areas of interest, or professional connections here.

Chronological Resume vs. Skills Resume

There are two ways you can organize a resume. A chronological resume is a popular choice for those who have an extensive work history. A chronological resume lists job experience first. It lists experiences from most recent to oldest. A helpful template for a chronological resume is available through Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

A skills resume is a good choice for someone who doesn’t have a lot of work experience. A skills resume lists skills first. It highlights specific skills and lists relevant learning and working experiences below. A helpful template for a skills resume is available through Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

Resume Writing – General Tips

Resume writers should keep the following general tips in mind.

Keep it short

You don’t want your resume to be too long. The purpose of a resume is to quickly highlight your strengths. Aim for a resume that is one or two pages in length. You can expand upon your points once you are in the interview.

Use easy-to-read fonts

Use standard, easy-to-read fonts. These include Times New Roman, Arial, Century, Helvetica, or Verdana. Font size should be between 10 and 12.

Use keywords in the job description

One way to attract the employer is to customize your resume to the job position. If the job description uses certain key words, find a way to incorporate those into your resume. 

Use accomplishment statements

An accomplishment statement describes an action you took, how you did it, and what the results were. Use accomplishment statements to highlight your achievements.

Quantify accomplishments

If possible, describe the results of your accomplishment statements using quantities. This might include numbers like financial gains and percentages related to productivity.

Tips for Writing a Resume with a Felony

The above tips are an excellent starting point for writing a resume with a felony. A felon who is creating a resume may wonder how to address the felony itself. Prison time may result in long gaps in employment or educational history. A felon may be wondering whether they should mention their felony.

One way to deal with long gaps in employment is to look at your experience while in prison. List any work, skills training, or volunteer experience in prison in a resume. The best way to go about this is to list the prison or the state as your employer.

You do not need to explain that you were an inmate on your resume. You also do not need to mention that you have a felony record on the resume. This will give you a chance to expand on your prison experience once you are in the actual interview.

How to Discuss Criminal History in an Interview

If the employer approves your resume and application, they will ask you to interview. Make sure to bring a few copies of your resume to the interview. You will want to have copies to give to your interviewer(s). You will also want a copy of your own to reference.

During the interview, it is important to be honest. Employers are looking for trustworthy employees. Giving an honest answer about your history will help build trust. The interview is your opportunity to expand upon your experiences in person. You can also show the employer that you have learned from your mistakes.

The interviewer may ask about gaps in your employment or your work experience at prison. This is a good opportunity to start the conversation about your criminal history. The key is to acknowledge the past, and then focus on your strengths.

The University of Colorado offers a great guide on how to interview with a felony conviction. They suggest using “the 3 R’s”: Responsibility, Regret, and Redemption. Let the interviewer know you understand and regret your mistakes. Then talk about how you have learned from them. Explain the efforts you made to better yourself. Share any experiences that show positive growth.

Mouly Aloumouati of VASAVOR (Virginia’s Serious and Violent Offender Reentry) suggests the following approach: “Spend 10 seconds explaining your record in an interview, then… spend 10 minutes telling the employer that you can do for him.”

Other Materials – Cover Letter and References

Sometimes an employer will request a cover letter or references along with a resume. Do not include a cover letter or references unless the employer requests them. Below is a summary of each.

Cover letter

A cover letter is a letter addressed to the employer or person in charge of the application process. The letter should highlight your skills and strengths that will benefit the company. It should mention your career goals and why you feel you’re a good fit for the job. A cover letter should be short. Keep it no more than one page in length. A helpful template for a cover letter is available through Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.


References are people who know you on a professional or personal level. An employer may want to have access to references. They may wish to hear an evaluation of your skills and character from somebody else. Appropriate references include past employers, professional connections, or educational instructors. Personal connections are an option if you don’t have any other connections. Try to avoid listing family members or close friends as references.

Include references on a separate sheet of paper and attach it to your resume. It should include the name, contact information, and association of the reference. It is important to let someone know when you are using them as a reference. It might also help to explain to them your goals and the nature of the position you are applying for. This way they can prepare suitable responses to the employer’s questions.


Applying for a job as a felon can be difficult. Writing a strong resume is one way to increase the chances of getting an interview. A strong resume focuses on one’s skills and strengths. The resume will likely serve as an outline for the interview process.

Listing work and training experience from prison is one way to deal with a felony conviction in a resume. It is best to list the prison or state as an employer. This gives the felon a chance to expand upon their prison experience in the interview. There they can show they take responsibility for their mistakes. Highlighting their growth and achievements will result in the best chances for success.

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