Most companies will require an application. The application needs to be completely filled out and the best way to ensure this is to come prepared. A detailed resume will help in this process. Remember to include your past work history and current contact information including address, telephone number, and email address.

You will also want to have a list of both personal and professional references. Don’t forget to list your pastor.


Most employers will want to see a resume, which provides a summary of your qualifications for the job.  Some will request one with your application, but either way, it is a good idea to bring a resume to your interview. Your resume gives you a chance to highlight your skills and experience and gives the interviewer something to reference during and after the interview.

Resumes are typically one page typed; if you are further along in your career, two pages may be appropriate, but keep it concise. The main components are your contact information, education, and previous employment.

It is also a good idea to include any special skills, trades, or certifications you have that are relevant to the job. For example, if you speak more than one language, are CPR certified, or have experience with computers, these are all things you can list on a resume.

You may consider including things such as volunteer work, professional organizations or associations you belong to, or any other experience that is directly relevant to the characteristics, skills, or experience needed for the job.

If you are creating a resume for the first time, start by looking at a several examples and/or templates.  You’ll notice that the exact format and content will vary, but the goal remains the same: To provide a complete picture you qualifications for the job.  Therefore, be sure to tailor your resume to the specific position for which you are interviewing by looking at the job description and incorporating examples of how you fulfill the criteria.


It is extremely important that you are honest in your resume.  Everything in your resume should be verifiable.  As a returning citizen, this may present some unique challenges. For example, you may have gaps in your employment history.  You may also have skills you learned, degrees you earned, or jobs you held while incarcerated.  You should not falsify information to hide these facts.  However, there are some strategies you may consider to present this information in a way that allows you to put your best foot forward:


If you have spent a good deal of time working, volunteering, or earning a degree since you were released, consider featuring these items first.  Start with your most recent experience and work backward from there. This will bring the focus to the present and your potential rather than fixating on your past. If your experiences post-incarceration span several years and fully demonstrate your qualifications for the position, you may choose to use an abbreviated career history, leaving out anything prior to your release.


If your incarceration was more recent, a functional resume may be more appropriate. A functional resume is organized by skill rather than by position. For instance, you may list “Organizational Skills” and then provide specific examples of how you have learned and/or displayed strong organizational skills.  This allows you to focus on the qualities you’d most like to highlight and draw examples from both traditional and nontraditional sources of experience.


If you gained experience relevant to the job for which you are interviewing while incarcerated, it is perfectly acceptable to include on your resume. However, you may prefer to keep it generic by listing “County of _____” or “State of _____” as your employer, giving you the opportunity to provide further context on your situation in person.


Be sure to have a friend or mentor read over your resume a few times for mistakes and errors. When your resume is complete, save a digital copy and print several hard copies.

Submit a copy of your resume with each job application. This way the potential employer can learn more about who you are and what you can contribute.

Bring several copies to interviews. You will need at least two copies, one for the interviewer and one for yourself. You might have more than one interviewer, so be prepared.

*Adapted from “Employment Information Handbook For Ex-Offenders. PDF. U. S. Department of Labor, 2005.