To be great at interviewing is a valuable skill, and is especially important when you have a criminal conviction. It often takes a lot of preparation to get in front of a hiring manager and explain your conviction. It can be an exhausting and stressful process, but it gets easier and you will feel more prepared every time. We’ve talked about how to explain your criminal record to an employer, but that is a small part of the overall interview. Here are some tips on how to impress future employers and set yourself apart from the competition:
1. Understand the job and company
The first step is to understand the position you are applying for. This will help you focus your answers on the value you bring to that specific role. Typically, job postings will have a list of expectations or requirements for the position. Prepare for questions by thinking of examples of your skills and experience that tie to elements of that list. You should also know the company’s mission and values, often found on the "About Us" or "Careers" pages. Then, when the interviewers ask you questions, you can tie your answers back to specifics of the position and company.
2. Be prepared for common interview questions
You won’t be able to predict all the questions the interviewer is going to ask you. However, there are some common interview questions that you can prepare for, allowing the employer to see that you take the interview seriously and you are eager to get the position. In addition, thinking about your answers beforehand helps you put your best foot forward. That preparation can also help you appear more collected, in case you get nervous.
Common interview questions:
Tell me about yourself.
Why do you want to work at this company?
What are your greatest strengths?
What do you consider to be your weaknesses?
Why do you want to leave your current job?
What are you looking for in a new position?
Behavioral questioning, which quickly exposes whether the candidate has the right skills or not, has become very popular for interviews. These questions are meant to highlight real-life situations and reflect on what you learned from them. These questions can be:
Tell me about a time when you made a mistake, and how you handled it.
Tell me about a time when you failed, and how you reacted.
Tell me about a challenge or conflict you faced at work, and how you dealt with it.
3. Find people to practice with (do mock interviews)
Practice makes perfect! Or at least builds confidence and comfort answering and asking questions in interviews, starting with a friendly, supportive audience. Practicing your answers to the questions above will make you sound more confident. It can be uncomfortable (even scary) to talk about your criminal record. Having thoughtful, concise answers to questions related to your criminal history will show that you learned from your past and will be a valuable addition to the team. As you practice, get feedback from the mock interviewer and try again, and again. Your answers and delivery will improve, and you'll feel increasingly prepared for any future interviews!