Use the following information to create your 'personal marketing materials' if you have a 'record'

Creating a cover letter and résumé

… if you have a 'record'


   If you have a criminal record, you face a special difficulty during your job hunt. In this situation, it is crucial that your “personal marketing materials” – that is, your cover letter and résumé – properly reflect your capabilities and experience.

   What follows will describe how to write your cover letter and résumé in a way that increases your chances of finding a job. (Note: Depending on your circumstances, you might want to create your résumé before you write your cover letter.)


                                  Cover Letter                 

The purpose of the cover letter is to persuade an employer to read your résumé. (Write a unique cover letter for each position you apply for.) The following guidelines will help.

  1. The upper-left side of your cover letter must contain your name, address and title of the person you’re submitting your cover letter to, as well as the address of the organization to which you’re applying.
  2. The first paragraph of your cover letter should contain:
    1. The title of the position you are applying for. This is essential information, because a company might have a variety of jobs open. (Be realistic about what positions you apply for. Your record might prevent you from holding some jobs, such as police officer or teacher.)
    2. Where you learned about the job opening. This could be a website, job fair, newspaper ad or a person. In addition to this, consider using special sources that help people with a criminal record to find a job. For example, if you are scheduled for release soon, the facility might provide a job-search service.
    3. Information about the company. This will show that you are familiar with the business or agency. Visit the website. In addition to information about the company, research, if possible, its policy regarding hiring people with a record.
  3. The second paragraph should show why you would be valuable to the company. Be honest, and avoid restating what is on your résumé.
  4. The closing paragraph should 1) express your gratitude to the potential employer for considering your application, and 2) show enthusiasm about looking forward to an interview. Provide your e-mail address and phone number so an employer can contact you. Make sure that your e-mail address looks and sounds professional; a good choice is an e-mail address that reflects your name.



Now that you have written your cover letter, you must write your résumé, which details your education, skills, accomplishments and work experience. The purpose of the résumé is to persuade a potential employer to call you in for an interview. Here are the guidelines.

  1. At the top of your résumé, show your name and contact information. Write this in a larger font than you use for the rest of your résumé, and boldface the type for emphasis. Include:
    1. Your full name (though you can, if you wish, use just your middle initial); no nicknames
    2. Address
    3. Phone number, including area code
    4. E-mail address; this should match the one on your cover letter
  2. Write your objective, which clearly states the specific job you want. (The objective is optional.)
  3. Write your work experience in reverse chronological order (starting from the most recent). Include experience you gained in previous jobs, the military and, if appropriate, while you were incarcerated. For each entry, write:
    1. Title of the position
    2. Name of the organization; you may, for example, abbreviate “Correctional Institute” as “C.I.” to be honest, but not obvious, about your past
    3. Location of employer; include the city and state but not phone numbers, addresses or supervisors’ names
    4. Dates of employment, in months; for example, March 2012-January 2014
    5. Job responsibilities and skills you used; awards; specific accomplishments. Do not merely list your duties; show how you stood out from others
  4. List any education you gained before, or while, you were incarcerated. This includes a high school diploma, GED or college degree. For each entry, specify:
    1. The type of education you earned (that is, “high school diploma”)
    2. Name of the school or organization
    3. Location, including city and state but not address or phone number
  5. List skills and strengths that your potential employer will find valuable for the position that you are applying for. For example, “hard-working,” “punctual,” “organized” and “reliable.”

Other points to remember

   An employer may want to speak to people who can describe your work ethic and habits. So create a list of people (with their contact information) who can provide a reference for you. But do not give a copy of this list to your potential employer until he or she asks for it.

   Be honest with the employer. You do not have to describe your past in detail, but you should let your employer know about it. For example, if your job application has a question about whether you have ever been arrested, answer “yes.”

   Also, include any experience you gained during your stay in the correctional facility (or, if you can, wait until later and mention your record during an interview). These days, background checks are easy, and cheap, to perform, so don’t lie. Most employers will fire an employee who lied on his or her application – even after hiring that person. This would result in a negative job reference and significantly complicate your search for another job.

   Your cover letter and résumé are, of course, very important in landing a job. But once you’re hired, your performance and reliability will help you keep your new position. Be honest and hard-working, so your employer will recognize your value. And take heart: With time, your distant past will become less relevant when you ask for a promotion or search for a new job.


There are also specialized websites, such as, that list jobs for felons and ex-offenders.