Job Search with a Criminal Background

According to analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics data by The Sentencing Project, one out of every three adults in the United States has been arrested by age 23. This creates many challenges for those with a criminal background, including finding employment.  

We spoke with West Michigan Works! talent development instructor, Tina Ingram, about the employment workshop she created to help job seekers with prior convictions explore their career options. 

“I wanted to help job seekers with criminal backgrounds gain more knowledge and confidence to overcome this barrier and gain meaningful employment,” said Ingram. Ingram has been a talent development specialist for six years. 

Ingram was inspired to develop the workshop after hearing various job seekers mention how their prior convictions prevented them from finding employment in West Michigan.  

The workshop is held once a month to discuss job search topics, including answering criminal-background-specific application and interview questions and ways to market skills and certifications obtained during incarceration. It also covers programs and resources, such as The Clean Slate Initiative, a national bipartisan effort to clear criminal records across the country. 

Ingram notices job seekers leave the workshop feeling optimistic and empowered about their futures.  

“I believe people deserve second chances, and employers recognize this now more than ever.”

-Tina Ingram, talent development instructor, West Michigan Works!  

Job searching can be intimidating if you have a criminal background, but be professional and honest about your past, potential, and qualifications when you’re applying for a job. Stay motivated and sign up for an upcoming workshop to discover your path forward!