Taking a Gender-Responsive & Trauma-Informed Approach to Reentry

By Stephanie Hammerwold

Last month we attended the Reentry Solutions Conference in Ontario, California. I attended a session called “Why Gender Matters: Addressing Gender-Responsive and Trauma-Informed Approaches to Reentry for Justice-Involved Women.” The session reinforced a lot of what has gone in to how we have designed our approach to mentoring formerly incarcerated women in their search for meaningful employment and rebuilding their lives post-release. While much of what we do is useful for people of all genders, we specifically wanted to focus on women for our mentorships and individualized services because of the specific needs they face following release from jail or prison.

What is a Gender-Responsive & Trauma-Informed Approach?

In order to help women transition back into their communities following release from jail or prison, we need to address the realities specifically facing justice-involved women. Dr. Barbara Bloom is a Professor of Criminal Justice at Sonoma State University and Co-Director of the Center for Gender and Justice. At the Reentry Solutions Conference, Bloom explained that a gender-responsive approach is based on the lived experiences of women and girls. It includes trauma-informed, relational and strength-based approaches rather than a gender-neutral approach, which is based on the lived experiences of men and boys and is then applied to all genders.

Because justice-involved women have a high likelihood of having experienced trauma, services and programs need to be designed with that in mind. Bloom explained that we need to adjust organizations so that trauma survivors can access and benefit from services. This means things like avoiding triggering trauma reactions and focusing on building healthy relationships. As the panelists explained, formerly incarcerated women have high rates of domestic violence following release, which means modeling healthy relationships is extremely important in order to help break the cycle.

Rebuilding Trust

Perhaps the biggest barrier to overcome for women transitioning back to their communities is learning how to trust others again. Patty Ayala, MSW is a Case Manager at the Women’s Reentry Achievement Program (WRAP) through the Solano County Sheriff’s Department. She shared stories of how hard it is to help women rebuild trust and explained that it takes numerous people in a woman’s support system to help her rebuild trust. This includes men and women from different backgrounds and both justice-involved and non-justice involved,

Rebuilding trust happens at every level. It takes place in how we commit to appointments with clients and follow through on the things we agree to do. For this reason, it is essential that a gender-responsive and trauma-informed approach include a strong commitment to follow through and the building of safe spaces.

Designing Reentry Programs with Women in Mind

For justice-involved women, a job helps build stability. This can lead to securing housing, improved self esteem and, more importantly, reuniting with children. While there are many struggles shared by those in the reentry community, it is important that we also acknowledge the differences for various groups.

In her presentation, Bloom explained that compared with men, women have more severe histories of sexual and physical abuse. Women also have a higher prevalence of mental and physical health problems and are most likely to have been convicted of a nonviolent crime. In addition, Bloom pointed out that women often respond differently to treatment and correctional supervision. When it comes to designing programs to help the reentry community, one size does not fit all.

This concept was further reinforced by Edward Latessa, PhD during his keynote address at the Reentry Solutions Conference. Latessa is a professor and the Director of the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. Latessa encouraged service providers to not use the same program for every client. In fact, he said research shows that intensive treatments for lower risk offenders can actually increase recidivism. When we take this into account with many women who have been locked up for nonviolent offenses, it becomes clear that reentry programs need to be designed around the specific needs of women.

Some Final Thoughts

It is also important to remember that gender extends beyond just men and women. Trans people are also locked up and face additional struggles within a system that is not always very accommodating to those outside the binary gender system. It is necessary to also develop programs that address the unique needs of this part of the reentry population. In addition, we need to account for race and how that adds different experiences. Overall, this is a reminder that we need to shape our programs to each client’s needs according to his or her experience if we are going to help them achieve reentry success.

Vanessa Perez of the Time for Change Foundation and Dr. Edwina Perez-Santiago of Reach Fellowship International also participated in the gender panel at the Reentry Solutions Conference, and I encourage you to check out their organizations as well as those of Bloom and Ayala, which are linked above.

Reentry Employment Meeting in Irvine, Sept. 13

This month's Orange County Reentry Partnership general meeting will focus on the benefits of hiring the formerly incarcerated. This is an excellent opportunity for employers, service providers and job seekers to learn more about this important topic.

The meeting will include a panel discussion that covers best practices in using criminal backgrounds during the hiring process, special considerations when hiring the formerly incarcerated, success stories and more.

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 13 from 3 to 5 p.m. at Working Wardrobes, which is located at 1851 Kettering St. in Irvine.  See you there!

Be a Part of Our Kickoff Campaign

We started Pacific Reentry Career Services with the goal of helping formerly incarcerated women find meaningful employment. Finding a good job and earning a steady paycheck can do a lot to help someone get their life back on track, secure housing and reunite their family. All of these are things that help reduce recidivism.

We need your help to make Pacific Reentry Career Services successful. Please consider making a donation to our kickoff campaign. Your generous contribution will help us to set up workshops, connect with clients, provide training materials to job seekers and cover the costs of starting a nonprofit organization.

You can also help by getting the word out about Pacific Reentry Career Services and the benefits of hiring the reentry population. Be sure to visit our Get Involved page for more information on how you can be a part of helping formerly incarcerated women get back to work.

Thank you for your support!

 

Common Myths about Hiring the Formerly Incarcerated

By Stephanie Hammerwold

In HR, we often talk about looking for red flags when screening applications and resumes. Red flags can be anything from unexplained gaps in employment, being terminated from previous jobs for questionable reasons or criminal convictions. While automatically ruling candidates out based on so-called red flags can speed up the process of going through a huge stack of applications, it often means that perfectly good candidates get tossed in the reject pile.

For those with criminal convictions in their past, this can be especially challenging. Often a job and a steady paycheck can be a gateway to securing good housing and rebuilding a life following release from jail or prison. Despite having already served time, many continue being punished for criminal convictions following release from jail or prison in the way that they are barred from certain housing, employment and other services. For this reason, it is important that we break down the myths around hiring the formerly incarcerated and give serious consideration to hiring those in the reentry population—many of whom would be excellent hires.

Myth #1: Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal

Some employers do not want to hire someone with a criminal record because they fear that there is a risk that the person will steal, act out violently or commit some other major policy violation because of their criminal past.

A recent study out of Harvard and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst looked at what happened when the military allowed those with felony records to enlist. Not only did the study find that those with a felony record were no more likely to face termination for negative reasons, but it also found that those with a record were often promoted faster than those without a record. The researchers pointed out that those accepted into the military were screened on a number of factors, and those who were more likely to get into trouble were often weeded out; however, the study does point to the fact that a criminal background is not an automatic red flag.

This study is a good reminder that a criminal background does not fully define a candidate. Instead, employers should look at the whole person—job experience, education, skills and other factors that contribute to making someone a good employee. In my HR career, I hired hundreds of people. Some of them had criminal records, and many of them turned out to be excellent employees.

Myth #2: Those with a Criminal Past are Lazy, Unreliable and Lack Discipline

This idea is in line with the above myth. Once again we can look to the military study to disprove this. The military has a high level of discipline and is no place for lazy people. In fact, many people want to do what it takes to keep a job after they have been released from jail or prison.

PastForward, an organization that helps connect formerly incarcerated job seekers with employers in Maryland, found that, “Ex-offenders are often more motivated to work and more grateful for the chance to prove themselves. Some companies find that ex-offenders tend to be committed workers whose success rate is comparable to that of the company’s overall workforce.” A steady paycheck can be the key to securing good housing and getting a life back on track. What better motivation is there for working hard?

Myth #3: They Can Get Experience Elsewhere Before Applying Here

One of my motivations for founding Pacific Reentry Career Services was to break down the myths that get in the way of the formerly incarcerated finding jobs. Early in my HR career, I had a boss tell me to automatically rule out candidates who checked yes to the question about criminal convictions. Her reasoning was, “They can get their experience elsewhere and then come back and apply when they get their life back on track.” It was hard to understand that logic when we were employing entry-level warehouse workers who were paid minimum wage. Where was this mythical elsewhere that people were going to get experience?

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, nearly one-third of the adult population in the U.S. has a criminal record. Not considering these candidates eliminates a big part of the labor pool. Those with criminal records deserve a second chance. It is not enough to assume that another employer will be the one to take the chance. Once again, it is important to look beyond the criminal record and to see the whole candidate. Failure to do so means that employers are missing out on a big segment of the population that could be really good employees.

Bonus Tip: Tax Credits for Hiring the Formerly Incarcerated

Employers who hire the formerly incarcerated may qualify for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and may also be eligible to participate in the Federal Bonding Program. Some states also offer tax credits as well. Taking advantage of these benefits is good for business and good for job seekers.

For more on the military study mentioned in this post, listen to Planet Money’s recent episode on the topic.

How to Answer Common Interview Questions

By Stephanie Hammerwold

So, you have sent in your resume, filled out an application and you managed to land an interview with a prospective employer. Now what? It is hard to know exactly what an interviewer will ask, if they will throw challenging questions what questions you should ask them. Even though each employer does things a little differently, there are ways you can practice your responses to common questions in order to better prepare for the interview. Even if the types of answers you have prepared do not come up in the interview, they will still be good practice for talking about yourself and your experience.

Tell Me About Yourself

Many interviews start with some variation of this statement. Prior to an interview, work on a brief overview of your experience and why you would be a good fit for the job. Include any relevant training or education. This is a commercial about you and a chance to make a good first impression. Remember to keep your statement brief, and avoid going into great detail about your life story.

How Did You Hear About Us?

When an employer asks this question, they are not necessarily trying to collect data on how job seekers hear about the company. They want to see if you did your homework prior to the interview. Always make time to read up on a company before you arrive for an interview. This is also a good way to come up with some questions for the interviewer about the job as well as the company.

When you do your research on the company, get a sense of how you might fit into the culture there. This will help you to figure out how to highlight the areas of your experience that show you are a good fit. An employer may also ask you why you want to work for them. Being prepared with background information on the company will help you answer this question.

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job? Tell Me About this Gap in Your Employment.

Both of these questions can trip up a candidate—especially if your reason for leaving a job or being off work for a long time were not positive. While you may be tempted to lie to cover up problems in your past, this may lead to trouble when an employer conducts a background check and finds out the truth. It is better that they hear it from you, so put some time into practicing how you will answer questions about problems in our past.

Put a positive spin on negative experiences. For example, if you were fired from a job for attendance issues, explain what you have done to make changes. Maybe the issue was with not having reliable transportation, but you now have a good car, so this is not a problem anymore. Avoid blaming a past employer or your boss for the problems. Accept responsibility, and show how you have changed from the experience.

The same goes for gaps in employment. While you do not need to go into great detail about the reason for a gap, be honest. It is sufficient to say that you were taking time off to look for a new job, go to school or deal with family issues.

What Type of Pay and Schedule are You Looking for?

Be honest with your answers to these questions. Sometimes candidates are tempted to say what they think the interviewer wants to hear. You want to make sure the job is a good fit in terms of pay and schedule, so it can cause problems at the time of hire if you lie about availability or accept a job that does not meet your financial needs.

When an employer asks about pay, they often want to make sure you are in the pay range for the position. It ends up being a waste of time for you and the interviewer if you keep interviewing for a job that is way below the wage you need to pay your expenses.

This advice also works for questions about the type of work environment you are looking for. Remember that you want to make sure the company is a good fit for you, so make sure the business is a place you would be comfortable working.

What Was Your Biggest Accomplishment at Your Last Job?

It is a good idea to come up with a few things you are proud of from your previous work. Remember that you can also draw from volunteer experience and school if your work history is limited. Come up with several different examples as well as things that you learned from in the past. These are stories you can draw from if asked specific questions about things like how you handle difficult customers or a time you worked through a disagreement with a coworker or supervisor.

What are Your Strengths/Weaknesses?

It is usually easy to come up with a couple strengths, but candidates often struggle with how to answer questions about weaknesses. As with blemishes in your work history, turn a negative into a positive. If, for example, public speaking makes you nervous, talk about how you have started attending Toastmasters meetings to work on getting more comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.

Be Prepared to Talk About You

It is a good idea to get a friend to interview you prior to meeting with an employer. This is a chance to practice speaking about yourself and your experience. The more you do so, the more comfortable you will feel during an interview. If an interviewer stumps you with a question, you can ask them to come back to the question later. Just because you cannot come up with an answer on the spot, it does not mean you have automatically disqualified yourself. Many candidates get nervous, and interviewers are often willing to give you a chance to think about your answer.

Are you formerly incarcerated and looking for more help preparing for interviews? Get in touch with us to find out how Pacific Reentry Career Services can help you prepare for your job search.

Pacific Reentry Career Services News

We have been busy working behind the scenes as we launch Pacific Reentry Career Services. As we have been hard at work filing nonprofit paperwork, setting up insurance and planning all our programs fro job seekers and employers, we received word from the IRS that we were granted 501(c)(3) status.

So, what does this mean for Pacific Reentry Career Services? Having 501(c)(3) status officially makes us a nonprofit as recognized under the IRS tax code. This opens up possibilities for us to apply for grants to help fund the programs we create to get formerly incarcerated women into meaningful jobs that will help them rebuild their lives. It also means that all donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

We are also happy to announce the 2016 Reentry Solutions for Success Conference in Ontario, CA. The conference will take place October 19-20 and will be organized by the Federal Reserve Bank, the Orange County Reentry Partnership and other organizations. Stay tuned to our blog for more details. We hope to see you there!

Job Seeker Advice: How to Conduct a Targeted Job Search

By Stephanie Hammerwold

Looking for a job can be a big undertaking. Major job posting sites are overwhelming and often job seekers find themselves wading through endless ads promising ways to get rich working from home. While some people may have luck with casting a huge net online in their quest for the perfect job, the average job seeker may find that resumes sent in response to ads on major job sites go into some kind of application blackhole. The way around this is to take a targeted approach in your job search.

Search for Companies, not Jobs

The key to a targeted job search is to look for companies that provide the type of work you want. While companies may not pay to post all their openings on a big job search site, they will probably put all their openings on their own website. Check the company’s site regularly for new openings. I worked for one company that was popular in the community. Many applicants were people who had walked into one of our stores asking about job openings or were persistent job seekers who made a habit of regularly checking the company’s website. This meant we rarely had to rely on paying to post our openings on other sites.

Research companies in your area, and do not limit yourself. Last year I spoke to graduate students at my alma mater. Many of them were planning for careers in academia or the nonprofit sector. I reminded those eyeing nonprofit jobs that there are for-profit companies out there who have a socially-minded philosophy that is similar to what can be found at a nonprofit. Before starting my consulting business, I worked at a small grocery chain that had a goal of giving at least 10% back to the community. They also offered a volunteer benefit for employees and other programs that were focused on giving back. In doing your research on companies, look for such opportunities to expand the pool of places you can see yourself working.

Connect with your target companies on social media. Some companies have even set up specific profiles for job seekers. This is a good way to find out about new openings that may not be posted on major job search sites.

Use Your Network

Here’s an inside tip about reaching out to the companies you want to work at: do not call their HR department in the hopes that it will make your application stand out. As an HR person, I can tell you that it’s not that we do not want to talk to every applicant, but HR is often inundated with calls to the point that it is impossible to get back to everyone. For job seekers, it can be discouraging to send in an application or resume and then hear nothing. Even though HR may not be the right place to go to make a personal connection when you first submit an application, there are ways to reach out effectively.

Focus on your network. Do you already know someone at the company? If so, they may be a good resource to put in a good word for you or to introduce you to someone who has power over hiring decisions. LinkedIn can be an excellent tool for seeing who you may already know at a company or if one of your connections may be able to introduce you to someone who works there. As I mentioned earlier, some companies connect with job seekers through social media, so this can be another way to network with people in a way that could bring positive attention to your application.

Finally, get involved in your community. This is an excellent way to connect with people who may turn out to be powerful connections when it comes to finding a job. In my own experience, the best networking happens at events where the main objective is not marketing yourself. This may be volunteering for a beach clean up, working on a political campaign or getting involved with your favorite nonprofit.

The Problem with Job Sites

What you have heard about job posting sites is true: companies do not post all their jobs in such places. Posting on some of the bigger sites can run several hundred dollars each. For many businesses, this means they may be choosy about which jobs they pay to post. When I used to work on hiring, I would only post harder to fill jobs on the big sites. Job sites can also take a lot of time to wade through. Even when employing filters and narrowing search criteria, it can be a challenge to find jobs that are a good fit. This is especially true if you live in a major metropolitan area, where the list of open jobs may be really long.

While it is good to keep an eye on the major sites and give them a weekly scan, a better strategy is to figure out what kind of job you want and to then find the places offering positions that are a good match.

This post originally appeared on HR Hammer.

Orange County's 2nd Annual Reentry Resource Fair

Resource Fair.jpg

Our friends at the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) and BI Inc. are partnering with Contra Costa County Office of Education Parole to put on a Reentry Resource Fair on Tuesday, May 24 from 12 to 3 p.m. at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA.

The purpose of the Reentry Resource Fair is to provide formerly incarcerated men and women with accessible information and connection to resources in Orange County. The focus is on addressing basic needs and facilitating reintegration back into our community. It is also an opportunity for these men and women to be welcomed home, providing hope for the future as the best way to prevent recidivism.

Currently there are 52 providers confirmed, and there will be music and some great opportunity drawings. If you or a loved one were formerly incarcerated and are looking to find services to help you with employment, housing and more, be sure to attend the Reentry Resource Fair.

Job Seeker Advice: What HR Wants to See in a Resume

By Stephanie Hammerwold

One of the most common HR-related requests I get from friends is to review their resume. Even in the age of LinkedIn and online portfolios, there are still countless articles about how a great resume can be your ticket to success. There are no magic tricks that can guarantee your resume will land you your dream job, but there are things you can do to keep your resume from automatically being tossed in the reject pile. After years of reviewing thousands of resumes, here are my tips for creating a clean, easy-to-read resume that showcases your experience and qualifications.

What (Not) to Include

I am once and for all taking the HR Hammer to the objective section. If you have an objective section lingering at the top of your resume, I’ll give you a moment to go delete it right now. Most resume objectives are the same, and it is some variation on “To find a job that challenges me and where I can be a positive member of a dynamic team.” A company already knows you are trying to find a good job, so there is no reason to waste valuable resume real estate space with an objective. You want to showcase your skills and experience rather than write a generic statement that is similar to what many other job seekers have at the top of their resume.

Now that we have the objective out of the way, let’s tackle the question of length. It used to be that one page was the generally accepted length of the resume. This was in the days before online applications and emailing in a resume. These days, it is not very common to mail in a resume. Length becomes less important when a recruiter or hiring manager is scrolling through resumes on a screen rather than flipping pages. This does not mean you should send pages and pages to a prospective employer, but it is perfectly acceptable to fill two pages. Unless you are applying for an academic job or a highly specialized position, I would not recommend going much longer than that.

It is important that your resume is easy to read because your resume usually only gets a minute or so to make a strong enough impression to warrant a closer read by a recruiter or hiring manager. Have clearly labeled sections (e.g. work experience, education) and create bullet points rather than lengthy paragraphs.

The star of your resume should be your work experience. I prefer to see work experience listed chronologically by job rather than sectioned out by skill. If you want to showcase some skills relevant to the job, include a short section at the top with a few sentences summarizing your experience. For those who are new to the workforce, include any volunteer experience or school activities as part of your work experience if you have not worked before or have only had one job.

Do not forget to include education and any relevant training at the bottom. Avoid listing every single training you have attended, but instead focus on including things relevant to the job.

Show, Don’t Tell

Some job seekers fall into the trap of simply listing skills without showing that they have used those skills on the job. For example, take this statement:

Experienced in using Microsoft Excel

Consider rewriting this statement to show that you know how to use Excel:

Used Microsoft Excel to manage the budget and expenses for the annual company picnic

When I see this on a resume, I know that a job seeker has experience using the software.

Focus on ways that you used a skill in a previous job that is relevant to how the skill will be used in the job you are applying for. This is especially useful if you are jumping careers and want to show how your skills from other jobs will be applicable to a new career.

Good Writing Matters

Write your resume in clear language that is easy to understand. Do not get bogged down in buzzwords and inflated language. Say exactly what you did. A prospective employer does not need to read phrases like this:

Collaborated with team members to build capacity in an impactful manner that increased optics, learnings and upward velocity.

Instead, be clear in what you did and accomplished:

Managed recruitment and training of 100 new employees for a new store location; implemented new hire training programs that reduced turnover by 10% from the previous store opening.

Do not send out your resume without having at least one other person proofread it. I have been in situations where I was deciding between two high-level candidates with similar experience. There have been times where it has come down to spelling and grammar mistakes. If a candidate does not make the effort to make sure they are sending me a clean resume, why should I hire them to be a manager?

Remember that your resume is often the first impression you make with a potential employer. Be honest about your experience. Take the time to put your best effort forward. Write cleanly and clearly, demonstrate your skills and qualifications through your experience, and make sure it is free from errors.

This post originally appeared on HR Hammer.

How to Address Blemishes in Your Work History

By Stephanie Hammerwold

Most of us have some kind of blemish in our work history. Maybe you were let go from a job, you have a long gap in employment or you check yes to the question about having a criminal conviction. Those things can be stressful when filling out job applications. If you are called for an interview, it can be an added challenge to figure out how to explain them while still making yourself look like the ideal candidate. In these situations, it is important to remember that things like criminal convictions, gaps and terminations are not the full story of your experience and qualifications. By preparing in advance and thinking through standard responses to these questions, you can turn a blemish into a positive and use it as a way to show you are the best candidate for the job.

Be Honest

It may be tempting to lie about areas of concern in your work history, but be careful. Potential employers may do reference and background checks, and lying could be grounds for automatic rejection. If you are hired based on false information, and an employer later finds out, they could terminate your employment for falsifying the application.

Instead of coming up with an elaborate excuse or outright lying, use the interview as an opportunity to take control of the story of your blemishes and put a positive spin on what happened by showing how you have learned from the experience, grown or changed your life for the better.

Criminal Convictions

As an HR professional who has interviewed countless applicants in the course of my career, I have received this question many times: how do I address my past criminal convictions in a job interview? This is one of the biggest hurdles for anyone with a conviction looking for a job.

Addressing convictions starts with the job application. If this question comes up on the application, keep your answer brief. State the year of the conviction and a few words to describe it with a note that you will discuss it in more detail during an interview. You can also learn about various tax credits and federal bonding available to an employer when they hire an ex-offender. Programs include the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and the Federal Bonding Program. The National HIRE Network has a list of programs offered at the state level. Sharing information on these programs can help encourage an employer to give you a chance, and it also shows you did your research prior to applying for jobs.

When it comes to the interview, keep your explanation brief. Once again, remember to be honest and take responsibility. Use the interview as an opportunity to show how you have improved and made changes in your life.

For example, if you have a drug conviction, explain that you made some bad choices in the past and have since gone through treatment and have successfully maintained your sobriety. This helps show an interviewer that you are able to move past blemishes in your past. If you participated in any education or vocational training while incarcerated, mention those things during the interview. This will help turn your conviction into an inspiring story about how you overcame a major challenge in your life rather than just being about the conviction.

Gaps in Employment

When the recession hit in 2008, many employees were laid off from jobs and had a hard time finding work. As a result, it is not uncommon to see gaps in employment on resumes and applications. Even if you have gaps in employment for reasons other than being laid off, it does not mean you have a strike against you in the job search. Just as with any other blemish in your work history, use the gap to show something positive.

For example, many parents take a few years off when raising young children. When reentering the workforce after a long gap used to care for children, do not hesitate to mention the other ways you used your time. Volunteering in your child’s school, organizing a fundraiser or managing carpool are all activities that use skills relevant to a job. And let’s not forget that the effort to manage children’s schedule is a job in and of itself. The same is true for any gap involving caring for a family member.

Gaps in employment may also be caused by searching for work in a bad economy, and most interviewers will see this as a viable reason for for an employment gap. Even time off to travel or to focus on an activity can be a plus in an interview and give you an interesting story to tell.

If your gap in employment was for health reasons, remember that you do not need to disclose details about your diagnosis or treatment. Simply stating that you took time off for health reasons is sufficient.

Terminations

Another tricky thing in an interview is addressing a termination. Just as with the other blemishes we spoke of, take the opportunity to show how you have learned and grown from the experience. Explain what you are doing differently now so that you can ensure an employer that whatever the reason is for termination was before will not be an issue in a new job. For example, if you were fired for attendance issues, explain how you have addressed what was causing the problem. You might say, “I had a hard time getting to that job because my car broke down regularly, which interfered with my ability to arrive on time. I have since bought a new car, so I no longer have issues with reliable transportation.”

Avoid using this question as a chance to badmouth a former employer or a horrible boss. Doing so in an interview may leave the interviewer wondering if the issue was really with the employer or if it was with you. While it is true your boss may have been a horrible person, it is not necessary to go into that in an interview.

This is another area where honesty is important. It would be better to take control of how the story of your termination is told rather than lying and having a potential employer find out by checking references.

Focus on Your Accomplishments

Remember that the story you tell about your work experience should focus on your accomplishments. Convictions, gaps and terminations are only a small piece of the story. Be confident in drawing an interviewer's attention to the good things on your application because that will ultimately be the impression you leave them with. Your accomplishments can include a variety of things like work achievements, school, volunteering and anything that demonstrates your readiness for the job.

Finally, remember to make a good impression. This includes dressing for the job you want and not just throwing on jeans and a T-shirt. Even if you are interviewing for a retail or warehouse job, dress up and look professional. Speak professionally and confidentially, and do not be distracted by your cell phone. All of these things help counter any negative impression the blemishes in your work history might make.

This post originally appeared on HR Hammer.

Welcome to Pacific Reentry Career Services

After months of planning, we are excited to launch the Pacific Reentry Career Services website. Pacific Reentry Career Services was founded by Stephanie Hammerwold and Timothy Pershing with the goal of reducing recidivism by helping formerly incarcerated women gain employment and therefore maintain a stable life outside of jail or prison. Our programs include job search workshops, career coaching, one-on-one mentorships and partnering with local employers and reentry service providers. We are based in Orange County, and we are mobile and meet clients where they are. You can learn more about us and our approach on our About page.

Take some time to look around our website. There are a number of ways to get involved through volunteering, donating and helping to spread the word about what we do and the value of hiring those in the reentry community. Be sure to visit this blog for regular updates about our work, job search resources and helpful information for employers.

Thank you for visiting our site!