job search

Give us Five! Support Our Job Search Guide


Check out this picture. Those are the last two copies of our job search guide from the first run of the guide. Since first printing the guide last year, we have sent 48 copies of the guide out into the world. Now we need your help to print more, so we can distribute it to more formerly incarcerated people. For every $5 donated, we are able to put one more guide into the hands of a formerly incarcerated person at no cost to them.

We love sharing this guide with the formerly incarcerated people we work with. It is packed with useful information on planning for a job search, where to look for jobs, how to prepare a resume, how to address criminal history during the hiring process, common interview questions and more. We use the guide with the clients we mentor and have also been handing it out to those who attend the monthly workshops we do in partnership with Working Alternatives, a residential program that helps people leaving federal prison transition back into their communities. Because the formerly incarcerated people we work with are unemployed, it is important that we provide the guide for free. That's where your donation helps. The updated version of the guide contains information on California's new fair chance hiring law and the state's ban on asking candidates about salary history.

Please donate today to help us print more copies of our guide. Five dollars goes a long way to set someone on the path to career success, which is a huge part of building a healthy and productive life following release from jail or prison.

Donate here. You have the option to make your donation recur monthly, which means you could provide a guide a month to a job seeker.

If you are an organization that would like to purchase copies of our guide for use with your clients, visit our store. If you are formerly incarcerated person who wants to request a copy of our guide, visit our Become a Client page.

Thank you for supporting Pacific Reentry Career Services and second chances.

Job Search Guide Now Available

We are happy to announce that our job search guide is done and ready for distribution. We developed our job search guide to help support formerly incarcerated job seekers. This comprehensive guide includes a job search checklist, skills & experience assessment, tips on how to draft a conviction statement, sample resume, sample job application, monthly budget worksheet, common interview questions, advice for addressing criminal history in interviews and more.

This guide was developed by Pacific Reentry Career Services co-founders Stephanie Hammerwold and Tim Pershing. Stephanie drew from more than a decade working in human resources to create this guide.

If you are a service provider and would like to order copies of our guide to use with your clients, visit our online store. Guides are $10 each.

All of our job search clients will receive a copy of the guide for free. If you are a formerly incarcerated individual and want to find out more about how to get the guide, get in touch through our Become a Client page.

Pacific Reentry Career Services News

We are continuing to work hard to get our programs off the ground and to spread the word about the benefits of employing those in the reentry community. This means putting on events and participating in activities that foster strong connections between the formerly incarcerated and members of the community who can support successful reentry following release from jail or prison. Success depends on a community of service providers, employers, friends and family and more, and we have been keeping ourselves busy in doing our part to support employment for the reentry community in Orange County.

Fair Chance Hiring Summit

Our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit is coming up on June 7 in Irvine. This event will bring together employers, HR professionals and hiring managers to learn more about hiring the formerly incarcerated and how to implement fair chance hiring practices in the workplace. We hope to do more events like this in the future and are planning opportunities that bring together job seekers and employers. This event is free, but space is limited, so be sure to register soon.

Orange County's 3rd Annual Reentry Resource Fair

We are excited to be involved in this year's Reentry Resource Fair, which will be held on June 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Honda Center (2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim). This fair is put on by the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) with the support of many local agencies and individuals. The fair will bring together agencies, employers and other service providers that are ready to help formerly incarcerated people and their families. Pacific Reentry Career Services will be there to offer resume critiques and job search coaching. Be sure to come by our table and say hi.

Involvement with OCREP

Speaking of OCREP, we continue to be thankful for our involvement with this amazing group that is working to bring together a variety of people and organizations that assist the formerly incarcerated in Orange County. Stephanie Hammerwold, the Pacific Reentry Career Services Executive Director, was recently named treasurer of the OCREP advisory committee. We look forward to continuing our involvement with OCREP as we work to build a strong reentry community in Orange County.

Speaking to College Students

Stephanie Hammerwold recently spoke to a Chicano and Latino Studies class at Cal State Long Beach with Ashley Baribeault-Vlcan from Working Wardrobes. Ashley is also the assistant director of OCREP. Stephanie and Ashley spoke to Professor Maythee Rojas's class about the reentry community in Orange County as well as the work OCREP, Working Wardrobes and Pacific Reentry Career Services are doing.

Job Search Guide Fundraiser

We are still working to raise money to print our Job Search Guide. Your donation to this campaign will help get our guide into the hands of formerly incarcerated job seekers. Donate soon so that your name can be listed on our acknowledgement page in the guide.

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Sponsor Our Job Search Guide

Pacific Reentry Career Services is committed to helping formerly incarcerated women find meaningful employment. We are also dedicated to supporting the reentry community by providing resources and advocating for fair chance hiring.

We have created a Job Search Guide as a resource for formerly incarcerated job seekers. The guide will be provided free of charge to the women in our mentorship program and to other formerly incarcerated job seekers that participate in our workshops or reach out to us for assistance.

By donating to this campaign, you will help offset the printing expense of our 2017 Job Search Guide. Each booklet costs approximately $3.60 to print.

The Job Search Guide is 28-page tool that helps our clients understand the job search process, make career plans, create resumes, learn about completing applications, prepare for interviews and to create a plan for post-release employment success.

Your name will also be printed on a recognition page inside so they know that they are being supported by people in their community and beyond.

Your donation will go a long way in assisting formerly incarcerated individuals in building successful lives.

Visit our GoFundMe page to sponsor the Job Search Guide!

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.

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.