The Restaurant

The Restaurant
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting a Job In the Restaurant: Convictions

I have been conducting numerous interviews lately, many of the applicants have had a felony conviction. Although I am no expert, I feel I can give some advice to your situation if you are in the same boat. Take it for what it is worth.
As stated before in the blog about the applicantion process any time you have a conviction ask to discuss it with the manager right then. Always fill out the application honestly, but when the application asks about your conviction simply write "Will discuss." If you simply write 'assault' or something similar the manager may look it over and decide against even calling you, verses 'will discuss' which opens the gates to almost anything (which may be good or bad for you).
If you feel you need to write something, it's a good idea to write the lesser of the crimes you may have been convicted of. I mean if you get convicted of possession of a controlled substance and possession of stolen property, I would list the stolen property, but ideally again, just write "Will discuss."
Different managers have different opinions on different crimes. A female manager may say absolutely not to an individual convicted of rape, but maybe you were 19 and your girlfriend was 16, it's a complicated world. Some managers say absolutely no persons with drug convictions others say drug convictions aren't violent crimes. Some say fraud is not a problem in a restaurant, some believe it's the worst. It really just depends on who is doing your interview.
While you haven't done yourself any favors for getting a job, it is important to remember than many restaurants are still willing to hire you. Restaurants are typically a fairly rough place. The kitchen crew can typically hold there own, so hiring a (or another) ex-con is not unrealistic. A felony conviction is not necessarily a disqualification at all restaurants (it may be at some).
Treat the interview as professional as possible. Hiring managers want to see someone that has changed their life, not a possible repeat offender. See the post about dressing for an interview. As an ex-con you will be scrutinized more so than others, so you need to be dressed better, arrive earlier, be more polite, be more prepared.
Don't bring up the conviction until the manager does (which, if they are any good manager, they will) Without being too graphic, ligitimately explain your side of the story. Be brief. Do NOT go on and on about it. Make it short and to the point, explain in a sentence or two that it is behind you. Explain you are moving forward and leave it at that. You want the interviewer to remember the interview, not the conviction. Make the conviction a small footnote in the whole interview process.
People understand that life happens and some times you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, BUT BE AWARE! Honesty is the best policy! If the interviewer asks you about your conviction and you said, "No, that wasn't me. Lawyer screwed me." The manager is not likely to believe you. Managers typically would prefer an honest rehabilitated felon over a lying employee.
If you do not get the job don't automatically assume it was because of your conviction, something else might have come up, maybe a better canidate. If you read this and follow it to the 't' don't assume you will get the job.

Good luck with the job hunt,
I'll be rooting for you.

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