The contemporary job market is getting increasingly competitive. It’s a challenge to find a suitable job and more so when you are a felon. Honestly, employers are not exactly kind to felons given their past criminal record.
In such a situation, a recommendation letter from a trusted and neutral source may do a lot in securing jobs for a felon. But to get the recommendation letter, you have to ask for it.
Nobody will be sitting with the letter ready to hand it over to you as you come out of the prison. But, how to ask for it? It’s not something that you get taught in the correction center. A lot of people don’t know the etiquette of requesting a letter.
However, not to worry, the post below offers a handy guide on how to request recommendation letter when you are felon. But, first let’s see why this letter is so important for your career.
Importance of recommendation letter for a felon
A positive recommendation letter can have a huge impact on your likelihood of securing a good job, despite your past history. If we look from the employer’s perspective, it seems risky to hire a person who has been convicted of a crime.
You will only be labeled as unreliable and dishonest. And, it’s tough to get over that bias easily. No matter how educated or skilled you are, an employer will generally prefer a person with more of a clean background.
But, what if someone trustworthy assures him of your positive change and willingness to work for a better life? Now, that can have a tremendous influence on an employer and may change his views about you- and for better.
The recommendation letters are usually penned by people with almost unquestionable reputations. They could be pastors, prison volunteers, former employers and soon.
The writers will champion your best abilities in the letter to put you in the best light. Most importantly, they will try to establish you as a changed person now who is honest and trustworthy.
The bottom line is, your recommendation letter will do great job in earning the trust of your potential employer so that he can overcome the bias about you given your past history.
It’s not really hard to make false claims on resume and come up with fake certificates. But when someone with a strong respectable position in society vouches for you, things become more credible. And this is what a letter of recommendation does. It helps you to get noticed in a positive way.
Whom to ask for the letter?
Below is a list of potential figures you may request for the recommendation. Try to go for someone who is well known and respected in the community and are revered by potential employers.
Also, they should know you as otherwise their assurance about your abilities and changed attitude will hold little ground.
You may request recommendation letter from-
- Pastors/ religious leaders
- former employers who still believe in you
- Prison program leaders, mostly, outside volunteers
- Prison personnel whom you have worked with
- Parole officers
- Former colleagues who are confident about your abilities
- Current or former teachers
How to ask for it? Now, that we know whom to request for the recommendation letter, it’s time to see how to ask for it.
A Guide to Request Recommendation Letter when You Are Felon
Request in person You should always request the recommendation letter in person. It’s a huge favor that you are asking for. Thus, you should always treat the entire matter with special attention and utmost respect.
However, if the person is out of town and you need the letter urgently, you may request him/her to mail it to you. And after s/he comes back, make sure to pay a visit to convey your thanks in person.
Go to someone who actually knows you
There is no use in going to the new Pastor for the recommendation letter if he does not know you well. As mentioned earlier, this letter is extremely significant.
The claims that will be made in your favor should not be some random good words about you whom you have met for just a couple of days.
Otherwise, the letter will lose out on its value. You should know the person who will write the letter would have to mention how s/he came to know you. So, you should request someone who knows you well.
Also, before asking for the letter, you must ask the reference whether s/he is well aware of your skills and abilities and would be comfortable writing about you. You can’t pressure the reference here.
You can only ask for the letter if the other person is willing to do so. If the chosen reference declines to write for you, thank him/her for the time and look for another reference.
It’s suggested that you should not zero in on just one person and proceed with a list of potential references. This way, if one person refuses, you still have others to fall back on.
State the reason
While asking for the recommendation letter, you must clearly inform your reference about the purpose of the letter. Tell him/her that you are aspiring to start afresh.
But given the bias towards the felons in the job market, you would need his/her positive recommendation to secure trust in the employment space.
Besides, you should also clarify why you revere his/her thoughts so much about your abilities and character. It will serve as a fillip to motivate the reference to pen up a trustworthy recommendation letter for you.
When you find a reference willing to pen a recommendation letter for you, provide all the inputs that may help him/her to shape the letter in the best way possible.
For example, you must state what kind of jobs you’re applying for and the potential designations you are zeroing on.
It will enable the reference to comprehend which of your skills and abilities to highlight and champion. Alongside, you should also mention to them your commendable skills as well as previous achievements.
Your accomplishments should be noted in your recommendation letter to leverage your ability as a potential employee.
You should also request your reference to provide inspiring examples of your achievements in relevance to the jobs you are applying for.
For example, let’s say you are applying for the job of a freelance photographer for a leading daily or magazine. If you have won an award in photography, request your reference to mention that in the letter.
Writing Within – Time limit –
The employment sector is a fast-paced space. The faster you can submit your application, better will be the chances for you. Thus, you must make sure to inform your reference about the time limit of the recommendation letter beforehand.
Check whether s/he would be okay with your desired time limit. You certainly can’t force your reference to rush in the 11th hour.
If the person isn’t comfortable with your given time limit, move to the next name on your list. In no way, you can persist a person to write a recommendation letter for you. It’s unethical.
A letter of recommendation is something that should come from a willing person only. If the reference agrees to write within that time limit, well and good. Make sure to pass a gentle reminder to him/her as your deadline approaches.
You should make sure to get multiple recommendation letters from your references. As per the experts, 3 letters will be great. It would be good if the letter come from people from different backgrounds who have known you from various angles.
For example, you may secure one recommendation letter from a pastor, one from your former boss, and the other from a senior prison volunteer. However, if any of the references are somehow connected to you through a filial bond, avoid that reference.
For example, if the pastor is your elder brother, look for another option. It is assumed that we cannot be unbiased about our close ones. So, your recommendation letter would be presumed to have a hint of partiality and won’t hold much ground before your potential employer.
Also, be careful to include the contact details of your references in your recommendation letter. Your letter of recommendation letter is never complete without the address, email id, and phone number of your references.
If needed your potential employer may like to contact the references personally to clarify the details himself/herself.
Your future employer may even wish to verify your references only and hence would like to see their contact details on the letter itself.
A smart employer will always prefer to do background checks before trusting anybody. Last but not the least, never provide any misleading or false inputs to your references or urge them to do so.
It’s a serious crime and can ruin the chances of your further employment in the job market altogether. You have already lived a traumatic past. Look forward to the positive days ahead.
Robert Gomez was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He currently lives in Northern California with “the wifey,” “the kids,” “the dog,” and “that cat,” 🙁 He is also a former journalist who has interviewed murderers on death row. Felonyfriendlyjobs.org was born to help ex-felons get a second chance in life.