Your resume is a marketing tool and should therefore highlight your strengths and qualifications. This is your brand identity - just like a consumer product. The resume should only show that you are the right person for the job. It is never a good idea to introduce your weaknesses, including any felony convictions or criminal records. In most cases, it is likely that the employer will run a background check on all viable candidates. So it is better to discuss any legal issues or criminal record in person. In that way you can explain the situation, provide important details, and verify that you have learned from your mistakes and are going to be a trusted and valued employee.
Many companies may be prevented from asking about a criminal record; however, it is always proper to be honest. If an application asks if you have an arrest or conviction record, you should answer “yes”. If there is a place to elaborate on the answer, adding language such as, "to be discussed in detail at a later date," will let the hiring manager know that there is more to the story.
Especially when you have a negative background experience, you will want to emphasize the positive aspects of your skills, and your strong motivation to take on the responsibilities of the new job. Conveying positivity throughout the resume and cover letter will be interpreted well by a recruiter.
Examples of Keywords or language to include might be: below the your name and contact information, include titles that identify the job of interest and a skill, such as:
FIRST NAME/LAST NAME
Building Contractor • Carpentry Professional • Detail Oriented
Using prior or anticipated titles here on the resume will cause the recruiter and scanner to see your skills immediately and have an initial positive reaction. Throughout the resume, stay positive and use language that shows your energy, abilities and strengths:
motivated, dedicated, focused, hard-working
Also, if there are gaps in your work experience, due to a prior record, be prepared to discuss the reasons during an interview. If you had a job or completed improvement programs while incarcerated, you can list on the resume, “State of __”, as the employer, and then include responsibilities, tasks, results. (It is not necessary to add which division of the State.)
Under “Professional Summary”, for someone who has had a prior conviction, using language focusing on your strengths, will gain the attention of the recruiter, so that when the discussion concerning your prior record comes up, they will already have had an excellent first impression:
Motivated and results-driven construction worker, with 5 years prior experience working on various commercial projects. Advanced knowledge of carpentry, roofing and electricity; supervised subcontractors. Oversight for ten workers.
Remaining positive, and eliminating any references to legal issues on the resume, is the best approach.