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10 reasons why you’re not getting hired as a correctional officer (and how to fix them)

Sometimes, there are other things beside a lack of experience or poor interview skills that could be holding you back


AP Photo/David Goldman

By C1 Staff

So you want to be a correctional officer? You fixed up your resume, wrote a stellar cover letter and sent out a few applications. If you find yourself getting interviews and being turned down, you might be scratching your head as to what you’re doing wrong.

Sometimes, there are other things beside a lack of experience or poor interview skills that could be holding you back. Here are ten things that could be preventing you from getting hired, and how to fix them.

A questionable online presence
The online world is often treated differently compared to the “real” world, but the reality of it is that what you say on the Internet can come back to haunt you. Your opinions are your own, but displaying racist rants or risqué photos online can hurt your chances of employment. Online accounts like Facebook or Twitter can also reveal your religious and political leanings, which can also affect how an employer sees you. Make sure that you maintain a positive online image by setting privacy settings to maximum where possible. Think before you post!

Tattoos and/or body piercings
Alternative lifestyles are becoming more accepted in the workplace, but for those in law enforcement visible tattoos and body piercings can be a problem. Tattoos can not only offer personal information about the person wearing them, but considering their connection with prison gangs, can sometimes be misinterpreted as affiliation for one particular group. If you don’t have any yet, carefully consider this decision. Avoid visible places if you feel you must get one. If you already have them, do your best to cover up any visible tattoos and remove any piercings. Ask what the facility’s policy is regarding tattoos and piercings.

Lacking 20/20 vision
Being able to see clearly is important when it comes to keep an eye on hundreds of inmates inside a pod or performing a cell search for potential contraband and other dangerous items. You may have your eyesight tested as part of the application process. If you need glasses or have an outdated prescription, now is the time to fix that issue. If you want to avoid having to wear glasses on the job, you may want to consider laser eye surgery.

Poor physical shape
Being turned down for a correctional officer position due to not being in shape shouldn’t come as a surprise; you’ll be on your feet for long hours, and may sometimes need to subdue an inmate for various reasons. You may be tested for physical fitness as part of the application process, so make sure that you exercise regularly and eat a good diet. This also includes mental troubles, for which you should get help from a qualified professional.

You smoke
Smoking is an obstacle to good physical health; smoking is also a heavy toll on health insurance providers who must pay for the necessary care for smoking-related ailments. This can raise insurance premiums for all other covered participants. Secondhand smoke at the workplace can also be a cause for concern. You may want to consider quitting smoking, through the use of a patch or other assistance. Being a nonsmoker is not only good for your health, it can save you a lot of money in the long run. Be sure to wait three months for all nicotine to leave your system when you quit smoking, as you may be tested.

No valid driver’s license
Many positions in the corrections industry require a valid driver’s license, for numerous reasons: ensuring you can get to work on time, providing a valid form of identification, driving could be a job duty. If you want to work behind the wall, make sure you can drive a set of wheels first. Check out the Department of Motor Vehicles online to find out how to get a license for a first time, how to renew an expired license, and answering any other questions you might have.

Showing extreme bias against offenders
Inmates are in prison as punishment, not for punishment. It’s not the role of a correctional office or other prison staff member to take justice into their own hands, and if you express such sentiments in a written statement or during an interview, you can definitely consider yourself no longer in the running for a position. When considering a job in corrections, think about your people skills and whether you’re able to work with offenders in an unbiased and objective fashion. If not, this may not be the line of work for you.

Extreme political and/or religious views
This goes hand in hand with showing bias against offenders; extreme leanings in either political or religious views can cause problems when it comes to employing policies and procedures. You will also interact with a large number of people who may hold opposing views to yours; as noted above, you must be able to work with these people in an objective way.

Low credit score
Yup, employers check your credit score, too. A high credit score is believed to indicate a person with a sense of responsibility and reliability. A person with a high credit score is also less likely to commit financial crimes or be potentially bribed by an inmate. Make sure that you’re aware of your credit score by checking it annually. If you see any mistakes, be sure to contact the creditor and/or credit reporting agency to get it fixed.

Not paying child support
This also goes hand in hand with your credit score; employers can tell a lot about a person just by a glimpse into their financial history. If you aren’t paying your child support – among other financial obligations – this can reflect on your ability to get the job done. Not paying child support can carry the risk of jail time, which could cause employers to question your desire to uphold and obey the law. If you’re not current with your child support payments, work with your local Child Support Services agency or court to see how you can get caught up. Be prepared to explain why you’re behind and show how you plan to prevent such future lapses.

What other factors do you think might go into a potential candidate being passed over for a corrections job? Leave your thoughts in the comments.