Home The Online Job Search Guide for Criminal Justice Professionals

The Online Job Search Guide for Criminal Justice Professionals

For criminal justice professionals looking for careers, online job searches can be overwhelming. Yet in a world where the internet is “a near-universal resource” for landing a job, it’s crucial to edge out your competition by smoothly navigating everything from networking virtually to nailing the video interview.

This comprehensive guide will help you master these stages of the virtual job search, as well as point you to where and how to find criminal justice job postings that are worth your time to apply and how to prepare for common criminal justice interview questions.

Network Using Trade Groups and Industry Organizations

As with any industry, criminal justice professionals are more likely to succeed in job searches when they maintain a rich network of colleagues, professionals, academics, mentors, and prospective employers. The nature of the field, however, offers extra opportunities to develop targeted relationships in the criminal justice community.

Organizations like the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) offer a range of networking tools to connect you with professionals, employers, and fellow job seekers, not to mention a full menu of career services. You should also consider joining some of the organizations that offer networking opportunities that are specific to your field, like the American Correctional Association (ACA) or the International Association of Forensic Criminologists (IAFC).

There are dozens of industry organizations, associations, and groups that provide platforms for you to connect and build relationships with the very people and organizations you might want to work for and with. The National Criminal Intelligence Resource Center, for example, maintains a database with links to more than two dozen organizations as varied as the American Polygraph Association and the International Association of Crime Analysts. JobStars, a resume writing and career coaching site, maintains a similar list, as does the University of Cincinnati.

Not only are they good for networking, but membership in these groups looks great on resumes as well.

Spend some time combing these lists and homing in on the organizations most relevant to your goals. Some require annual membership fees, but there are benefits to joining. Most provide contact lists, forums, and other tools designed to help you cultivate and maintain relationships—which you can turn into LinkedIn contacts. You should also pursue networking opportunities through unions that represent criminal justice professionals specific to your specialty and field, as well as via your school’s alumni organization.

Job Search Resources for Criminal Justice Professionals

Many of the same associations and organizations discussed in the previous section offer far more than just networking opportunities. Most also provide comprehensive career services, professional development tools, and job boards for members and visitors alike.

Beyond those trade associations and industry groups—and beyond the generic job boards used across all industries—criminal justice professionals have access to unique platforms just for them. You can focus on job opportunities specific to your industry, field, and even your unique criminal justice specialty by concentrating on the platforms that only cater to that. Some of these sites may even have job postings that Google for Jobs can’t search for.

Here are just a few examples of specialty-specific job search resources across the broad field of criminal justice:

Additionally, Career Profiles, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the Texas A&M University Library maintain comprehensive lists of links to organizations, tools, platforms, and websites designed specifically for those seeking criminal justice careers.

Use Google’s Job Aggregator

Even though industry-specific job boards are an excellent place to begin your research, don’t ignore the search engines that cover general job openings. There are dozens of competing job boards and career sites to choose from, most of which have overlapping content. Most of the Internet’s job board best-of lists still give the top spots to well-known sites like Indeed and Glassdoor, and while those options are undoubtedly useful, they aren’t the only possibilities.

In 2017, Google launched a new kind of job board called Google for Jobs. Strangely, there’s no specific URL to visit, so search “Google for Jobs,” and a box will appear in the results. Google for Jobs is an aggregator, meaning it allows you to search and apply for positions across most individual job boards. Since it’s powered by Google, it can pull and display not only available jobs, but also average salary data and other information for your chosen job title from sites like Glassdoor. Zety, an online resume builder, created an excellent tutorial on how it works.

Work the Filters and Keywords

Criminal justice is a massive field with a wide variety of job titles and duties. When you choose a job site, start by using filters and keywords to eliminate jobs that don’t pertain to you. Somewhere near the search bar on almost every job site is a button that says something like “advanced search.”

This advanced option allows you to filter jobs beyond the basic location/industry/job title defaults. It’s important to plug in keywords that represent the specific things you’re looking for in a job or that match your qualifications and interests. Examples include:

  • The titles of any certifications or credentials you hold
  • Your academic major or specialty
  • Specific occupations like “school resource officer” or “criminal procedure paralegal”
  • Job rank, like “associate attorney” or “experienced corrections officer”
  • Your desired salary (though not all positions include this information)
  • Full-time versus part-time options

Many sites also offer the option to exclude results you don’t want; use those as well.

Keep an Eye Out for Virtual Job Fairs

Your state, county, or municipality is likely to host career fairs just for criminal justice professionals, and you can attend many of them without leaving the house. The Massachusetts Office of Administration, for example, recently held its first Criminal Justice Virtual Career Fair. Check with your local police department, corrections department, state, or even the federal government to learn about online job fairs, but don’t just wing it. FlexJobs created a helpful tutorial on how to succeed at remote job fairs.

Spend Some Time on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is still the top professional social networking site. It should be a part of any criminal justice professional’s networking strategy, but it doesn’t work if you treat it like Facebook with resumes.

Just don’t expect LinkedIn to be a networking cure-all. Many experts feel that it’s best to make relevant outside contacts before migrating to LinkedIn, and there’s no better place to make those industry contacts than through the groups and associations that represent America’s criminal justice professionals.

These pieces are good options from which to start learning about how best to leverage the vast network of criminal justice professionals out there:

How to Network on LinkedIn: 10 Experts Weigh In: This comprehensive dos-and-don’ts tutorial based on advice from 10 LinkedIn networking experts, is from Jobscan, a resume optimization site.

The Biggest Mistake You’re Making on LinkedIn and What You Should Do Instead: Entrepreneur also offers excellent tips on what to do—and what to avoid—when making connections on the platform.

Make Your Cover Letter and Resume Shine

You’ll likely never have the chance to nail a virtual interview if you don’t have a winning electronic resume. Some suggestions for creating an excellent resume are:

  • Use a free resume builder. Sites like LiveCareer offer a variety of templates to get that professional look.
  • Build your resume from the top down. Hiring managers usually glance at most resumes for only a few seconds, so lead with your strongest suits in a short introductory paragraph called a “professional summary.” If you have experience, focus on professional accomplishments. If you don’t, start with your your academic achievements.
  • Use appropriate fonts and formatting. Even in the days of paper-only resumes, it wasn’t advisable to use creative fonts or to veer too far off the beaten path with headers and formatting. When submitting digitally, it’s even more important to play it safe. Many job sites allow you to import information from your resume to your online job application, and strange fonts and formats can be unreadable to them. If you are submitting directly to a human being, their computer could find certain fonts or formats unrecognizable—and they will usually hit delete instead of asking for a new copy. Even with nicely-formatted resumes, save them as PDFs so they hold their form—and be sure it looks right, as changing from Word to PDF format can alter things a bit
  • Be concise. Use short, tight, descriptive sentences and break up blocks of text with headers and bullet points. Only include the most important information and try to keep your resume to one page—definitely no more than two. If a hiring manager wants to know more, they’ll ask.

Tailor Your Resume to the Job

While it is time-consuming, you will have more luck if you tailor your resume to each individual job you apply for.  Glassdoor recommends including keywords that appeared in the actual job posting. These should be included in your professional summary. For example, if the job posting called for an “experienced law enforcement officer with tactical training,” for example, reword that description as it applies to you.

Don’t waste your time by including vague and generic keywords that don’t speak to your qualifications. Words and phrases like “dynamic,” “self-starter,” “team player,” and “results-driven” clutter your resume without adding any value—unless those keywords appear in the specific job listing. Review the specific expected skills in the listing and include any that you are competent in on your list of abilities.

Finally, make sure to add a section for any awards, certifications, special training, and memberships in organizations.

Seal the Deal with a Strong Cover Letter

All resumes should be submitted with a one-page cover letter (or, if sending through email, as the body of the email) unless the listing expressly states otherwise—if they say it’s optional, though, it isn’t! This gives you a chance to introduce yourself as the human being behind the resume. Don’t duplicate any wording from your resume and instead use it as an opportunity to speak in your own voice. Here, too, brevity is key.

The Balance Careers provides excellent advice for creating a digital cover letter. If you are emailing it, be sure to include the name of the position and your name in the subject line. Additionally, save any attachments with your name and type of document (e.g., “Bob Smith Cover Letter”). A standard format includes:

  • Greeting the hiring manager by name if possible, by saying something like “Dear Ms. Jones,” If the hiring manager’s name is unavailable or if you are unsure of their gender pronouns—you don’t want to assume a Chris Jones uses Mr.—use a neutral greeting like “Dear Hiring Manager:” finishing with a colon rather than a comma.
  • A paragraph explaining why you are applying (be specific), who referred you (if relevant), and a snappy reason you would be a good fit.
  • One to two paragraphs going into more detail about your experience and what you could bring to the table. Give specific examples illustrating your abilities rather than making general claims.
  • End with a polite sign-off, like “thank you,” and your name.

If you do not have your contact information at the top of your cover letter—many people format the top identically to their resumes—include your phone number, email address, and any relevant social media (like LinkedIn or a professional Twitter account) under your signature.

Tips for Nailing a Virtual Job Interview

While many companies still prefer in-person interviews, virtual versions are becoming more common. They are convenient to hiring teams and allow them to screen in—or out—candidates before arranging their day around visitors. Though much of the common interview wisdom still applies, there are some adjustments to make.

Prepping the Basics for Phone or Video Interviews

Some virtual interview tips are specific to criminal justice professionals. But first, there are a few rules that apply to everyone preparing for a remote interview.

  • Test your tech. Fumbling with unfamiliar technology during a virtual interview is distracting, wastes time, and may throw you off your game or appear unprofessional. Before you sit down for the interview, make sure you’ve downloaded any necessary software and are thoroughly familiar with the platform you’ll be using.
  • Prepare your environment. A virtual interview gives the hiring manager a visual window into your world. Declutter, choose a neutral, non-distracting background like a wall or bookcase, and make sure nothing is visible that could negatively color an interviewer’s opinion of you.
  • Dress as if it were a real job interview—because it is. Don’t mistake virtual for casual. Dress the part just as you would for a sit-down meeting.
  • Conduct a mock interview. Recruit a friend or family member to play the role of the hiring manager so you can get some practice and receive feedback.
  • Do your homework. Research the organization you’re attempting to join, its size, mission, history, and the language that it uses on its website. Incorporate your discoveries into your responses.
  • Follow up. It’s essential to follow-up shortly after the interview with a brief, well-worded email thanking the interviewer for his or her time and reiterating your interest in joining their team.

Criminal Justice Job Interview Questions to Expect

Every interview is different, but depending on your branch and specialty, there are some questions you can expect and should prepare for.

  • Law enforcement: Military.com produced excellent tutorials on what to expect when sitting for a job interview in law enforcement. The Military.com tutorial provides a list of questions you’re likely to hear, like why you want to work in law enforcement, what you think about your last employer, and your greatest weaknesses or mistakes and how you make up for them. Additionally, this tutorial stands out for providing examples of both good answers and bad.
  • Corrections: Aspiring corrections professionals can visit CorrectionsOne.com for a job interview guide with tips from industry insiders and people who conduct corrections interviews. It includes advice on answering questions honestly, not overthinking, and dealing with questions regarding your psychology, which you’re sure to receive.
  • The courts: LinkedIn produced a helpful slideshow that lawyers and other courtroom professionals can use to prepare for interviews. It includes common questions and examples of ideal answers on topics like job expectations and why you want the job, as well as how to handle the potentially difficult conversation about salary.

No matter which branch of criminal justice you are looking into, it wouldn’t hurt to review all of the advice above—some questions and situations are universal. For instance, according to The Balance Careers, you should plan for and expect both scenario-based questions (“what would you do if…”) and experience-based questions (“tell me about a time when…”) no matter what branch of criminal justice you’re pursuing a position in, and these resources may provide answers you can tweak.