Interviewing from “Top to Bottom”

Me in 2012

This photo is when I would interview potential employees “from the top”.

As Founder and CEO, I thought I had it all down. We’d put the candidates through intense screening, and I would join only after my managers had weeded out all but the best. My focus was more on how lucky they were to work for such a great company and great CEO. I paid little attention to their personal story, affective gifts, family life and lacked humane awareness of their nerves in the ultra-competitive tech employment world.

Ironically, now I interview “from the bottom”. Not only am I the one sitting nervously in front of the hiring manager answering extensive questions, but I do so as a convicted felon.

Although the events that led to that conviction are six to eight years ago, the label still stands. Which injects the most difficult decision into every interview, “when do I tell the hiring manager about my conviction”?

There are all kinds of advice out there on the topic…

Tell them right away. Tell them in second interview. Tell them like Fair Chance law states, after a conditional offer of employment. None of these are easy and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

There is only a small keyhole through which to gain the position no matter which strategy I attempt.

All I can do is bleed honesty in emotion. Focusing on the situational acts, the length of time since, the amount of rehabilitation, the foundational change in personality, and the desire to rejoin the workforce and put my skills and experience to work in a way that changes the lives of others.

Moving from top to bottom has taught me a lot of things, but the most important is that each applicant is a person with a story. It may not be the perfect story or the one most accepted by company leadership, but it is one that deserves personalized attention and understanding regardless of an offer of employment.

To all CEO’s, founders, HR managers, and leaders, please interview every candidate like you are at the bottom, right along with them. You will change your employment strategies in a way that recognizes the depth of individuals personalities and story. You will hire those “chiseled” by life’s experiences and their grit will create a better customer experience and working environment for everyone.

“Blurred Lines”- Social Impact and My Start-Up Story

As a start-up founder and entrepreneur, myself, defining the ultimate goal of the company was often difficult. Modern day entrepreneurship and investing has made the term Social Impact en vogue. I latched onto it early on and thought I knew exactly what it meant. A significant amount of present-day companies and investment funds claim to be based upon the idea, but what really is Social Impact?

The University of Michigan @Stephen M. Ross School of Business defines true social impact as “A Pressing Social Challenge” AND “Significant Positive Change”. They also say, “tackling symptoms of problems or trifling around the edges remains insufficient. For us to retain a potent and persuasive term, we must demand that social impact stands for a significant shift in society”.

If true social impact requires a significant shift in society, then How do start-ups and their investors balance the priority between rate of return on capital vs. the shift in society? Can both be achieved? Which is more important? How do we measure success?

My own start-up was meant to create a significant shift in education, specifically that of advancing opportunity for traditionally underserved student populations. I discovered this as a pressing need through my previous fifteen years in education reform and from my own personal battle. I grew up the youngest of five kids in my family, none of which who had attended college at that time, with parents who had both dropped out of high school. I felt a deep desire to create change and give back to those, who like me, didn’t excel in the traditional way.

In my initial meetings with investors, and throughout the time with the company, I was often dazed and confused as to whether our target was high end revenue or incremental social impact. For me, this created “blurred lines” as to who and what I was to serve. Would I be successful if I created a high level of return for the investors who had believed in me and my idea? or was the ultimate goal to create a significant, positive societal shift?

I am sure much more has been written on this topic from researchers and scholars alike who have deeper expertise than me. I am also sure there have been success stories from companies who have achieved both large revenue returns with significant social impact. Although, I can only speak from my own entrepreneurial experience and immersion in the investment world. I learned that return on capital, exponential growth and speed of scale far outweighs the focus on whether real social impact has occurred.

That makes sense when investors are putting in their own hard-earned money or have promised high level returns to their fund members. But here is the dilemma, “for us to retain a potent and persuasive term, we must demand that social impact stands for a significant shift in society”. @Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Therefore, I believe the term Social Impact is overused and often a lever for entrepreneurs and investors alike to trick themselves and others to believe that social impact is their goal, when high return on capital is the bottom line.

As a first-time entrepreneur dealing with “blurred lines” and unresolved personal issues, I made significant mistakes that lead to a criminal conviction. I take full responsibility for that and acknowledge the negative affects my actions had on everyone involved.

At the same time, entrepreneurs and investors alike need clear alignment on their goals and fund managers need to be realistic and communicative of what equals success. Thus, un-blurring the lines in the dynamic of the entrepreneur, investor relationship.

The most imprtant question I am left with is, is it possible to create social impact that moves forward change and innovation for future generations, while losing funds in a failed attempt? Is that still considered success if the original goal was social impact?

The start-up world is a complicated place where questions like this need answered as soon as possible.

7 Myths Regarding Employing White Collar Convicts

Preferrably named the White Collar Justice Impacted Community (WCJIC).

  1. Myth: The WCJIC had their chance and blew it, compared to other disadvantaged convicts, they don’t deserve pity and another chance.

Reality: Those that I know in the WCJIC are remorseful for destroyong the opportunity they had in an influencial, well paying position. In the end though, they committed their crimes due to foundational personal issues very similar to other crimes. They accept responsibility for where they are.

2. Myth: The WCJIC must have something fundamentally wrong with them in order to break others trust.

Reality: White Collar convicts have often experienced emotional pain, loss, trauma, depression, drug addiction and more. Most have worked very hard post conviction, often in therapy and counseling, to heal and change what led to their crime. They are now very trustworthy and wish to serve others.

3. Myth: We (the company) can’t trust the WJCIC in our workplace, they might offend again.

Reality: The WJCIC have one of the lowest recidivism rates and rarely re-offend. Most of that is due to White Collar Crime often being one-off actions under stress or situational events that have long since changed.

4. Myth: The conviction we are considering is too recent, how do we know they can be trusted so soon?

Reality: Because White Collar crime often involves years of investigation before an indictment and conviction, the conviction may be recent, but the offense iteself was 5-10 years ago. They are no more likely to offend than any other employee.

Think…how different were your other employees 5-10 years ago? How long is enough to regain trust?

5. Myth: The WCJIC have a gap in skills from their absence in the workplace that they can’t overcome in an ever changing, global, technological economy.

Reality: The WCJIC are some of the smartest people I have met. Many have either advanced degrees or equtible business and leadership experience. They are survivers of personal and social trauma that has created integrity and grit that easily makes up for lack of recent professional employment. Also, once they get employed, they stay longer than other hire.

6. Myth: The WCJIC should’nt have any trouble finding employment, there are an extensive number of Fair Chance Employment resources available.

Reality: Fair Chance hiring has made progress, but lacks a specific focus and resources for professional level positions. So, when the WJCIC applies and interviews for a job, it is a shot in the dark on whether they will be judged, shamed, denied, ignored, and/or ghosted. Employment is extremely difficult for the WJCIC. Therefore, they need your help in bringing an awareness to their issues.

7. Myth: The vast amount of information disseminated through the press and internet will look poorly upon the company if we hire this individual.

Reality: As stated in the movie, A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth”!

This is the largest challenge the WJCIC faces in finding employment. Largely due to number 1-6, plus factors such as,

What will other employees think? What will the Board of Directors say? The investors in the company would never allow this. What if this becomes public about our company? Our clients won’t trust this person. Plus a lot of other factors that equate to,

“We serve the unfortunate, but we don’t hire them”.

This thinking can be easily reveresed for companies who claim to have a social mission and serve in order to create equity for all people. In hiring someone from the WCJIC, the company “puts it’s money where its message is”, in order to prove their belief that everyone deserves a chance and they are out to serve ALL people.

Unfortunately, the WJCIC is yet to find companies described above. Who wants to be the first?

What do your co-workers REALLY think about you?

That’s a scary question. We all think we have an idea of where we stand, what persona we exude and how difficult we’d be to replace at work and home. But do we really know?

Can you imagine the morning you wake up to face the results of a survey provided to your co-workers and family, ALL about you? If you are brave enough to administer one to your peers @decisionwise is a great resource.

As a result, you can receive ratings on traits like cooperation, respect for others, loyalty, time management, effective communication, trust, and more.

When I was CEO of my own company, I never administered such a survey to my staff, but wish I had. I operated on my own bravado, felt like I was owed something from everyone, and did my best to pretend I really cared about anything but our bottom line. Any doubts that crept in, I attributed to imposter syndrome, but deep down I knew something was not in balance.

After being fired by the board of directors and replaced as CEO, ratings from others were evident. My actions, rationalized to myself as “to provide for others and advance our mission”, resulted in shock, dismay and may still have negative, lasting traumatic effects on those who worked for me and supported the company.

The resulting loss of respect, admiration, trust, and caring relationship that I do not have now, with those I worked closely with, is difficult to accept. Whether I like it or not, my criminal conviction provided more than a survey from everyone. It exposed a personal and professional gap and incongruency between who I was and who I want to be. It is damage that can never be reversed.

Extending the same survey concept to family, I get a somewhat similar result post-conviction. Fortunately, my wife and kids have always known the good that lies inside me and stuck with me. But as to my mom and siblings, I am not so lucky. I have become the object of gossip and an outsider not to be trusted.

My advice to those of you who have the career you always wanted now, don’t be afraid to measure the corresponding views of those around you. If you are operating from a place that feels right for whats best for you, that doesn’t mean that you have what’s best for others in mind. For me it’s too late, but I foresee a much better future for those that engage the opinions of others and make improvements according to the results.

Trying to Buy What Can’t Be Bought

This a line from one of my favorite songs, Old Before Your Time by Ray LaMontagne. It exemplifies many of my actions in my early and mid-adult life.

Growing up in a poor family and watching/listening to my parents diminish their self worth based upon their income, along with putting the rich on a pedestal, sent me a consequential message. “If you are feeling alone, down, not enough, less than others and not worthy, there is a solution, find a way to make A LOT of money”.

This message didn’t just come from my parents, it is alive and well in every bit of advertising and the media. I think that, like alcoholism or other addictions, some of us are predisposed to low self-worth and the appearance of sudden wealth triggers something inside us that creates a high. An invisible lightning bolt that ignites a power trip causing us to go beyond our usual and reasonable actions in order to hold onto it.

For me, this happened with sudden “fame/recognition” as a nationally recognized leader in my professional field, the money from that, and an eventual multi million-dollar entrepreneurial fund raise. According to what I had known all my life, I had made it at that point, I was worth something and others would put me on a pedestal.

Trying to buy what can’t be bought turns into wanting more things, power and self-esteem to the point of being our identity. Unfortunately, we all know that one can’t buy self-worth and identity, so the inevitable crash is bound to happen.

As a result of the crash, we are drawn back to the realization that money didn’t bring us self-worth. Instead, it brought us pressure, pain, dishonesty, and a deep-down yearning to be free of the “weight” we had ironically wanted for so long. We are lucky to be stripped of everything in order to find our inner strength, love ourselves and discover our real value.

In the book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, he is in his elder years and has lived a life full of pleasure and pain. He had spent his life seeking the answers to the questions of purpose and truth. The reality comes upon him that these things can’t be found, “when someone is seeking, he only sees the same thing he is seeking, because he has a goal and is obsessed with this goal. But finding means to be free and receptive, to have no goal, because when in striving for a goal, you miss what is right under your nose”.

For me, “finding” means that my self-worth, happiness and acceptance has always been inside of me. It didn’t need to be put on a pedestal or revered by others. All I had to was stop being obsessed with the goal and I found it.

This lesson is applicable to all things and a key to self-actualization.

White Collar Criminals Should Run the Country

Wow, I got your attention there didn’t I. I can see everyone’s mind racing about what a ridiculous statement this is. Afterall, aren’t these the people that have broken the trust of others, stealing, embezzling, engaged in corruption, Ponzi schemes, back office mayhem and other tricks to devoid others of funds? I am sure that is what comes to mind when you read this statement and imagine these scoundrels robbing the country blind. That is the picture the media has painted, so its no wonder it is what comes to your mind. Or maybe you have been negatively, personally affected by someone in this group.

But, let me tell you the real story about those who I have met, befriended and interacted with in what I prefer to call the White Collar Justice Impacted Community (WCJIC). Just a few days ago at Jeff Grant’s White Collar Support Group, I listened to the stories of over twenty individuals from around the United States and world, talk about the life choices that led to their crimes and the devastating affects on themselves, families, and victims. Members vary in professional background, age, gender, race, religion, and time spent incarcerated or on community supervision. The testimonials were extremely moving and emotional. Often full of shame, regret, disappointment, fear, and anger. But because of time dedicated to healing with this group, the friendships that have been cultivated, self reflection and growth, I also heard love, hope, and acceptance. Plus, a desire to give back and engage in meaningful work.

The members are good, humble humans that need support in a world where so many have abandoned them.

From the beginning of Jeff Grant’s formation of The White Collar Support Group, the goal has been to help the members move from isolation to community. Isolation that is not just from society, but also from our internal cell of shame and guilt. For myself, I was isolated by shame and guilt for more than three years after my crime. In finding Jeff Grant, and several others like me, I feel normal and have a home. I also have a place where, for at least one hour each week, I am not judged, ridiculed, or stereotyped. They are my COMMUNITY. and I am proud of them.

We would all tell you that we should definitely not run the country. But, many have stated that they would trust others in the group (and that they met in prison) more than many others they worked with in their previous professional lives.

Now, we ask for others to provide the same acceptance and trust so that we may rebuild our lives.

#community#leadership#mentalhealth#work#growth#help#society#media#justice#diversity#inclusion#equality#love#people

The Right to Work and Happiness

This photo represents one of the times when I am most happy, with my daughter at an Ohio State Football game. We must have won based upon the smiles.

There are many things that make us happy. Family, travel, hobbies, exercise, reading, watching sports, listening to music, and yes, work. We often take the last one for granted as we spend so much time at it. We count the days until the weekend, weeks until vacation and years to retirement. But all in all, nothing provides us an identity, self esteem, and happiness as does work. “A large stream of research has shown that the non-monetary aspects of employment are also key drivers of people’s wellbeing. Social status, social relations, daily structure, and goals all exert a strong influence on people’s happiness”. (Harvard Business Review, March 20, 2017)

Yet, even though work brings happiness, it is not equally available to everyone. The Declaration of Independence States that “We are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. But this is at best a half truth for many, including those in the White Collar Justice impacted community (WCJIC) and others with conviction records who are blocked from meaningful work. This robs us from a real ability to attain the happiness that is available to everyone else.

As for the WCJIC, “White-collar workers generally report experiencing more positive emotional states such as smiling, laughing, enjoyment, and fewer negative ones like feelings of worry, stress, sadness, and anger. Yet, One of the most robust findings in the economics of happiness is that unemployment is destructive to people’s wellbeing”. (Harvard Business Review, March 20, 2017). Therefore, the WCJIC are devoid of happiness at a high level.

It is often easy to say that people with conviction records caused their own problems. They made choices that led to them having a record that makes them hard to trust, creates safety issues for other employees, and should be screened out of opportunity for most jobs. Time and remorse should nullify this, but all freedoms are not equal. Those with convictions are free to choose other things that create happiness. We are allowed to create memories like the one with my daughter, engage in hobbies, and attain personal growth in many ways. But in the end, we remain devoid of opportunity for the happiness of employment. That is not the freedom for happiness The Constitution intended for all of us and significant change needs to occur.

So, to all employers and HR divisions that are faced with hiring decisions regarding individuals from the WCJIC, each time you deny us a job because of our record (for what you often hide behind as “legitimate business reasons”), you are not only denying us financial security, you are denying us the right to happiness. On behalf of the WCJIC, and others, I m calling for the consideration of the possible personal destruction you are creating without Fair Chance hiring and other equal opportunity initiatives.

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Walk a mile in our shoes, but not ones that are too small, of poor quality, and designed for the short term”. Mike Neubig

The White-Collar Justice impacted community (WJIC) is made up of diverse professionals in lawyers, CEO’s, bankers, physicians, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople who had worked their way to the top of their professions. Most also have one or multiple graduate level degrees.


Somewhere along our path, we made a mistake that cost us years of our lives while also losing friends, family members, spouses, children, and the public ridicule that goes with it. We understand that we are responsible for our mistakes and regret the place we put ourselves. But does that mean that our professional value should forever be diminished?


Groups that support Fair Chance hiring, such as 70 Million JobsHonest Jobs have broken new ground. Bringing the issue to the forefront and partnering with companies to provide employment for justice impacted individuals. Checkr, Inc. is nearing 6% of company being Justice Impacted. But, there’s whole new level of effort needed for the WJIC.


My personal experience with hundreds of interviews reveals unique, significant challenges. The jobs listed on the 2nd chance sites are largely labor, food service, transportation, customer service, warehousing, and so forth. The sales jobs are mostly for local, non-tech-based organizations. There’s nothing wrong with these jobs for those whose skills and experience are appropriate. But are they appropriate as the only option for the WJIC?


In applying for these jobs, employers often respond we are too skilled and worry about longevity in the role. Also, many of us are screened out as WJIC are often higher-level felonies that exclude candidates. Subsequently, since many of us had extensive professional careers prior to our convictions, we are often too old for these positions. That leaves us applying for management roles where our backgrounds and skills are appropriate, but the employer does not trust us with the nature of the conviction. I have been told, even though I was the best candidate, I cannot be trusted in the role. The remaining option is to start another business or take a low level, manual labor position that will not contribute to our future upward mobility. So, where do we go with this mountain in front of us?


White Collar crimes are not popular with the community. They are viewed as selfish, sneaky, corrupted, without remorse and enacted by self-centered, arrogant spoiled adults who misused their powerful position. Some of this may be true at the time of the crime, but is it true 5 plus years later?


I hope to bring awareness to the challenge the WJIC faces in bias, trust and finding appropriate employment. Fair Chance Hiring is NOT low-level hiring. This would mean Fair Chance companies saying, we have hired hundreds of justice impacted individuals, but only the lowest level, safest positions. This is progress, but should it be the goal? #hiring

Central Ohio Tech Founder Pleads Guilty to Five Felonies

This headline is about me, Mike Neubig.

My favorite priest once told me, “Everyone has sins and has made mistakes and engaged in negative begaviors leading to shameful life events. I listen to them every day in confession. The only difference is yours have been made public”.

Imagine a world where all of our most shameful moments were in the news. The media would cover, “Anne gets a divorce, Bob lost his job for the third time, Betsy was the only mom late to pick up her kids, Dan didn’t tell the bank teller she gave him an extra $20″…. and so on. How do we measure the level and impact of mistakes made by all humans at our worse moments?

There are no perfect structures or people, theres only the struggle to get there.

This is the unfortunate reality of those of us in the White Collar Justice Impacted community. Our greatest embarrassments, shameful moments and root of our post conviction issues are covered by multiple sources for everyone to see. In the age of the internet, that means for many years and millions of eyes. The news is an important part of societal rights for access to current events, ability to form an opinion and protect the 1st ammendment. Therefore, White Collar Justice Impacted individuals can only hope the readers/viewers consider the events surrounding our conviction, remember their own misgivings, and form a compassionate response to our stories.

In my experience, the reactions are a mixed bag ranging from support and encouragement, to remaining a contact, but silent to our struggles, to those who drop us altogether. The work we must do on ourselves involves coming to grips with the fact we can’t control the response of others. But, being put in front of thousands of others for judgement is not easy.

Once again, I am writing this in hope of calling to attention the struggle for employment that the Justice Impacted White Collar individuals face. We ask that employers consider our past actions and related press coverage within the lens of compassion and understanding that we are no different than anyone else, except our gravest errors have been made public.

All God asks of us is honesty and humility, no one else should ask for more.

Awareness

I am a part of the population of Justice Impacted White Collar individuals. For the last five years I have attempted to overcome poor decisions that broke the trust of and hurt many people close to me. These decisions led to me being fired from my own start up as CEO and an eventual felony conviction. Events like this take one to rock bottom, require self-reflection and personal change that involves a significant amount of work. The goal of personal change is not only to make recompense to those affected by our actions, but also to become a productive member of society. I desire to engage in meaningful work where I can apply positive skills and experience with what is learned from personal growth. Even if that means starting at the bottom of the organization.

Unfortunately, my experience has demonstrated employment as a White-Collar Justice Impacted individual is very difficult to achieve. I have engaged in hundreds of interviews, had offers rescinded, been fired after starting the position and experienced a lot of negative response and silence when revealing my past.

I have found my employment experience to be common for many of the others I have met who attend Jeff Grant White Collar Support group on Monday evenings. Even though we are tremendously remorseful, have been punished for our actions, and have rebuilt our lives in every other way, there is virtually nowhere for us to go professionally. 

I would summarize the feedback I/we receive with a general response of, “our other employees don’t trust people like you”, “you were the most deserving candidate, but not after finding this out”, “I am sure someone else will be willing to provide you a 2nd chance, but not us”. The responses are almost always followed by a canned email denial without a specific reason.

There is meaningful work occurring in the U.S. focused on 2nd chance employment. Many are start-ups engaged in connecting those with convictions to employers willing to provide 2nd chance hiring. Honest Jobs70 Million Jobs and more. BUT, my experience is that there is a tremendous lack of focus and resources matching the White Collar Justice Impacted to professional jobs where our background, skills and passions can be best used. 

Those that committed White Collar Crimes did so for many of the identical reasons as other criminal behavior. Including childhood trauma, physical and emotional neglect/abuse, low self-esteem, high levels of shame, poor communication skills, poor decisions under pressure and more. Therefore, these individuals deserve the same assistance for 2nd chance employment.

I am writing this post in hopes that those like Chan Zuckerberg InitiativeUptrustNucleos, IncThe Change CompaniesCheckr, Inc.FUSE Corps who are working on reducing incarceration and furthering equality and 2nd chance hiring initiatives, can pull togther and provide resources/assistance to the Justice Impacted White Collar Community.
#equalopportunity#fairchance#employability