Get back on track and back into work

It's not easy fessing up when you've done something wrong, let alone having the guts to face up to the consequences of your mistakes. Yet there is help and hope out there in the job market.

If you have a criminal record, you might think it's impossible to land a decent job that pays well. Your misdemeanour has damaged your reputation and blotted your copybook. But it's not necessarily the case that getting a job with a criminal record is difficult. There are ways and means of approaching this tricky subject in such a way that can work to your advantage, as long as you know where to start.

We're all human and hopefully learn from our mistakes. Proving you've turned your life around, following a brush with the law, can show real grit, resilience, and determination – assets that are truly sought after in the workplace.

Do I have to disclose my criminal record?

Disclosing a criminal record when applying for jobs is not a legal requirement. You're under no obligation to mention a conviction on your CV, unless you're specifically asked to do so or you're applying for certain sensitive positions or professions. If you have to explain a career gap on your CV due to being in prison, it might be best to compile a functional CV which highlights your key skills, rather than a chronological CV with a complete history of your career. 

What you must never do is be tempted to lie on your CV. This can have much worse repercussions in the long term, as you're bound to be exposed, and it certainly won't help your future job prospects. Many roles require a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check, which details any convictions, so there's no point in trying to hide them.

If you're applying via an application form and there's a tick box with regard to criminal convictions, then you must be truthful here.

How to deal with spent convictions

If your conviction is spent, it won't be disclosed on basic disclosures but could be flagged on higher level ones. A spent conviction is one that's treated as if it never existed so it is, in effect, spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and can be ignored after a certain amount of time, known as the rehabilitation period. Its role is to ensure that people who committed minor offences in the past aren't penalised years down the line. The rehabilitation period varies depending on the sentence you received, so you'll need to confirm if and when your conviction becomes spent.

Disclosing a criminal record when applying for jobs is best done face to face, as you'll have more of an opportunity to explain yourself. Prepare yourself before the conversation, highlighting the ways in which you've changed since committing the offences and how you've learned important life lessons in order to move forward.

Getting a job with a criminal record

Getting a job with a criminal record is similar to finding one after being fired. Your self-esteem is low, you're of the opinion that no-one wants to know, and it feels like you're blocked at every turn. Yet there's plenty of help getting a job with a criminal record out there. 

Unlock is a charity that campaigns for the equality of reformed offenders, offering support and guidance, while building a fairer future for those who've found themselves on the wrong side of the law. 

Building a solid CV can go a long way to helping you to get a job with a criminal record.

So which companies employ people with criminal records?

There are some major organisations which make it their goal to specifically recruit those with a conviction. It's a way of saying: “We trust you, we want this to work, we believe that everyone deserves a second chance”.

Seek out these employers, as disclosing a criminal record when applying for jobs there won't be so stressful. Timpson is top of the pile, employing more people with convictions than any other organisation. Other nationwide businesses include Tesco, the Co-op, Pret a Manger, and Virgin.

What jobs can and can't you get with a criminal record?

There are always going to be some roles you won't be able to apply for, especially if they relate to your crime. For example, it might be tricky to win a role dealing with large amounts of money if you've been convicted for fraud, or delivery driver jobs if your crime was driving related.

However, there are some industries where background checks aren't necessarily carried out, as it's your ability to do the job that counts rather than your background. These include construction, manufacturing, and hospitality.

Next steps

Once you've got to grips with what you're legally required to divulge about your conviction and what you can keep back, it's time to start your job search. Boost your chances by volunteering, signing up to relevant courses, and showing you're willing to start from the bottom if necessary. Volunteering is especially useful, as it's a great way to learn new skills, means you've got something else to add to your CV, and shows you're eager to positively contribute to the local community. With these tools, you can start building your CV into a presentable and comprehensive document of which you can be proud.

At the end of the day, you need to convince an employer that your skills will be an asset to their organisation. Improve your chances of landing a good role by checking out TopCV's free CV review and getting professional input.

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