Q. I’ve got a criminal record – will it stop me from getting a job?
I was convicted six months ago and now have a criminal record. I’ve just started looking for a job – do I need to tell future employers? Will my conviction stop me from getting a job?
Yours is a surprisingly common problem; approximately 20% of the UK’s working population has a criminal record. Paid employment is a key factor in reducing re-offending, and therefore the government, councils and probation services do everything they can to help people with convictions find jobs.
Even so, it can be at least eight times harder for those with criminal records to find jobs, so you need to know exactly how to broach the subject at an interview (never mention it on your CV, and only mention it on an application form if there’s a specific box to tick).
Here’s how to handle the situation at interview:
As you know all too well, you have an ‘unspent’ (i.e. current) conviction. This will become ‘spent’ when it’s deemed the rehabilitation process is complete, although custodial sentences over two and a half years can never be reduced to ‘spent’ status. Basic, Standard and Enhanced CRB checks will all flag an unspent conviction. The best thing to do at interview if you have an unspent conviction is:
- Don’t start the interview with “My name’s E.R. and I’ve been convicted of X”, but if the subject comes up or the job requires you to disclose it …
- … Be honest and open – explain the circumstances factually, without making excuses, then …
- … Give examples of what makes you a reliable, conscientious and trustworthy person;
- And finally, focus on the future – steer the conversation back to your specific skills and ability to do the job, rather than dwelling on the past.
A ‘spent’ conviction is when you don’t reoffend after an agreed period of time. You don’t need to reveal it, and it doesn’t officially count as a ‘criminal record’. It’s unlawful for employers to discriminate against people with spent convictions. Unfortunately, this means you can’t apply for jobs in certain industries, including banking and finance, social work, law, pharmacy and the police.
A caution may still be revealed by a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. Most employers won’t be deterred by a caution (and you don’t have to reveal it), but if you are asked in an interview, never lie. Reassure the interviewer that you’ve moved on, while steering the conversation back to why you can do the job.
If you do choose to withhold information about a criminal record when applying for a job, it will do you more harm than good – whether the employer finds out now or months down the track. You didn’t get away with the original offence, what makes you think you’ll get away with this?
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