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Moving on: Disclosing criminal convictions to prospective employers – when and how?

This month, we’ve written another article for Inside Times ‘Through the Gate’ section which focuses on disclosing criminal convictions to prospective employers if you’re about to leave prison.

A copy of the article can be found below.

I’m just about to leave prison and I’m worried about disclosing my conviction to potential employers; are there any tips you can give me?

Irrespective of the skills and experience you might have, the addition of a criminal record can make job hunting a lot more difficult. There are many employers that are friendlier than others towards people with criminal records, but whatever type of employer you’re applying to, the key to success will be how well you disclose your criminal record.

Preparing to disclose

Before you start thinking about what, when and how to disclose, make sure you’re fully prepared.

  • Understand your criminal record – Even though your conviction will stay on the Police National Computer (PNC) until you’re 100 years old, you might not need to disclose it forever. You can find out what’s on your record, and how it might appear on any criminal record checks, by applying for a copy of your police record (it costs £10 and is known as a Subject Access Request).
  • Work out if or when your record becomes ‘spent’ – Providing your prison sentence wasn’t over 4 years then your conviction will become spent at some point under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA). For most jobs, you won’t need to disclose your conviction once it’s spent.
  • If an employer asks, know if you need to tell them – You only have to disclose your record if an employer asks; many will at some point in the recruitment process. If your conviction is unspent, then legally you’ll need to disclose it. If you don’t disclose when asked, an employer could revoke the job offer, you could be dismissed and you might receive a further conviction.

When should I disclose?

Every employer will have a slightly different recruitment process, and the point you get asked about your criminal record may be different for every job you apply for. You may be asked on an application form, at interview or after you’ve received a conditional offer. Try to find out what the employers process is and think about what you’d feel most comfortable with. We’re part of the ‘ban the box’ campaign and many national companies have signed up to this by removing the question about criminal records from their application form, instead asking later in the recruitment process.

How should I disclose?

You’ll need to be ready to tell an employer about the offence, when it happened, what was happening in your life at the time and what’s been happening since. Think about the concerns an employer might have about your conviction and decide how to tell your story to address these concerns. Practice your disclosure so that you’re ready when asked.

Some application forms will merely have a ‘tick-box’ whilst others will have space to explain your conviction. Generally, we wouldn’t advise that you disclose any specific details on the form. We’d suggest you tick the “Yes” box and then add a sentence such as “Happy to discuss if selected for interview”.

If you’re asked to provide details at application stage, you might choose to send a self-disclosure statement alongside your application. We wouldn’t normally advise this unless it’s specifically requested. If you disclose in this way, make sure that you send your letter to the correct person (if necessary, contact the company and find out who this is) and put it in a sealed envelope marked ‘confidential’. Keep a copy as evidence of what you’ve disclosed.

If you’re invited to attend an interview, you’ll need to be prepared to talk about your criminal record in case they ask you at this stage. Employers often ask questions to get a better understanding of what you might have previously disclosed. Try to give as much information as you can to allow the employer to make a properly informed decision.

Unlock’s top tips for disclosing

  • Whenever possible, try to disclose your record face-to-face; this tends to be the most effective way.
  • Know your criminal record well so that you can talk confidently about it. Any signs of hesitation or vagueness may make you look dishonest. If it helps, take a self-disclosure statement with you to the interview, which you can refer to if you need to.
  • Think in advance about the questions an employer might ask you. Prepare your answers so that you can talk about your criminal record in a positive way.
  • Answer the employer’s questions directly and honestly giving the right level of detail. Explain any mitigating circumstances which led to your offending but avoid ‘making excuses’. Talk about what you’ve learnt and how you’ve become a better person.
  • Your best chance of getting a job is to always be honest, upfront and positive. You may have a criminal record but if you can convince an employer that it’s not related to the job and that it won’t stop you from being a great employee then you’re in with a shot.




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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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