Applying for work through a recruitment agency

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Aim of this page

The aim of this page is to consider how recruitment agencies might be able to help you in your search for employment, and what you legally need to disclose to an agency about your criminal record. It also provides details of agencies who specifically help people with convictions.

It’s part of our information on looking for and keeping employment.

Why is this important?

You only have to look at job search websites such as Indeed.co.uk and Monster.co.uk to see how many companies advertise both permanent and temporary positions via recruitment agencies. For some professions, for example teaching, approximately 90% of vacancies are advertised through recruitment agencies rather than directly by the school.

Recruitment agencies tend to only get paid when they place a successful applicant with an employer and some agencies may be tempted to weed out any CV’s or application forms that disclose a criminal record. It’s important therefore to understand the best time to disclose to increase your chances of successfully securing an interview and hopefully a job.

What are the benefits of applying for work through a recruitment agency?

  1. Recruitment agencies act as an intermediary between a company that is looking to employ someone, either on a temporary or permanent basis, and an individual who is looking for work.
  2. Most agencies have a wide range of jobs on their books and some, which start out on a temporary basis, can often turn into a permanent job. For anybody with a criminal record, this will give you the opportunity to prove yourself through your work and may help to alleviate any fears an employer has about employing somebody with a criminal record.
  3. Some agencies have exclusive access to jobs that would not otherwise be found through online searches or in newspapers etc.
  4. There are some specialist recruitment agencies who concentrate on finding work for people with a criminal record. These agencies work with employers who are more positive towards recruiting people with convictions and the agencies will have an in-depth knowledge of what type of offences will and won’t be acceptable to those employers.

Registering with an agency and disclosing your criminal record

Registering

Some agencies allow you to register your CV online. They will ask you to provide details of the location you wish to work in and the types of jobs that you want to apply for. You will then be emailed with details of any jobs which match your criteria. You will rarely be asked to provide details of your criminal record to these agencies at this stage.

Many agencies will ask you to register face to face at a local branch. The staff will discuss your skills, experiences and your salary/career expectations. You may be asked to undertake basic literacy or numeracy tests or carry out some practical tasks which allow the agency to assess any competencies you will require. You will often be asked to disclose details of your criminal record as part of the registration process especially if the jobs you will be applying for require you to have formal criminal record checks.

Disclosing

If you are registering with an agency for temporary work where the agency will be paying your wages, then legally, you will need to disclose details of your criminal record if you are asked. You should only disclose unspent convictions unless the jobs you are applying for are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. For further information see our disclosing to employers section.

The more information you give to an agency about yourself, the quicker and easier it will be for them to find you a suitable position. This means that the agency won’t put you forward for jobs which you would not be suitable for (for example jobs with organisations who have a blanket ban on recruiting people with an unspent conviction if yours is currently unspent).

As stated above, agencies tend to only get paid once they’ve successfully placed an applicant. If you believe that an agency may be loath to put you forward if you were to disclose your criminal record to them, then you may decide to say nothing and wait to disclose to the employer if you are successful. The benefit of this approach is that having secured an interview (which you may not have done if you’d disclosed to the agency), you will be able to explain the details and circumstances of your conviction to the employer face to face. There is always the chance, however, that an employer may feel as though they have been misled and your application will be rejected on this basis alone.

If you are registering with an agency who specialise in finding work for people with convictions, then it’s likely that you’ll feel a lot more comfortable about disclosing and you should be as open and upfront as possible.

Recruitment agencies and criminal record checks

The majority of agencies who are looking to place people in jobs covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, will not carry out basic criminal record checks. If they are required, they will usually be undertaken by the employer when you are offered the job.

However, agencies that recruit for care work/teaching jobs etc (especially for temporary work) will apply for Disclosure and Barring Service checks for all applicants. Many agencies will immediately reject anybody who does not have a ‘clean’ DBS certificate, irrespective of whether the offence is relevant or not. Having a criminal record will not, in most cases, stop you from doing this type of work. However, you may have more success by applying to these employers directly.

You may be asked by an agency to provide them with a copy of your DBS certificate, as this is one of their ‘standard registration requirements’. If your conviction is spent and you are not looking to work in a job which is exempt from the ROA, then you are within your rights to inform the agency that you only wish to apply for jobs which are covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and which, potentially, only require a basic criminal record check. 

Specialist recruitment agencies for people with convictions

Looking for work and disclosing a criminal record is never easy and for many people, registering with a recruitment agency that specialises in finding work for people with convictions can alleviate some of this anxiety.

Many specialist agencies will also be able to assist you in putting a CV together, prepare you for interview and advise on disclosure. The employers they work with will be aware that any applicant coming from these specialist agencies will have a criminal record.

We’ve put together a list of some of those that we know about below:.

Chance2013 – are a national organisation who offer a range of vacancies in traffic management, construction, railway and highways.

Overlooked talent – a national organisation offering a wide range of jobs.

Pertemps – has over 100 branches throughout the UK and offers helps with finding permanent and temporary work in both the private and public sector.

Working Chance – an award winning charity specialising in helping women with convictions.

Personal experiences

The personal stories below have been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.

Read Sam’s story about her search for care work through recruitment agencies – Recruitment agencies expecting ‘clear’ disclosures

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Key sections include:

Useful links

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on looking for (and keeping) employment
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine, under the tag looking for (and keeping) employment
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord.
This page was last fully reviewed and updated in September 2016. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to advice@unlock.org.uk

 

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