Aim of this information
The aim of this information is to assist you in applying for jobs when you have a criminal record. It should help you become more confident about when and how to disclose your convictions, ensuring that you only disclose what you need to.
This information forms part of our disclosing to employers section.
Why is this important?
It’s important that you’re aware of what you legally need to disclose to an employer. If you don’t disclose something that you should, this may result in a job offer being revoked or, worse still, being sacked once you’ve started the job. If you disclose too much however, your application may not be progressed through the recruitment process. Understanding when and how to disclose your criminal record should give you more confidence and hopefully increase your chances of gaining suitable employment.
Before you start disclosing
Before looking at when and how to disclose, there are a few other things to consider:
There are 3 main levels of criminal record check and which one is done by the employer depends on the job role. Make sure you know what level of check an employer is doing and only disclose what you legally need to. Spent convictions are not disclosed on basic checks. Filtered cautions/convictions are not disclosed on standard or enhanced checks. Visit type of criminal record checks .
When to disclose?
Work with the employer’s process – “Disclose when asked”
Different employers recruit in different ways, so the point that you get asked about your criminal record may not be the same for every job that you apply for. Your first step should be to understand the employer’s process as best as you can, so you can make an informed decision. Check their application form or recruitment policy – does it say anything about if or when they ask about criminal records?
Generally, it’s best to disclose at the earliest stage required (i.e. when you get asked), because that’s when they’ve asked (so that’s when they’re expecting to be told), and you won’t feel like you’re ‘hiding’ something. However, there are some exceptions to this. For example;
CV’s and covering letters
Many jobs ask for a CV and a covering letter. A CV is designed for you to sell yourself as the best person for the job – you shouldn’t normally include any information about your criminal record on your CV. If you have gaps due to time in prison, you could say that you were ‘unavailable for work’, or if you completed qualifications inside, list these instead. However, you must be prepared to honestly explain what you mean by ‘unavailable for work’ if you get asked.
Choosing whether to disclose in writing or in person
Often, how you disclose will come from how the employer asks. If possible, tell the employer in the way that you feel most comfortable with. This will depend on how you feel about talking and/or writing about your criminal record. It might also depend on the nature of your convictions and the type of job you’re applying for. Usually, the employer’s policy will lean you towards a certain way. Either way, we recommend that you provide the employer with the brief factual details of your criminal record in writing at some point during the recruitment process, so that you have evidence of what you’ve disclosed – keep a copy of this for your own records too.
Preparing to disclose
If an employer wants to know about criminal records, they will normally ask you to disclose in a certain way; this might be at interview or after they’ve made a conditional offer. Some employers ask on their application form. Where possible, we suggest that you disclose your record face-to-face; this tends to be most effective. Prepare a self-disclosure statement; this should help. Address any concerns you think they may have but stay positive and don’t concentrate solely on the negatives of a conviction.
Think like an employer – Prepare for questions
However you choose to disclose, you should be ready for extra questions that the employer might have. The questions below are ones that employers often ask, so think about how you’d answer them;
- Can you tell me about your criminal record?
- Why did you commit the offences?
- Was there anything happening in your life at the time?
- How can I be sure you’re not a risk?
- What steps have you taken to change your ways?
- How is your life different now?
Write a self-disclosure statement
Before applying for jobs, we advise that you write down the details of your criminal record. We refer to this as a ‘self-disclosure statement’. This might be sent with your application if they ask a question about convictions, or you might use it when disclosing in person. However, it can be hard to communicate feelings and emotions in writing. Generally, you should:
a) Start with something positive, like why you’re applying for the job and what skills and experience you bring to the role
b) Next, explain your convictions (see below)
c) Finally, finish with a strong and positive closing statement. You should offer the names and contact details of people who can vouch for you and your suitability.
Explaining your convictions
The most important part of a self-disclosure statement is explaining your convictions. Make sure that you relate it to the job that you’re applying for. You need to try and put yourself in the employer’s shoes – they’ll be making a judgement based on the information you provide. So, make sure you explain:
How to disclose
Disclosing on an application form
The ‘ban the box’ campaign encourages employers not to ask about criminal records on application forms but instead leave it until later in the process. See who’s signed up by visiting the Ban the Box website. However, many employers still have a section about criminal records.
Even if you’re asked at this stage, you might choose to be careful what you disclose. Some will just have a ‘tick-box’, whereas others might have space to explain. The question will also often vary. Generally, we advise against disclosing specific details on application forms. Instead, you could:
- State on the application form that you’re sending a self-disclosure statement.
- Write on the application form “Yes – happy to discuss if selected for interview”. Withholding details until interview might give you the chance to explain face to face, although if it’s clearly minor or irrelevant, you could state this; e.g. “Motoring fine 30 years ago”.
- Not disclose and wait until interview – see ‘when to disclose’ above for more details.
Disclosing in writing
If you’re asked to provide details at application, you might choose to send a copy of your self-disclosure statement alongside your application. We wouldn’t normally advise this, but if you do, make sure that you:
- Send it to the right person – If you’re not sure who this is, then ask. Send it in a sealed envelope marked ‘confidential’.
- Keep a copy – This is useful as evidence of what you’ve disclosed.
- Offer to meet with them – You should offer to have a face-to-face discussion to discuss any concerns that the employer might have.
Disclosing in person (at interview or after job offer)
You need to be prepared to talk about your criminal record at interview;
- If you’ve not been asked as part of the initial application process, you might be asked at interview.
- If you mentioned your criminal record in your application, you might be asked for more details at interview.
- If the application form did ask but you chose not to disclose it through fear of being automatically rejected, you’ll need to make sure that you proactively raise this at interview (and you’ll need to explain why you didn’t disclose it on the application form).
Some employers don’t ask about criminal records at interview. Some employers wait until after the job offer to ask. This is something that we recommend as good practice. If this applies, they will hopefully make this clear in their recruitment policy.
Disclosing in person – Top 10 tips
Many people feel most comfortable disclosing face-to-face. In our experience, this is what works best for individuals to explain and employers to understand. Whether at interview or a later stage:
- For practical self-help information – More information is available on the following:
- To discuss this issue with others – Share your experiences on our online forum
- Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline
Help us to add value to this information. You can:
- Comment on this information (below)
- Send your feedback directly to us
- Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
- Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord