Having a criminal record can make finding employment, and finding the right career for you, a real challenge. But a conviction does not have to mean a professional dead end.

There are some doors that will inevitably be closed to you, particularly if the crime you’ve committed is related to the field in which you want to work – a child related offence, for example, will prevent you from working with children. But otherwise, you’ll find that extra energy, focus, and thoughtfulness will have to go into persuading employers that you’re a good candidate.

It’s unlikely to be the topic that you’ll most look forward to covering, and talking about your criminal history can feel uncomfortable, but an ability to address them head on, talk about them lucidly and demonstrate what you’ve learnt from your experiences can eventually become an attribute, rather than a red mark.

Keeping a clean record while you’re in prison can also go a long way to boosting your employability once you’re released, and may facilitate studying or training while inside. Having left prison, it can be productive to visit previous employers. If there aren’t any available roles at your old organisation, talking to your former managers or colleagues will kick-start your thinking about which positions or industries to explore. If you made a good impression at your last job, talking to someone from that company who already knows you as a person and an employee can bolster your confidence. You might also get a letter of recommendation out of it, which can be invaluable when applying for work elsewhere.

reorganise your CV.

  • Make your ‘skills’ section the most prominent, and list the relevant jobs and work experience you’ve done
  • If you fill out a job application form and are asked whether you have a criminal record, it’s crucial that you answer honestly

work out how you’d like to speak about your criminal record with prospective employers.

  • It’s unlikely that your criminal record won’t be raised at interview, so it’s important that you’ve thought about how to speak about it
  • Be clear and honest right from the beginning. It’s a good idea to address your record early in the process. It allows you to take control of the direction of questioning, and how your record is presented in the first place
  • Mention two or three positive credentials and then disclose your criminal history
  • Practice the wording and delivery of your explanation so that you feel clear-headed and confident about it – this will stop you getting flustered and allow you to convey the real gains you’ve made from the experience
  • If you’ve had several convictions, group them together rather than listing them, which might draw more attention to them than is really necessary
  • Avoid making excuses – “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time” implies you refuse to take responsibility

Before you start the application process, take a list of the positive things you learnt since (and from) your conviction. These might include…

  • New skills learnt or achievements made since you’ve been to prison
  • Changes in your attitude
  • Problems (behavioural, financial, emotional) that you’ve overcome since, making you a stronger person

And remember, before you start looking for work, familiarise yourself with your rights and your obligations in terms of disclosing your record. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 gives convicts who are looking for work or applying for study the right to withhold such information after a period of time. Check the details on your case so that you don’t continue to declare your record when it’s no longer necessary.