There are few of us who haven’t made mistakes in our lives.
For some, this might have meant falling foul of the law and picking up a criminal record.
And of course, this can be a real cause of stress and worry when it comes to finding a job.
We are frequently asked if a job applicant must disclose a criminal record if they have one.
The short answer is yes – if they are asked about it. But there is no legal obligation to offer details of a criminal record if the interviewer does not ask.
Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA), most convictions and all cautions, reprimands and final warnings are considered spent after a certain period.
This means that once an offence is spent there is generally no legal obligation to disclose it even if asked, unless you are applying for a job which is exempt from this provision. These sorts of jobs include being a carer, doctor or security worker.
Of course, the manner in which you disclose a conviction can make all the difference to the way a job interview goes.
It’s a good idea to think it through carefully in advance of the interview and address the concerns you think any prospective employer will have.
Relate your disclosure to the job for which you are applying, putting yourself in the shoes of the employer. This will help you reassure the interviewer and show them that you take the matter seriously.
If the offence was committed a long time ago, but the conviction is recent, explain this carefully and clearly. Similarly, if the offence is the only blot on a clean record, explain this in the interview and stress how it was out of character.
Don’t be embarrassed to talk about the lessons you have learnt as a result of the conviction. If you can reassure the employer that you have learned from your mistakes you are more likely to win their confidence.
If the offence was less serious than the conviction sounds on paper, explain why that may be the case. If you have a drugs conviction for example, explain if it was for possession of a small amount of cannabis for your own use as opposed to supplying a class A drug to others.
And if you admitted your offence at the earliest opportunity, make sure you stress this. It shows that you accepted responsibility straight away and co-operated with the authorities.
The crucial point here is to reassure your employer that you pose no risk to them and are committed to playing your part in society. If you have worked elsewhere since your conviction, use this to demonstrate a proven track record of learning from your mistakes and emphasise any character references that you have as a result.