How To Explain Your Criminal Record During A Job Interview
For people that have a criminal record, a dilemma arises when applying for new jobs or sitting a job interview – when and how do you explain your criminal record?
The last thing you want to do is put a potential employer off and it can be hard to judge how they will react to the news that you have a criminal past, no matter how minor or long ago the crimes were.
Fortunately, there is legislation in place to help reformed criminals find their way back into the world of work, so don’t lose all hope.
This article will go through the best ways to bring it up during your application or interview.
Honesty Is The Best Policy
In some cases, it may be against the law for an employer to ask you directly whether you have a criminal record during the application or interview, due to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
What they can do, however, is ask you to apply for a DBS check which is a criminal background check and will reveal details of convictions or past offenses.
Don’t be tempted to omit details of your criminal record if this is the case. It is better to disclose the details before applying for the DBS check as it shows that you are taking a responsible and mature approach to your rehabilitation.
Many employers will want to help you to get back to a normal way of life and will be more than happy to give you a shot if they feel you are making every effort to reform your character or the conviction was a one-off mistake that you regret.
If you want to have a chance at getting the job when you apply, make sure that you agree to the DBS check and decline it, as you may find that your application is rejected for this reason alone.
Being open, honest and upfront about any previous wrongdoings will stand in your favour, so make sure you disclose the details as early as possible, either in the application letter or form, or during the interview.
What Is A DBS Check?
A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is a criminal background check that employers and organisations use to vet people for certain roles. As it stands, almost 50% of jobs request a DBS check, so there’s a good chance you will be asked to apply for one.
There are 3 levels of DBS check and each one reveals different elements of your criminal record.
- Basic DBS Check – Reveals unspent convictions only and can be applied for by the individual or employer.
- Standard DBS Check – Reveals spent and unspent convictions, as well as cautions, warnings, and reprimands. It can only be submitted by an employer or registered body.
- Enhanced DBS Check – Reveals the same as the Standard DBS check, as well as any relevant police notes or allegations that are held on file. It can also be requested with a DBS barred list check for regulated activities.
The type of DBS check requested depends on the job role. For instance, lower responsibility jobs that have no direct contact with vulnerable people will usually only require a basic check, whereas roles defined as “regulated activities” which involve close, direct contact with children or vulnerable adults will require an enhanced check.
The rest of this article will focus on what to do when the subject of criminal records comes up during the job interview stage.
How To Disclose Your Criminal Record In A Job Interview
The following tips will help you to discuss the topic of your criminal record in the best way possible. Even though it’s a difficult thing to disclose, you put yourself in a better position if you’re honest and there are ways you can demonstrate trustworthiness to the interviewer.
1. Don’t excuse your past behaviour
It may be tempted to try and downplay or make excuses for your past wrongdoings. This is a mistake.
Most employers prefer to see that you have learned some lessons from your previous mistakes, that you’re remorseful, and that you are on the road to reforming your character and being a productive member of society.
It’s pretty obvious which sounds better:
- “I only stole that TV when I was 17 to sell it and buy food”
- or “I made a really big mistake when I was a teenager and I realise that what I did was wrong. I’m determined never to make a similar mistake again and I live my life in an honest and productive way these days to make up for it.”
2. Plan how to answer questions about your criminal record
You need to prepare your answers very carefully and think about what kind of impression they will make on the interviewer. You may not want to go into too much detail, but you should avoid just brushing off the question too. Try to phrase your answers in such a way that shows how remorseful you are and how much you have changed your character, similar to the example above.
3. Always agree to a DBS check
If the interviewer requests a DBS check, you must agree to it, otherwise you risk being rejected straight away. For most employers that require a DBS check, declining it is a deal breaker and you will be automatically rejected.
If the role does not require a DBS check, but you want to make a good impression and show the interviewer that you are being honest about your criminal record, for a small fee you can apply for a Basic DBS check. You can apply easily online and get the results within 48 hours.
4. Make a good impression in other areas
OK, so you made a mistake in the past which means you have a criminal record. But maybe you’ve done lots of good things since then to make up for it – community work, volunteering, paid work, education, courses, sporting achievements, etc. Make sure you update your CV to show all your achievements and try to secure some good references too.
It may even be worth mentioning your criminal record on your CV, as well as a quick explanation of the things you have done to make amends for your crime.
Also, make sure you turn up to the interview presented well as first impressions really do count. Be polite and friendly, even though you may be nervous. All of these things can help to counteract the potential negative effects of revealing a criminal record.
5. Don’t give up
The final tip is to keep trying even if you get rejected several times. It’s all too easy to get downhearted and give up if this happens. You may even think about returning to a life of crime. Don’t fall victim to this way of thinking. Keep going. We’ve heard stories of people with a criminal record that have landed a job after dozens of interview attempts. All it takes is one decent employer who’s willing to give you a shot and you can be on the road to gainful employment.
Apply for a Basic DBS Check Online Today
You can apply directly for a Basic DBS Check through our online portal. It’s quick and easy, and you should get your results within 23 hours.