How to disclose a criminal conviction

The thought of disclosing a previous conviction to an employer can bring up a mixture unwanted emotions. Whether that’s anxiety, embarrassment, shame, avoidance or sadness.

If you need to disclose a criminal conviction, it can be helpful to see the conviction as your story. It’s personal, belongs to you and this is where it holds power. It’s your story to tell, your chance to share what you have learnt, how you have developed and what the conviction has made you into today. Whether this is more empathetic, understanding, or hardworking. This could be exactly who the employer wants to employ.

When disclosing your conviction, the person responsible for making the decision on whether you can be employed is likely to be considering several factors. This includes not only the story behind your conviction, but the way in which the story is told. For example, demonstrating your good qualities, remorse, and the future you can offer to the organisation.

If you need to disclose a criminal conviction, follow our top tips:

  1. Raise the conviction

The first step is to raise the conviction with your employer. You could do this through a letter or a conversation, whatever you feel most comfortable with. Make sure you own your script, planning how much information you want to share.

  1. Raise your concerns about your employer’s concerns

This is your chance to relate to the employer. For example, you could mention that you wanted to be open and honest and raise the fact that you have a conviction in your past, while also empathising with your employer: “I wanted to be open and honest and raise the fact I have a conviction from my past. I understand this may be a concern for you, however…”

  1. Reassurance

At this point you should reassure the employer and let them know why you’d be great for the job. Come back with your selling points, what you have learnt and why you are an ideal candidate: “Sadly I can’t change the conviction in my past, however I believe I wouldn’t be the hardworking, dedicated person I am today if I hadn’t experienced that time of my life.’

  1. The opportunity

Finally, explain why you are a good match for this role and what the opportunity would mean to you.

It’s important to remember that employers have a past too. They have friends and family and may know someone who has a conviction or past criminal history. They may be rooting for you!

The secret is how you own your conviction and lead the story into a positive learning experience. A conviction can show much more than just a crime.

Not sure if you need to disclose your conviction? Find out more about when you might need to disclose.

Still have questions and need further advice on disclosing convictions? Check if you’re eligible for employment support from Work Well.

Nat Miller - Lead Career Coach

Hi, I am Nat, one of Work Well’s Lead Career Coaches. I have been with the team for 14 years and I am currently studying for an MA in Coaching at Warwick University.

Besides coaching, which I really love, I also have 3 children and I am currently training for a half marathon (as I must have so much time on my hands). I also love being part of my local community, walking the dog and I really enjoy a good Netflix series.