How to get a job if you have a Criminal Record
Criminal background checks are becoming more common for employers to conduct on both existing and potential employees. Many organisations are putting into place more thorough screening processes to protect their business from potential risks, and national police checks are increasingly becoming a regular part of the hiring process. With 422, 067 offenders proceeded against by police in Australia in 2015-2016, there is a significant group of people who may be impacted by increased frequency of police checks for employment.
If you have a criminal record, it can be daunting to apply for jobs but knowing your rights and the employer’s obligations can help you navigate the process and feel better about your prospects. Even though it’s illegal in Australia for an employer to discriminate against you based on your criminal record if it doesn’t relate to the job, there’s no denying that your record can have a significant impact on your employment prospects.
To disclose or not to disclose?
You don’t have to voluntarily disclose your prior record if you’re not specifically asked to do so. But depending on the type of job you’re applying for, there may be laws or licensing requirements that require disclosure. For example, most jobs that deal with vulnerable people or access to significant financial resources will often require a National Police Check as well as other background checks.
Generally, an employer is allowed to ask you if you have a criminal record. You should answer directly and openly because if you are not honest they may have grounds for refusing to hire you. However, if you have a spent conviction which has been removed from your record after a period of non-offending you usually do not have to disclose that. Spent conviction legislation varies between states so you may want to check with the relevant police agency or conduct a police check on yourself to determine whether any of your convictions are spent.
Explanations from both sides
If an employer is conducting a police check on you, they should inform you of the inherent requirements of the role and explain what kind of convictions may make you unable to fulfill those requirements. An inherent requirement is something that is essential to the job and should relate to the key tasks you’d be performing and the circumstances you’d be performing them in. Some positions, especially in the public sector may have an inherent requirement that you be trustworthy and of good character. The employer should be able to explain these inherent requirements, how they relate to the job and how any criminal convictions may affect your ability to perform them.
When your record comes back, the employer should give you the opportunity to explain and provide further information around the circumstances of your crime. Police checks only include very basic information and providing further context will help the employer better understand the situation. The employer should be considering your individual circumstances and history so the more detail you can provide to explain the situation and how it won’t impact your ability to perform the role the better.
Factors to consider
The employer should be assessing you first on your ability to do the job and then on the relevance of your criminal record to the job. Employers should be considering a number of factors when they’re reviewing your criminal record in relation to the role. Some of these factors are listed below and you should attempt to address any positive factors you can when explaining your criminal history.
Factors that may be considered:
- Your age at the time of the offence
- How recently the offence occurred
- Whether you have a pattern of reoffending
- The seriousness of the offence and its relationship to the specific job
- Whether there was a finding of guilt but without conviction, which indicates a less serious view of the offence by the court
- The circumstances in which the offence took place (i.e. work, domestic, personal, etc.)
- Whether your circumstances have changed since the offence was committed
- Whether the offence has been decriminalised by Parliament
- Your attitude around your previous offending behaviour
- References from people who know about your history
- The sentence imposed by the courts
- Evidence of rehabilitation including subsequent work experience and character references
Generally, employers won’t conduct a police check on you until you’re in the final stage of the interview process, meaning you’re one of their top candidates and they see value in your experience and what you can bring to the role. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to your criminal record – be upfront about your history, explain the circumstances, and highlight what you have done since the offence by providing character references and examples of rehabilitation. You can also turn to organisations like Outcare for help getting back on track if you’re struggling to overcome your criminal past.
About the Author:
Tory Ishigaki is a content writer and public relations expert who covers everything from legal and corporate topics to HR and leadership skills. She produces content across a variety of mediums including websites, newsletters, blogs, podcasts, and videos. She works at one of the fastest growing software companies in Australia, known for its innovative disruption and award-winning technology.