Accessibility statement

Applying for jobs if you have a criminal record

As you look ahead to applying for jobs, you may be concerned about a criminal record or police caution in the past, and how that could impact your applications and job prospects. This page has some information to help you with the recruitment process, and links to organisations who offer support.

A criminal record need not stop you from getting a job, and your record may include a minor offence, not relevant to the job you’re applying for. 

You do not have to disclose a criminal record unless you are asked to, and an employer can only ask you to give details of convictions and cautions that they are legally entitled to know.  For most jobs, you do not need to disclose a criminal record once it is “spent”, and it will no longer appear on a basic DBS certificate.

Spent and unspent cautions and convictions will appear on a standard or enhanced DBS check, unless they are “filtered”. Filtering means that warnings, reprimands and youth cautions will be removed from standard and enhanced checks; some convictions will also be removed (depending on the offence and time since the conviction). If a DBS certificate is needed for a job, the certificate will come to you, to show the employer. (Information from Unlock, a charity supporting people with criminal records to move on positively in their lives)

Some specific offences will mean that you cannot apply for jobs in certain professions, including working with children and vulnerable adults, law, accountancy, nursing and midwifery. Unlock has an A-Z list of job roles and their eligibility for basic, standard and enhanced DBS checks, information on applying for a new job, and a helpline.

Talking about a conviction

If you have a gap in your employment history because of a conviction, you could consider writing a skills-based CV rather than a chronological CV. Or you could include “unavailable for work due to personal circumstances” which you can discuss later.

When you talk about this with a prospective employer, you can stress that this took place some time ago, and show them how you have moved on since then. You can book a careers advice appointment in Handshake if you would like to talk about this with a careers consultant.

Useful links

  • Nacro’s advice for individuals includes an explanation of criminal records and DBS checks, and advice on applying for jobs. They have a telephone and email helpline.
  • Target Jobs Applying for jobs with a criminal record
  • Advice from the OU on disclosing a criminal record when applying for jobs
  • Refreshing a Career has a list of inclusive companies that employ ex-offenders
  • Business in the Community’s Ban the Box campaign calls on employers to remove the criminal convictions tick box from application forms, and judge candidates on their skills and suitability rather than on their past mistakes. The Ban the Box factsheet lists employers committed to creating fair opportunities in their recruitment.

Careers pages