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How to find a job when you have a criminal record

By Katie Quirk

For thousands of Australians who have been convicted of a criminal offence, the outlook for securing meaningful, stable employment with a record may seem bleak at first consideration – it’s common for most employers to perform some level of background check on prospective employees and being charged with a crime (or serving prison time) might disqualify you from being considered for specific careers or job opportunities.

However, this is not always the case and individuals with a criminal record may be just as likely to be employed as a person without one.

The phrase, “did the crime, served the time” is a reminder that people make mistakes (some bigger than others) and that there is still merit in allowing for second chances and overall redemption; after all, humans are more than capable of being rehabilitated and returning to work as contributing, honest members of the community.

This article will look at improving your career prospects in the wake of a criminal record and steps to take to help increase the likelihood of securing employment.

Hiring someone with a criminal record

Employment is recognised as a pathway out of (re) offending and many employers find that ex-offenders (especially young ones) are often fiercely loyal and simply grateful for the opportunities they are given.

According to an annual survey conducted by the Department of Jobs and Small Business, 53% of ex-offenders hired by various employers were said to have integrated well into their new role while an additional one in four were claimed to have assimilated very well.

Employers stated that those who integrated successfully were:

  • Hardworking and a team player

  • Liked by their colleagues and customers

  • Appreciative of the opportunity

  • Able to demonstrate they had the right skills for the job

Which industries are more likely to hire an ex-offender?*

construction workers

Based on data from the same survey mentioned above, employers in production-based industries like agriculture, construction and manufacturing were more likely to hire someone with a criminal record (20%, 21% and 23% respectively), with the construction industry most likely to continue to provide employment opportunities for ex-offenders due to: 

  • Large projected employment growth 

  • Close to half (46%) of employers not requiring police checks for their staff 

  • A willingness to hire ex–offenders

In terms of industry employment size, retail is the second largest employing industry in Australia and with almost three-quarters of employers in this sector saying they do not require police checks for their staff, those with a criminal record are highly likely to be able to find relevant employment opportunities without facing any underlying prejudice or discrimination.

Understanding your rights

If a criminal record does not relate to the job you are being hired to do, it is illegal in Australia to discriminate based on past crimes (for example, it isn’t lawful not to hire you as a barista because you have a criminal record of driving under the influence).

Many employers believe the best approach to being hired with a criminal record is to be upfront and honest about your history – full transparency is valued and helps to build trust between the two parties.

However, instead of focusing on your past offenses, it might be a better approach to explain how you’ve grown and changed as a person and what your personal experiences can potentially bring to the table and how they can seek to make you a valuable member of the team.

Key takeaways 

woman using laptop

  • ​Honesty is the best policy – trying to hide your past may only come back to haunt you. Most employers encourage full transparency, and many are happy to give you the opportunity to discuss your past openly and with additional context
  • Be realistic. Starting somewhere is more important than going nowhere. You might need to work entry-level jobs to build up your credibility and employer’s trust before being able to get back to where you were before

  • Consider upskilling to help boost your education and employability with relevant, recognised qualifications

  • If you get a second chance, don’t squander it. As 18th century English poet, Alexander Pope once mused “to err is human” – so provided we learn from our mistakes and commit to being better because of them, it is still possible to find success

How upskilling can open doors

Unfortunately, a certain criminal record may mean you cannot feasibly return to the industry you worked in prior to your conviction or it might be a case of needing to start from the bottom and work your way up again.

Identifying other interests or looking at ways to upskill existing knowledge and experience can help forge different career pathways, which can be just as interesting and fulfilling.

In addition to broadening your skillset, pursuing further education can help you find a new lease on life and bolster your self-esteem, confidence and future job prospects.

To discuss how an Upskilled course may help you find new career opportunities or pathways, get in touch with us today on 1300 009 924. 

*Disclaimer: Before hiring someone with a criminal record, it might be advisable to seek legal advice to establish your rights and responsibilities as an employer should unfavourable situations arise post-employment.

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*By providing your information, you agree to our Privacy Policy and to receiving email and other forms of communication from Upskilled. You are able to opt-out at any time.