Got a criminal record? Know this before pursuing a career path

Emphasising your qualification, experience or skills, will work in your favour when you have  a criminal record (

Having a criminal record does not have to stop you from establishing your career path.

The process of job hunting is a tough one. From the job application process right through to the final interviewing stages, landing a job is no walk in the park. And when you have a criminal history, navigating your way through the job hunting process can be even trickier. But fear not: not all is doom and gloom. Finding a job when your past is less than appealing means you have to use the opportunity to highlight your qualifications, experience and skills.

You cannot hide from the fact that you hold a criminal record, and with that, you’re going to have to be open-minded to employers’ point of views; their concerns, the risk to others and questions they may have regarding your reliability and honesty.

Also keep in mind that besides your criminal record, your job application may be rejected for other reasons, including a lack of experience or a poorly written CV and cover letter. To save you time, research an employer’s policy and practice about criminal records.

Persuading employers to look beyond your criminal record

You’ll up your chances of finding employment if you can demonstrate to employers that your crimes are a thing of the past and you’re going to be a reliable and honest employee.

Completing a training course or taking part in a volunteer programme are great ways to improve your skills and boost your confidence. Plus, when employers ask you behavioural interview questions, having something positive to talk about will improve your chances of being offered a position. To increase your chances even more, make sure you carefully follow the application form and use your cover letter to show the employer how you meet the job specifications.

Presenting your past in a positive light

Chances are you’re going to have to reassure potential employers that you’ve moved on from your past, and are no longer a risk to anyone. A good point to think about is how you’re going to show the employer how you have changed and how you’re focused on living a positive life. Mentioning a change in your circumstances, whether this means taking more responsibility at home, or joining the church’s fundraising committee, is a good way to highlight a change in your life.

Read: How to promote yourself with confidence in 2016

If your conviction included any of the following factors, it may ease the employer’s concerns and make you more hirable:

  • An old criminal record
  • A crime that is not relevant to the job you’re applying for
  • You committed the crime because of a tough time, and have overcome the difficulty
  • The crime is not as serious as it sounds
  • The circumstances in which the crime was committed lessens its severity
  • Whatever you do, do not lie about your criminal record

    While section 6 of the Employment Equity Act protects job applicants against discrimination regarding a number of arbitrary grounds, do not think you can lie about your past. If the employer does a criminal background check (which they have the right to do) and finds out you’ve lied, you can kiss the job goodbye. Plus, if you withhold details about your past and when they surface, your employer finds out they affect your ability to perform the job, your employer will be in a stronger position to take disciplinary action against you.

    Read: Issuing warnings in the workplace

    Therefore, if a job application asks you to list any criminal records you may have, it will be in your best interests to come out clean. But make sure to emphasize that you’re applying for the job because you’re confident you can get the job done and that your skills are fit for the position.

    If during your job hunt you keep the above in mind, an employer will see you for what you’re worth and a job opportunity will eventually come your way, regardless of what you did two, five or ten years ago.

    If you’re seeking more labour law career advice, visit Careers24 management advice column