If you’re one of the thousands of recent graduates who have finished university and are starting on the task of job hunting, then you’ll be aware that it’s a competitive market out there. One of the main questions which recent graduates have is around navigating their job search if they have had previous brushes with the law – will a criminal record rule them out?


Spent and Unspent Convictions

The first thing to state around disclosing criminal records is that this is not a straightforward piece of legislation. The first concept to understand is that of spent and unspent convictions and cautions. Spent in this context means disregarded. After a certain period of time, a conviction becomes spent, or forgotten. The problem is that this period of time is not standard and depends on both your age at the time of the conviction, and the type of punishment which you received. If you are still working with the probationary service, they should be able to talk you through the numbers and work out when your convictions will be spent. If you know that your convictions were several years ago, and committed when you were under the age of 18, most will be spent by the time you leave university. There are social justice charities such as Nacro and Unlock who can give free and confidential advice to ex-offenders.


Disclosing a Criminal Record

There is no legal obligation to disclose your criminal record to a potential employer unless you are explicitly asked. In many cases, employers are only allowed to ask about your unspent convictions. They might ask this at the application stage, or after a job offer has been made. You do not have to disclose more distant or spent convictions and legally, they are not allowed to ask about them.

For some positions, a DBS check is required. Many professions which attract many graduate entrants such as law, accountancy, finance, or education will ask workers for a more detailed level of checking. Graduates entering the legal profession have to show that they are trustworthy, or those working in finance have to demonstrate that they are not likely to commit fraud. Graduates working in education or healthcare require the top level of checking, called an enhanced DBS check. In order to ensure that children and vulnerable adults are properly safeguarded, the DBS will look into the applicant’s entire criminal record, including cautions and convictions which are disregarded in other situations.


So, Do I Need a Clean Record?

The short answer is no – you will not need an entirely clean record to get a graduate job. Each case is considered on its merits, and your chances of success will depend on both the level of responsibility in the position you are applying for, and the type of offences which you have on your record. University careers services are accustomed to dealing with these issues and will happily advise recent graduates about how best to approach these issues when making job applications.