How To Write A CV For Ex-Offenders

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated April 10, 2023

The job market is challenging for ex-offenders. Some employers are still hesitant to employ people with a criminal record, making it tough to find work even if you have the skills and experience. Fortunately, with the right support and a well-written CV for ex-offenders, you can increase their chances of finding stable, meaningful work.

This guide on writing a CV for ex-prisoners covers everything you need to know, including:

  • Common employment barriers ex-prisoners face
  • How to explain CV gaps
  • How to write a CV as an ex-offender

You’ll also find a free downloadable CV template to help you craft a CV as an ex-offender.


Challenges Ex-Offenders Face When Looking For Employment

Even though a recent poll revealed that 9 out of 10 businesses that hire ex-offenders say they are reliable, good at their job, punctual, and trustworthy, many still face barriers when looking for employment. These include:

Limited job opportunities

People with criminal convictions have restricted job opportunities. Certain careers require background checks or have firm policies in place against hiring ex-offenders. For instance, the healthcare and education industries have strict regulations that prohibit hiring people with certain criminal convictions.

Lack of work experience

Dealing with CV gaps is another huge challenge that ex-offenders face. As a result of spending time in prison, many ex-offenders have gaps in their employment history and are lacking relevant work experience. However, many ex-prisoners have highly valuable transferable skills that can be a significant asset to a business.


Unfortunately, there’s a negative stigma around ex-offenders which can create an employment barrier. Many employers are still hesitant to employ someone with a criminal conviction, despite their skill set and experience. Fortunately, this stigma is slowly lifting, and an increasing number of organisations are seeing the benefits of employing ex-offenders.

Lack of resources

Many ex-prisoners simply don’t have access to the support and resources to get back to work. These resources, such as education, training, and financial support, are essential in empowering ex-offenders to develop the necessary skills to land stable employment. This is exacerbated by the fact that some ex-prisoners have to pay court fees, fines, and restitution, further limiting their ability to cover accommodation and transportation expenses.

These challenges are very real. Fortunately, with the right support and resources, ex-offenders can find career opportunities and get their life back on track.


3 CV Writing Tips For Ex-Prisoners

Now we know the challenges, let’s look at how to overcome them. We’ve broken down 3 CV writing tips for ex-offenders to make your job application stand out from the pack.

1. Focus on your skills

Don’t get caught up on the experience or qualifications that you lack. Instead, think creatively about the skills that you have and how they can be applied to different roles or situations. Start by listing the relevant skills you need for your target job. Then, come up with examples of a time when you showcased that skill.

Remember, technical skills like learning how to use a PoS are easily taught. Soft skills, on the other hand, are not.

Here’s an example.

Job role: Customer service rep

Skills: Communication, empathy, problem-solving, teamwork, conflict management


During my time as a volunteer in a homeless shelter, I witnessed many disagreements between residents over resources (toiletries, internet time, food, etc.). Using my conflict management training and my experience in prison, I was able to de-escalate these situations calmly. My first step was to calm both individuals down and actively listen to their concerns, then I worked with them to come up with a solution that they were both happy with. Finally, I made sure to follow up to ensure the conflict was completely resolved.


2. Be honest

Honesty is always the best policy. Rather than trying to hide your criminal conviction, tackle the issue head-on by explaining the situation in your cover letter, what you’ve learned, and what steps you’re taking to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

We all make mistakes, but starting a new job without complete transparency is likely to cause you stress down the road.


3. Focus on the future

It’s easy (and completely understandable) to feel disheartened after experiencing rejection as a job seeker. However, it’s important not to give up. Instead, focus on what you can do now to improve your chances in the future.

For example, you may want to review your CV to see how you can improve it. Alternatively, do your homework and find out what volunteering and retraining opportunities are available. That way, you can be proactive about your job search while developing your skills and confidence.


Sample CV For Ex-Offenders

At Refreshing a Career, we understand that getting back to work after a criminal conviction can be overwhelming at times. But you don’t have to go it alone.

Here’s an example of a CV for an ex-offender to give you some ideas.

Sample CV With Skills Profile

[Your Name]


[Phone Number]



Pro tip: We don’t recommend attaching a photo to your CV.

Personal Summary

A hardworking and dedicated person with [number] years of experience in [industry/field]. Despite past mistakes, I am committed to building a better future for myself and my family. My goal is to gain experience in [career path or role], and I am eager to use my skills to contribute to a team.


Recent Achievements

Pro tip: Use this section to highlight any achievements that will set you apart or spotlight your determination to start a new career.

I am extremely proud to say that I recently completed an NVQ at Level 3 in business administration, and my goal is to work my way toward an undergraduate degree. This was a big accomplishment for me, having left school without any formal qualifications.


Skills Profile

Pro tip: Focus on your skills rather than professional experience. In particular, transferable skills that are relevant to your target career.
  • Experience in general office duties, including booking meetings and managing inventory managers
  • Good working knowledge of office systems, such as back office and Navision
  • Intermediate knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)
  • Strong communication skills 
  • Self-starter



2021-2025 The Open University

Working towards a degree in Business Administration

Modules completed:

  • Global Business Studies
  • Finance
  • Accounting


2018-2021 The Open University

Level 3 Diploma in Business Administration

Modules completed:

  • Global Business Studies
  • Finance
  • Accounting


Professional Experience

September 2016 – June 2017

Not available for work (see cover letter)


[Poots Hardware, London], [Office Administrator], [May 2011 – July 2016]

Key responsibilities and achievements:

  • Revamping the filing system to create more efficient workflows
  • Managing office inventory and reducing overstock costs by 5%
  • Scheduling meetings in Navision
  • Collaborating with managers to cut stationery budget by 10%
  • Communicating office news and events to all staff on the internal intranet


[Name of Company], [Job Title], [Dates of Employment]

[List key responsibilities and achievements]

[Name of Company], [Job Title], [Dates of Employment]

[List key responsibilities and achievements]


Volunteer Work/Community Service

[List any volunteer work or community service, especially during employment gaps and highlight relevant skills you developed]


Additional Information

Pro tip: Use this section to list any interesting information that showcases who you are to an employer or other useful skills you have.


  • Full, clean driving licence
  • Fluent in Spanish
  • Experienced woodworker 



Available upon request.


Free Downloadable CV Template For Ex-offenders

To help you, we’ve created a free downloadable template that you can use as a starting point. This will give you the structure and some handy pointers to make sure your CV stands out from the crowd. Make sure to customise it and make it your own.


Downloadable Sample CV For Ex-Offenders


Finding Ex-Offender Employment Opportunities Near You

Writing a CV as an ex-offender is certainly challenging. Still, it’s also an opportunity to showcase what you’ve learned from past mistakes and what you have to offer. The best advice we can give is to be honest and focus on your transferable skills. Use your cover letter to explain employment gaps in your CV and concentrate on how you plan to use your past experiences to build a better future.

Looking for a job after prison? Head over to our ex-offenders job board for the latest opportunities near you.

Are you an employer of ex-offenders? Our experts at Refreshing a Career can give you advice on ex-offender employment. Here are just some of the services we offer:

Give us a call on 03458724501 or drop us an email at to learn more about our bespoke packages. 

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Last Updated: Tuesday February 21 2023
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