If you feel unsure about what to write in your CV, you’re not alone. Everyone struggles with their CV – read our top tips to get you off on the right track.

Writing your CV as an ex-offender

Writing a CV is difficult under normal circumstances. Having to navigate a criminal record and gaps in your CV is doubly so.

However, getting your CV right might mark you up for a fresh start and afford you that second chance you deserve. So, it’s important that you get it right the first time as many employers see hundreds of CVs a day, so if anything is amiss it could stop you getting an interview.

But worry no more, as long as you follow these few simple and clear steps you will get off on the right foot and allow you to prove that you deserve that next positive step in life.

Detailing your criminal record

There is no law stating you have to provide any details of your criminal record on your CV, although it is always advised to tell the truth if an employer asks you about it.

Should an employer ask why you didn’t include the record on your CV, you can say that you wanted the opportunity to explain. In turn, you should make sure to have a detailed explanation of any skills or lessons you learned whilst in incarceration. If you had the opportunity to work while in incarceration you should label that work as for the local council or government, and not the prison itself.

Gaps in your Experience

You should detail the relevant work you have had in the past to outline any skills and experience you can apply to this role. However, this will inevitably bring up gaps in your experience due to your time spent in incarceration.

It is important not to lie on your CV, but there are ways to diminish the impact of a large gap. For example, if it was only a short length in incarceration, you can date your past work by years instead of months. In turn, any remaining gaps should be diminished, if not removed completely.

Another way to avoid any significant gaps in your CV is to create a functional CV.

Skills over experience

Should you decide the gaps in your CV are too large, you can create a functional CV. This is where you outline specifically all the skills, experience and characteristics that you make you perfect for that role.

By orienting the CV around achievements and skills, you can attribute when and where you learned them without providing a clear timeline that highlights any gaps. If questioned on this choice, you can explain how you believe in your skills and abilities and hope to be judged on them and not your career timeline.

Be positive

Some ex-offenders make the mistake of admitting guilt or wrongdoing in the past, in the hope it will come across as honest. Although this is valiant, if you have made mistakes in the past an employer wants you to demonstrate a forward outlook.

This means you should concentrate on aspirations and what you can provide the employer. See your CV as an opportunity to move forward, not look backwards.

Check and check again!

It may seem obvious, but employers will be looking for any mistake to move onto the next candidate. Making sure you have double checked your spelling and grammar may be the difference between you getting an interview or not.

If you still feel like you need help writing your CV, head over to our Support and Resources page for a list of local organisations who may be able to assist you. Some will provide personalised CV writing sessions.

If you want more general job search guidance, including interview tips, head over to our dedicated job application guide.