It’s no secret that having a criminal record adds a variety of challenges to your job search in the years after your release. Therefore, making a good first impression through your CV can make all the difference. These CV writing tips for ex-offenders will help start you off on the right track. 

Writing Your CV as an Ex-Offender

Writing a CV is difficult under normal circumstances. But having to navigate a criminal record and gaps in your CV is doubly so. There is constant pressure to get back to work as quickly as possible after your release so you can start earning again.

It’s essential to put the necessary time and effort into perfecting your CV before sending it to prospective employers. This can dramatically reduce the time it takes to find a job.

We’ve put together some useful CV writing tips for ex-offenders to help make your CV stand out from the crowd and land you a job sooner.

Detailing Your Criminal Record

There is no law stating that you have to provide any details of your criminal record on your CV. However, 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 relevant experience you gained whilst in incarceration. If you were involved in any work or projects, you should label the employer as the local council or government, and not the prison itself.

The Rehabilitation of Offendenders Act (1974) gives you the right to legally ignore your past convictions after a period of time. The amount of time, or rehabilitation period, will be considered ‘spent’ and is decided by the sentence or disposal received.

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 you only spent a short time in incarceration, you can date your past work by years instead of months. As a result, any remaining gaps should be reduced, if not removed completely.

Another way to avoid any significant gaps in your CV is to create one in a functional format, as opposed to the usual chronological one.

Functional CVs: Skills Over Experience

Should you decide the gaps in your CV are too large, try using the functional Cv format. This is where you outline all the specific skills, experience, and characteristics that make you perfect for the role in question.

By focusing your CV on achievements and skills, you can provide a clear timeline that won’t highlight gaps. If questioned on this choice, you can simply explain how you believe in your skills and abilities. After all, it’s fair to want to be judged on them rather than 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. Yes, you should be scrupulously honest in your CV, but this doesn’t mean you have to divulge or emphasise your weaknesses. Employers want you to demonstrate a forward outlook.

You should concentrate on aspirations and be confident in what you can provide the employer. Focus on what you know how to do and what you want to do in the next three, five, and ten years. See your CV as an opportunity to move forward, not look backwards.

Check and Check Again!

Talent acquisition specialists will spend on average 5-7 seconds looking at a CV. They’ll also receive around 250 applications per job posting. This means that there is zero room for spelling or grammar mistakes. Have a friend or family member proofread your CV before you send it to an employer. On top of that, a free online proofreader like Grammarly is a must-have tool when writing your CV and cover letter.

Key Takeaways

Your CV is the first impression a prospective employer gets of you during the job application process. It is therefore essential that you put the necessary time and effort into making the best first impression you can. So, consider implementing these ex-offender cv writing tips as there’s no time like the present to boost your career opportunities.

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

For more general job search guidance, including interview tips, have a look at our dedicated job application guide for ex-offenders. Be sure to check out our dedicated career change jobs board for opportunities in your area.