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How to Employ Someone With a Criminal Record

Society is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of giving individuals a second chance, especially when it comes to employment. But how do you do it? How do you employ someone with a criminal record? What can you ask? What can’t you ask? What if something goes wrong? What if it goes right? So many questions. We hope throughout this article we can answer some of the important questions and help your company in the process of hiring a reintegrating candidate.

A silhouette of a man in front of a prison fence.

Below are some of the key questions we face when guiding clients through the hiring process of reintegrating individuals.

How do I start an interview with a reintegrating individual? When at Victoria’s Dhurringle Prison for the Centre of Excellence (CoE) graduation this week, one of the Department of Justice representatives shared an interesting anecdote about candidate nerves towards employers. Within a graduation/employer expo, the top graduates were giving a demonstration on the equipment, while the remaining candidates and employers stood separately watching the demo. It took one courageous inmate to approach the CoE organiser and say “Can you tell them (T

he employers), that we (inmates) are way more scared of them, than they are of us?”. The ultimate ice breaker, but also a reminder of the importance of creating a safe and non-judgmental environment. These individuals already think society is against them due to their convictions.

Make the individual understand they have nothing to hide, and that your company and you are here to hear their story and hopefully provide them with an opportunity of employment.

What should I find out about the individual? Outside of your company’s normal recruitment process, we feel it is important to understand the individual’s key reintegration barriers. This includes:

  • Living situation: Suitability to change, location, short term vs long term.

  • Support network (family, dependants, Workforce Australia provider, etc),

  • Whether they have reliable transport,

  • What experience and tickets/training do they have?

Understanding these barriers and how a candidate is situated in each category paints a clear picture of where they currently are, and what they might need to overcome in order to gain meaningful employment.

The next round of questions we understand in order to hire someone with a criminal record is:

  • What caused the path they are on, and how did they end up in prison?

  • Why they’ve changed is crucial to building an understanding of their current situation.

  • What are they doing to ensure they don’t end up back on that path?

How can we tell if they have changed? One question we focus on is asking them about the lessons they have learnt from this experience. The ability to reflect on their actions and provide a lesson from the tribulations shows growth and awareness.

The other is understanding their ‘Why’, who and why are they embarking on this journey for? Common ‘Whys’ we see are:

  • To be a role model for my kids

  • To prove to myself I can do it

  • To buy a house and have a family

  • To create a life I and my family can be proud of

  • To right my wrongs and make up for lost time

When humans understand their ‘why’ aka find their meaning, they can overcome anything. The famous Victor Frankl’s story is a testament to this power. Frankl argues that while we cannot avoid suffering, we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Candidates are going to face hard times, so making sure they and you are clear on their meaning helps build the resilience needed to overcome them.

How do I ask about their record? As you’ve already created a safe and non-judgemental environment and have built rapport with the candidate throughout the above questions getting clear on their criminal history is important. If a candidate has come from Reboot Australia, it is more than likely that they have a criminal record, so asking these questions needs to happen. Our team focus on being clear, to the point and ultimately curious about the factors that lead to the conviction. Don’t overcomplicate it, and just simply ask - “How did you end up doing a stint in jail?”.

Making sure to ask if that is all that will show up on their National Police Check is another great strategy to understanding more of their history.

How do I know I can trust them? Firstly, can we trust anyone? No, we understand the question. Ultimately, reintegration is the re-establishment of trust. Trust that an individual will do what they say and that they will hold up their role within society. One way to build this trust is by obtaining the candidate’s National Police Check (NPC). A National Police Check is a full record of their criminal history. It displays all releasable court outcomes (sentences, convictions and findings of guilt and non-guilt) from all Australian States and Territories. After hearing the candidate's story and their past convictions, the NPC acts as proof of the convictions they’ve mentioned. Have you told us exactly what will appear on your National Police Check? No, then another conversation needs to happen.

Trust is a two-way street. The individual needs to do what they say they are going to do, and so do you as an employer. This shows up as you the employer providing the work environment you said you were going to, and the employee showing up fit, capable, and ready to work.

What happens if something goes wrong? Having a clear plan if something goes wrong is always a strong strategy, this is no different. Our advice is to ensure the below is actioned prior to and after a situation has happened.

  • Have clear conversations, built on clear expectations: Clearly outlining the importance of communication and building the ability and rapport to communicate with a candidate is very important in mitigating and resolving issues.

  • Clearly identify who the individual’s mentor/supervisor/support network is prior to employment. Make sure the candidate has someone they can confide in, or at least knows who they can speak to if things are getting challenging. Reboot Australia will be communicating with the individual throughout the throughcare mentoring period as well.

  • Contact us: Contacting Reboot as early as possible can help defuse any situation.

Change isn’t linear. There will be good days and hard days. The best way to mitigate risk is to build a strong relationship with the reintegrating employee built on communication. That way you can be there to help them up when they fall, rather than catch them out.

Who should I tell within our organisation? This is completely up to the individual and you to decide. We often see just the supervisor/leadership and HR being informed of an individual’s past. It’s at the mercy of the candidate to tell anyone else if they feel comfortable. The likelihood is the candidates will keep it to themselves as they are trying to move away from this identity.


Over our journey, we’ve found that reintegration recruitment screening uncovers more information about the individual than regular recruitment screening. We deeply understand candidate's past and what they want to achieve in the future. We understand their living situation and support network. We face their challenges together and are here to help them create a life free of crime as a result.

Employers have the power to single-handedly change someone’s life trajectory. 66% of reconvicted individuals are unemployed at the time of breaching or committing an offence. A powerful reminder of the role employment plays in breaking the incarceration cycle.

About Reboot Australia

Reboot Australia is a social enterprise Reintegration Employment company specialising in mentoring and employment for ex-offenders across WA, VIC, NSW and QLD. Closing the gap between industry and incarceration, we provide holistic candidate-centric support to build the resilience needed to create a life free of crime. Working in all industries across Australia, if you’re looking to hire someone with a record or find work with a record, get in touch via our Operations Manager or register here.


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