Like many of you who are reading this article, I’ve just had one of those ‘thanks but no thanks’ incidents following an interview arranged by a recruitment agency. I’ve had these types of responses before and felt upset, angry and deflated but this time, rather than just accept the contents, I thought it was important to respond.

So, here’s my email

Hi Emily,

I just wanted to thank you for considering me suitable and capable for the role of XXXX for all the right reasons. I hope you will agree that I was precisely the kind of candidate that was ideal based on the tests carried out, my enthusiasm and my experience. It is just unfortunate that, whether it is [Recruitment agency] or [Employer] who makes these decisions, I was considered unsuitable for the wrong reasons.

Of course, your comment to me regarding why my application was rejected was incorrect. You, no doubt, were simply relaying the information that your manager gave you. In fact, what may quite possibly be true is that you do not employ anyone with criminal convictions – knowingly!

I think it is very possible that you do employ people with unspent criminal convictions, but unlike myself and a minority of people like me who find it virtually impossible to be dishonest (which apart from anything else, I feel is treating the person you are lying to disrespectfully) what you actually have is people who have not ticked the box that requests this information, a very small number of whom may be genuinely mistaken that their conviction is spent. I don’t blame people for lying, they are probably quite rightly aware that their conviction has absolutely no bearing on their ability to do the job, and for [Recruitment agency] or [Employer] to pry further into their history (apart from being quite possibly illegal) would be totally detrimental to themselves as well as the contractor/employee. They would be firing a productive member of their staff for, as I have already said, no good reason.

I cannot recall precisely whether you said, specifically, that only people with “unspent” criminal convictions were refused employment. Even if not, I’m sure that was the inference, as denying people with spent convictions employment without good reason is an offence in itself to my understanding. However, the actual difference between a “spent” and an “unspent” conviction is purely arbitrary as far as any employer is concerned. There is a good argument that someone who’s conviction has been “spent” is actually going to be a greater risk to the employer than one who’s isn’t. A person who still has restrictions and requirements for their action and behaviours has a lot more to lose by upsetting their employer, and there is no reason why an ex-offender will do anything detrimental towards the employer, any more than someone who has never had any involvement in the criminal justice system at all – they have solid experience of the possible repercussions of their actions.

In the jobs I have been able to get since leaving prison, I have been credited and commended by all my managers and supervisors, as long as they were unaware of my conviction (only the recruiting agency being aware). In one case my manager (highly uncharacteristic for him apparently) requested that I not only stayed with him when I moved to his next job location, but wanted me taken on full time by his company. For unrelated reasons I was unable to join him at that site (qualifications) but my concern was also that if I were to join his company I would have to cross a line of dishonesty. Being that he was clearly a bigot (something I disliked, but was willing to accept as being a largely generational thing) I am certain his attitude toward me would have changed should he have known about my conviction.

I just wanted to make these points to you, and for the sake of hopefully encouraging someone to consider these points should you ever be in a position to affect company policy decisions in future, or know of someone who is. It is just unfortunate that the law itself does not reflect on these rather obvious incongruities.

In closing, perhaps I can ask one question. If [Recruitment agency] do not employ anyone with [Employer] who have unspent convictions; is there any chance you know, or can enquire about, which clients of [Recruitment agency] do – and perhaps forward me your relevant recruitment specialists contact details? I would be most grateful.

Thank you


So, it seems that being upfront and honest isn’t necessarily going to land me a job. The advice I received from staff on the work programme was not to disclose anything to a recruitment agency, but to bring it up at the interview with the employer. This approach has definitely resulted in me being put forward by a couple of agencies for interviews although the companies involved then went back to the agency asking why my conviction hadn’t been disclosed previously. I now get the feeling that I’m not trusted by these agencies as they feel that I’ve been dishonest with them.

By George (name changed to protect identity)


A comment from Unlock

Our helpline is often contacted by people who’ve had very similar experiences to George. Sadly it’s all too easy for recruitment agencies to hide behind employers blaming their company policies for rejecting anybody with a criminal record. Although there are no doubt instances where this is the case, we’re fairly sure that some recruitment agencies just don’t recommend individuals with a criminal record. As George says, this will often lead to people not disclosing their conviction to an agency.

Useful links

  1. Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  2. Information – We have practical self-help information on disclosing criminal records to an employer
  3. Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions on disclosing criminal records to an employer on our online forum.
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