For a Work Coach or an employer during the interview process it can be tricky business asking someone do they have a criminal conviction. It is not an easy question to ask or to be answered. The first important thing to acknowledge is that both parties are probably a little bit uncomfortable in this situation. We have discussed before why you might feel the need to ask this question in the first place.
How to approach someone with a criminal conviction
You should treat a customer who you think may have a criminal conviction as you would any other customer. Having a criminal conviction yes, may impact their ability to do the role from a legal restrictions perspective but there is every possibility that they are equally qualified and have just a valuable skill set like any other candidate would.
How to ask the question
The approach and attitude the Work Coach has towards the individual with a criminal conviction will be influential on their experience in searching for employment and even on their overall rehabilitative experience. As public perceptions can be a cause of great anxiety to these customers. If you have an inkling that a customer may have a criminal conviction that they have not disclosed, the best way to approach this is probably just to be direct and ask the question. This ensures that the individual knows what is being asked of them. A Work Coach or employer could phrase the question in a few different ways.
“Do you have any convictions that you feel may be a barrier to you finding employment?”
“Are there any previous criminal convictions you would like me to be aware of when assisting you to find suitable employment?”
“I recognise that sometimes criminal convictions can be a barrier for someone trying to find employment, could this be a barrier for yourself?”
After the question has been asked
There are some follow up questions you could answer, if the customer discloses that they do have a criminal conviction:
“Would you like to tell me what this conviction was for or would you prefer we don’t talk about it?”
“If you like you can tell me more about this conviction so I have an idea of what barriers it may cause but you are not obligated to.”
“Thank you so much for disclosing this to me, I know it must not be easy to discuss. If you would like further support around how this would affect your employment opportunities, I would be happy to look into this for you.”
After you have asked the question of whether they have any criminal convictions to the candidate; accept whatever answer they give you. It is important to note that they are not obliged to disclose this information. Although it is probably more beneficial for them to disclose it is not a necessity. It is best to just accept the answer they give you and nor probe at the subject.
Work Coaches have a really great opportunity here to be supportive and encouraging. This encouragement will go along way for someone struggling to find work after a criminal conviction as often their self-esteem and confidence might be running a little low. It is important that as the professionals we do not provide any judgement on the matter.
After the disclosure, it can be good to discuss a plan of action with the customer. Possibly to explain to them what kind of careers may suit their skillset, which specific employers might be good to approach as they have a history of not discriminating against individuals with criminal convictions. Emphasis on the skill set and personal attributes that someone has can really boost their confidence and then in turn it may improve their performance at an interview stage of the recruitment process.