Should You Disclose Your Criminal Record on Your Resume?

Should You Disclose Your Criminal Record on Your Resume?

It’s relatively common for employers in Australia to ask prospective employees to apply for a criminal record check. Doing so provides them with knowledge of candidates’ past convictions and can feed into their decision to hire or not hire an individual. This is most often the case for jobs in which employees would be working with valuable assets or vulnerable people.

Since you’ll likely have to disclose your criminal history anyway, you might be wondering whether you should do so on your resume prior to being asked for a background check. Here’s all you need to know about whether or not you should disclose your criminal record during the job application process in Australia.

1. Should I Disclose My Criminal Record on My Resume?

While there is no legal requirement for you to do so, it is recommended that you disclose your criminal record on your resume when you first apply for a job. This is of particular importance for jobs where you’re likely to be asked to complete a national police check anyway.

There are several reasons for this, the first being that it sets a good precedent. You want to prove to an employer from the outset that you are responsible and trustworthy. Including past convictions on your resume can help you do that. This also means you won’t have to worry about your criminal history being revealed further down the line and causing unexpected problems.

Furthermore, disclosing your criminal history now could streamline the employment process overall. By offering hiring managers a more complete personal profile from the outset, they can see more clearly what they’ll need to ask of you to complete your application. Not to mention the fact that, if you’re open about your criminal history, they may choose not to wait for your criminal record check to be completed before progressing your application.

Do I Need to Disclose My Criminal Record on My Resume?

Remember that an employer could ask to see proof of police clearance at any time, so disclosing your criminal record early could help avoid hassle later on. But, while it is recommended that you disclose your criminal record on your resume, there is no legal obligation to do so.

In fact, you only have to disclose your criminal record if a prospective employer asks you to. As such, it is entirely up to you whether you disclose your history now or wait for it to be discovered later.

2. Will All Employers Request a Criminal Record Check?

No, many employers do not need to know about your past convictions and, as such, will not ask you to complete a criminal record check. This is usually the case for the following types of jobs:

  • Delivery driver.
  • Self-employed contractor or freelancer.

However, just because certain fields don’t generally require employees to apply for a police check in Australia doesn’t mean you won’t be asked to do one. At the end of the day, it is entirely at the discretion of the employer, so you should be prepared to disclose your criminal background for any position you apply for.

What Industries Are More Likely to Require a Criminal Record Check?

Certain industries have stricter barriers to employment than others and will most likely require applicants to disclose their criminal history at some point during the application process. As mentioned earlier, they’re usually roles in which employees would be working with valuable assets, vulnerable people, or young people, such as:

  • Immigration personnel.
  • Financial advisers.
  • Emergency services staff.


3. What Convictions Would Prevent Me From Getting a Job?

While you might feel nervous about disclosing your criminal history, whether on your resume or through a police check, rest assured that there are laws in place to prevent discrimination based on your past convictions.

As long as your former offences are not considered ‘relevant’ to the position you’re applying for, they should not inhibit your access to that position. In other words, if a conviction disclosed during a criminal background check has no bearing on a person’s ability to perform a particular role well, they should stand as much chance as anyone else of getting it.

However, your convictions could prevent you from getting a job if they suggest you might pose a risk to an organisation or its stakeholders. As an example, people who have a history of violence are unlikely to be allowed to work with vulnerable or young people.

In addition, there is no strict way of defining what is relevant and what would be irrelevant to a person’s employment prospects. As such, it is possible that some prospective employers could interpret the legislation more loosely than others.

4. Do Employers Need to Know About All Convictions?

No, employers do not need to know about all of your convictions, so you won’t need to include them all on your resume. Only the ones relevant to the job role in question have to be disclosed. That’s why, at the beginning of your police check online application, you are asked to provide details relating to the purpose of your police check.

Providing this information helps to determine which of your previous convictions, if any, will be included on your national police check. Say, for example, that a person with a criminal history applies for a position at a bank. If their former offences involve fraud or theft, those convictions would be disclosed on the person’s police check certificate for that particular job.

In addition, convictions that are more than 10 years old usually aren’t disclosed on a national police check, even if they are in some way related to the position being applied for. This is because of something called spent convictions legislation, which basically wipes a person’s past convictions after a specified waiting period.

However, conditions do apply, meaning that your convictions may still be disclosed on your national police check, even if you believe they should have become spent. More on this below.

How Does Spent Convictions Legislation Work?

Spent convictions legislation applies differently across the different States and Territories of Australia. Generally speaking, though, convictions automatically become spent after a waiting period of around 10 years, as long as the individual does not re-offend in the meantime. Spent convictions will not, in most cases, be disclosed on a national police check, although there are exceptions.

As mentioned above, there are variations in how spent convictions legislation is enforced in different regions. Most notably, in West Australia, convictions do not become spent automatically. Instead, former offenders have to apply for spent convictions.

Does Spent Convictions Legislation Apply If I Am Under 18?

For former offenders who were 18 or under at the time of conviction, convictions will generally be wiped after just five years. Again, though, variations do apply.

As such, former offenders who apply for police checks in West Australia can expect their convictions to become spent after only two years if they were a minor at the time. And, in New South Wales (NSW), the waiting period is three years.

For more information on spent convictions legislation, visit the Australian Federal Police website.

5. What If My Spent Convictions Appear on My National Police Check Certificate?

If you have spent convictions, it is very unlikely that they will be disclosed on your national police check. However, if yours is returned to you with spent convictions listed, there will almost always be a good reason for them to appear. This will usually be as a precaution to mitigate any risk posed to vulnerable or young people.

Reasons for disclosure will vary depending on the legislation of your home State or Territory. So, police checks in NSW could differ from those in Victoria in terms of the spent convictions listed for a particular job.

Can I Dispute the Results of My National Police Check?

In a small minority of cases, police check certificates may be returned to applicants with spent convictions erroneously listed as disclosable outcomes. If that happens to you, there are steps you can take to rectify the mistake. Just bear in mind that, for the most part, there will be a reason for your convictions to be listed, even spent ones.

The decision to disclose convictions is made by Australia’s National Police Checking Service, which is a branch of the Australia Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC). If you apply for your police check through an accredited third-party organisation, they should be able to liaise with ACIC to straighten out any discrepancies in your certificate.

Contact us now if you would like us to work with ACIC on your behalf to resolve any issues with a certificate that we issued.

6. Can I Refuse to Complete a Criminal Record Check?

You are within your rights to refuse to complete a criminal record check, whether because you have already disclosed your criminal history on your resume or for another reason entirely. However, do keep in mind the fact that refusing to do so could disqualify you from the application process.

Many organisations will have a police checking policy in place that applies either to all applicants, employees, or both. In most cases, the policy will be there because there is sufficient reason for employers to know employees’ criminal history. One person refusing to partake would make the process unfair.

7. Should I Disclose My Criminal Record If I Am Convicted of a Crime While Working?

Nowhere in the country, whether you apply for police checks in South Australia or in another territory entirely, are you legally required to do so while employed in any position. Police checks can only be carried out with the consent of the applicant and employers cannot force you.

Police checks are considered to be a ‘point in time’ check, which basically means that the certificate you have is valid on the date of issue. It is up to your employer to determine how long they deem it acceptable, whether that’s a couple of years or the entire length of your employment. As such, they can request that you apply for a new one at any time. To do so, click here.

Just keep in mind that, while you do have the right to refuse, this could jeopardise your position. You see, if your employer’s request is considered to be for a ‘lawful and reasonable‘ purpose, then they have the power to begin disciplinary proceedings against you should you decline.

For instance, if you work with vulnerable people, it would be considered lawful and reasonable for employers to check that you have no new convictions that would make you a danger to them. To avoid any complications should you gain any convictions while in employment, it is advised that you inform your employer yourself as soon as possible.

8. How Do I Apply for a National Police Check?

It’s really easy to apply for a national police check online. The process should only take around five minutes when you apply through Crime Check Australia, just as long as you have everything you need to hand. This includes:

  • Personal information including your name, contact details, and date of birth.
  • Address history for the past five years.
  • One commencement document, such as a passport.
  • One primary document, such as a driver’s licence.
  • Two secondary documents, such as a Medicare card or credit reference check.
  • A selfie of you holding one form of photo ID.
  • An accepted credit or debit card to securely pay the fees.

The certificate you receive from Crime Check Australia will be valid across each of the different Australian States and Territories. So, it doesn’t matter if you need a police check in Victoria or one in Queensland. Either way, the application process and the certificate you get as a result will be the same.