If you or a loved one has a criminal record, you probably already know how challenging it can be to find employment. But the job search doesn’t have to be impossible if you know what to do and how to find help.

Review the Criminal Record

A good first step is to request a copy of the criminal record. Some people are surprised to learn what’s on their record and how the offense or offenses are classified (e.g. misdemeanor, felony). This is a good opportunity to know for sure and to address any potential corrections.

If the record includes convictions, one option might be to try to get them expunged. Many states allow individuals to clear their records after they’ve served their sentences. However, the cost can sometimes be an obstacle. Filing fees can be as low as $30 in some jurisdictions, but as high as $550 in others. And legal fees can run into the thousands of dollars in some cases.

Be Honest and Professional

It’s important to know how to handle a criminal record while looking for a job. You don’t want to lie about your past, but it’s acceptable to wait to discuss it until you’re further along in the hiring process. When you do tell your potential employer, describe what happened in a professional manner and explain what you’ve learned since then.

Hiring Practices May be Changing

Fair-chance policy changes, also known as “ban the box,” are popping up around the country. These policies prohibit employers from asking candidates about convictions at the beginning of the hiring process or require them to consider other factors, such as how much time has passed since the conviction and if there is evidence of rehabilitation.