06/24/2013 10:12 am ET Updated Aug 24, 2013

Job Hunting With a Criminal Record

It's hard enough finding a job these days without having to explain a criminal record. According to a hiring discrimination study conducted by Princeton professor Devah Pager, having a criminal record may cut your chances of getting hired by half.

When researchers sent 25 young men with similar levels of job experience and education to employers with fake resumes, those with a minor drug possession conviction were 50 percent less likely to get called back or offered a job.

Studies like this show that people with criminal records are often caught in a catch 22: companies are less likely to hire them based on their criminal history, but if they can't find a job, they're more likely to commit a re-offense.

And because black males are incarcerated at disproportionately higher rates, jobless ex-offenders worsen an already alarming chronic unemployment crisis plaguing African-American communities.

According to recent research by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), over two-thirds of employers now conduct background checks on prospective employees.

Although it may be tempting to lie on your job application, always be honest. It's an opportunity to discuss what you've learned from your experience and show your prospective employer what steps you've initiated to improve yourself. And while you still have a chance of getting the job if you explain your situation, you eliminate any chance you have if they find out that you lied.

There are also many resources for ex-offenders seeking employment. Take advantage of the re-entry program in your local community -- they often offer some of the best resources and local connections. You can also get assistance from numerous national organizations including the National H.I.R.E. Network, Goodwill and Step Ahead, all of which provide ex-offenders with training, hiring assistance and other support. Additionally, organizations like the National Transition Jobs Network help transition chronically unemployed people back to work by connecting them with short-term, wage-paid jobs.

Finally, don't exclude yourself from the candidate pool before the employer even has a chance to see your resume. The SHRM survey also shows that about three-fifths (58 percent) of organizations allow job candidates a chance to explain their criminal background check before a hiring decision is made. Remember: even if you don't think you'll get the job, it never hurts to apply and not applying means you definitely will not get the job.