Almost half of all employers use credit reports to judge job applicants, even though credit histories have no relation to job performance. Personal finance goofs are only relevant for jobs that deal directly with money—cashiers, account managers, and the like. For everyone else, negative credit reports keep otherwise capable people from securing a job to help avoid further financial problems. So why do so many companies still ask for credit reports?
Hiring consultant Nancy Schuman explains:
Some companies believe they can deduce how a person will handle their job responsibilities based on how they handle their personal finances. Others use the information to gauge how long a person might stay in a position if their debt load is higher than a position pays. It is also used to verify employment history and a social security number.
There is no clear connection between a credit history and job performance, and many job seekers consider it to be an unfair way of screening candidates, however, no Federal discrimination law specifically prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of a bad credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and state credit laws help to regulate how an employer can obtain and use their findings. An employer must gain your consent in writing to do a credit check and the report they receive is different than one viewed by a credit agency or an individual. Full account numbers are not revealed and they won’t see a credit score, but they will be able to see late payments, collections and bankruptcies. If you are actually denied employment because of your credit report, the company must notify you so that you may view the report on which the decision was based.
An accurate credit report is best defense against a discriminating employer. Every year, consumers find 13 million errors staining their credit reports. Request a copy of your report from each of the three credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com (not FreeCreditReport.com!) Challenge anything that looks like an error. If you can’t scrape strikes from your report, talk to your potential employer clearly and honestly and help them understand what led to financial transgression, and explain how it is completely unrelated to your future job performance.