There was time when our biggest concerns, especially if our credit was less than ideal, was convincing a loan officer at the bank to take a chance on us by approving a loan application. That’s no longer the case. Today, we might just find ourselves trying to convince an employer to give us a chance in a new position. Many Americans are unaware that an employer – or rather, a would-be employer – could be checking our credit before we ever get the chance to interview for a job. They can and they do. Here’s out to smooth over any less than ideal credit scores if you’re trying to land a job.
If you’re looking for a job, and aside from the high unemployment, if you’re concerned about not getting call backs, it could be your credit. Nearly half of all American employers now run routine credit checks on all of their candidates. This is according to a new survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management. What they found was alarming. If your credit has taken too many hits, it could very well be the reason you’re being overlooked.
So what are the so-called red flags that could be keeping you from being offered a position? There are no definitive answers that are consistent from one employer to another, but usually, late payments, bankruptcies and credit cards that are carrying balances over and above their credit limits are usually the deal breakers.
While employers are required to obtain your permission before running a credit history, they know that if job seeker declines, that’s one less candidate they have to worry about speaking to. Naturally it’s not to your advantage to decline a request for a routine credit check if you’re looking for employment, but then again, you wonder what the criteria is or even if a late payment would actually knock you out of the running. You’re clearly at the disadvantage at that point. Ask too many questions and that sends up red flags, too.
There are, though, a few things you can do.
Odds are, when you were a teen looking for your first job, you likely heard your parents say over and over, “Persistence pays”. That might be truer now than ever before. You can, sometimes anyway, make it difficult for an employer to use a less than perfect credit history as a reason not to hire you. In fact, the survey showed 80% of employers have chosen the candidate with the poorer score if the rest of the “package” was strong enough. A number that high, though, suggests that regardless of a candidates history, the best resume and experience wins out. This begs the question, then: Why bother pulling those reports, right?
Your goal is to ensure the rest of that so-called “package” – your past work history, your skillset, references, experience and presentation – is right on target. If it’s a job you know you were born to do, be sure to highlight those strong points. If it’s a sales position, be sure you highlight your past successes during the interview. If it’s a secretarial position, you’ll want to reiterate in the interview your in depth knowledge of the computer programs the company uses. Are you, say, MS Certified? That’s huge and can be just the advantage you need to push you to the top of the considerations, regardless of that bankruptcy. Did you prevent a massive hack at your last employer? Make sure the interviewer knows that – but show respect to your previous employer too by not delving so far into your explanation that you’re compromising that former employer. Straight forward is the way to go – just keep it simple and relevant.
If you’re looking for a job and are concerned that an interviewer will request permission to run a credit report, you should already be in a proactive stance versus a reactive one. You should have already pulled your report ahead of time. While you can’t get accurate information deleted, the least you can do is report information that’s inaccurate. You want to be sure you’ve covered all the bases. If during the interview you’re asked about low scores, be honest. One man we spoke with said he took the “less is more” approach.
I simply told the interviewer that I was unemployed because of my previous employer being forced to close the doors, but that I was one of the last ones laid off. Three months without a job resulted in a late mortgage payment but that if she’d notice prior to the previous few months on my credit report, I had impeccable credit and even more importantly, I also have an impeccable work history as well as a solid reference from my former boss. I was hired ten minutes later.
Sometimes, it really is that simple. Employers know there are many candidates who are going to interview with them with less than perfect credit and that to expect anything less might be a bit too unrealistic in this day and age. Five years ago, it might have been a better indicator of who would make a better employees. Those days are gone though, at least for now.
One last tip: remember your credit report cannot be pulled without your permission. The Patriot Act ensures your privacy, so if you walk into an interview only to discover a copy of your credit report on the desk that was pulled without your permission, at a minimum, you’re being interviewed by a company that has questionable ethics and that could also be breaking the law.