You've beaten the odds, and now your dream job seems within reach. Your resume made you stand out from the pack, and you managed to score an interview. You've just about made it through your second interview when your potential employer drops the bomb: Before a job offer will be made, the company would like to review your credit report.
Is this just another hoop to jump through, or can they really use it against you?
The good news is that employers usually don’t spend the time and money on a credit report just to screen someone out. You are likely one of the final candidates being considered for the job, and according to a 2010 study by the Society for Human Resource Management, although 60% of employers run credit checks on at least some applicants, only 9% viewed a good credit report as one of the most important factors when hiring. Experian.com reports that the biggest users of credit reports for hiring decisions are companies in the defense, chemical, pharmaceutical and financial service industries.
According to the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, there are certain rules employers must follow when using credit reports in their hiring decisions:
Before an employer can request your credit report, they must get your consent in writing. You also have the right to receive a copy of the report. If you don’t give your permission, know that you may be out of running for the job—it’s entirely up to you.
Keep You in the Loop
Potential employers must notify you that your credit report may be requested and that they may use the information to help make their decision. They must ask for an Employment Credit Report, which doesn’t disclose your social security number and won’t affect your credit score.
Once the employer gets the report, if they choose to deny your application, they must make a pre-adverse action disclosure by giving you a copy of the report and a document called "A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act" before they can take any adverse action.
Explain Their Decision
If your credit report factored into their decision not to hire you, the employer must provide an adverse action notice. The notice has to include the name, address, phone number and a statement from the company that supplied the credit report. The statement should state that it didn't make the decision to take the adverse action and can’t give you the reasons it was taken.
A notice of your right to question the accuracy of the information in the report is also provided; you can also ask for another free report from the same company within 60 days. It is against the law to base a hiring decision entirely on a credit report.
Does bad credit necessarily make someone a bad employee? A survey conducted at Louisiana State University found that credit reports and job performance were not linked. Despite this, it is unlikely that employers will stop using credit as a screening tool, although federal law will help make them play by the rules.
Jan Hill is a freelance writer and certified paralegal who has written for newspapers, reference books, websites and trade magazines such as Paralegal Today. She is currently a legal blogger for the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen, a personal-injury law firm in Colorado. Jan specializes in law, business, sustainability and education; she writes about legal topics on her blog, Raised Write.