One of the worst consequences of extended joblessness is what happens after you run through your nest egg, if you were lucky enough to have one. The effect of unpaid or late paid bills and/or being upside down on your mortgage affects your credit rating. But will it affect your job search?
There’s been a lot of noise about the increased use of credit reports in hiring, and how bad credit will sink your battleship. The news doesn’t tell the whole story, though, especially as it applies to IT. Research by the Society for Human Resource Management indicates that employer credit checks haven’t increased since 2004, and only 13 percent of companies polled conduct credit background checks on all job candidates. For those of you with no healthcare, medical debt doesn’t appear to play into the equation at all.
If you’re seeking a gig in government, bad credit could get you bounced from the hiring pool since public sector job standards are fairly stringent. But for private sector venues, both SHRM and HR managers on the ground are more optimistic. If you live in Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon Washington State or Maryland your credit issues are moot. These states restrict the use of credit reports on employment related decisions. However, that’s not to say some of you will be scrutinized more than others, and if your debt is not exclusively due to joblessness you may have some explaining to do.
It’s All About the Circumstances
August Gangi, Senior Vice President at Risk Strategies Company in Boston, finds variables at play when considering an IT candidate with lousy credit. “It depends on what level position, what the project may entail and what could be exposed during the operation,” he says. “If you’re a middle management IT person and you’ve lost your house to foreclosure, I’d want to know why you couldn’t pay your mortgage. If you were laid off and jobless for an extended period of time and your credit situation is clearly articulated and understood, it wouldn’t matter much to me.”
That being said, Gangi and his company have clear boundaries. “If I wasn’t comfortable with how an applicant came to be in a financial predicament outside of a tort — let’s say debt caused by lifestyle choices that may reflect someone’s character — I’d be dubious to hire them. If it’s a high level IT position that allows access to private and confidential client information, the law in Massachusetts is clear and we wouldn’t take the risk.”
The Economy Counts
The international telecommunications company where one professional, let’s call him John A., is an HR manager has hundreds of employees and goes a bit further. “Unless it’s an IT position with access to confidential information, dealing with financial data at the highest level or working with auditors, we wouldn’t even do a credit check,” he says. “Bad credit because of joblessness is not a great concern.”
Allied Business Schools HR Manager Lisa Jimenez feels the same way. “We don’t run credit checks unless it’s a high-level accounting or management position that involves access to sensitive information,” she says. “We do typical DMV and criminal checks, but that’s about it.”
The SHRM poll backs up these hiring managers as well. Ninety one percent said they only conduct credit checks for jobs with financial or fiduciary responsibilities, and less than half check for senior executive positions. For employers who do look at credit history, 87 percent would allow an applicant to explain the results of their report.
Jimenez appears to speak for the majority: “I’m very open-minded about applicants’ financial situation, especially these days. Unless there’s something derogatory on their credit report that indicates something other than extended joblessness, we’re okay with it.”
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