By Alison Hinson
The good news: you got a job offer. The bad news: it's contingent upon a review of your credit report. The worst news of all: the economy, your subsequent unemployment, and/or other financial woes over the past few years have resulted in damaging your credit report.
Ironically, this is why you are looking for a job in the first place. But there are some things you can do to help minimize the impact of a low credit score on the hiring process.
Understand Why Employers Check
Yes, it seems unfair to penalize an unemployed or underemployed person for not being able to pay their bills. However, it's important to be aware of the perception that people with bad credit reports may be financially driven to steal from a company or its customers. If you will be dealing with cash or valuables of any kind, your future employer may ask to check your credit report.
Check It Yourself
Checking your own credit reports will allow you to see what's there before your potential employer does. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and request a free copy of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). You won't be able to see your credit score, but you will see all of the other information that is listed on your credit report.
Review all three of these reports to understand what might be a red flag during your job search. If your potential employer does ask to see your credit report, you will be prepared to knowledgeably talk about what's on there, why it's on there, and how it will not impact your job performance.
Take Steps to Quell Credit Blemishes
Although there are no quick fixes to repair your credit report, you can still take steps to help improve your credit.
- First, review your credit report for accuracy - why be penalized for a bad credit due to incorrect information? The Federal Trade Commission offers great advice on this, including a sample letter to send to credit agencies upon finding inaccurate report information.
- Second, create a budget so you know where your money is going.
- Third, contact creditors to see if you can arrange an alternate payment plan. Believe it or not, your creditors would rather talk with you directly than turn you over to a debt collector.
There are valid reasons why an employer would ask to see your credit report. There are also valid explanations on why your credit report may contain negative information. Know what that information is and be able to explain to an employer why that will not impact your ability to be a great employee.