How to land a job despite bad credit

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If you’re job hunting, you expect hiring managers to check your resume.

But you shouldn't be surprised if potential employers delve into another aspect of your personal life -- your credit history -- and turn you down if they don't like what they see.

That's why job seekers should know their rights when companies start to scrutinize their financial history and be ready to deal with unflattering information that could sink an application.

When the Society for Human Resource Management asked employers how frequently they conduct credit checks on job candidates, 40% said they never do, while only 13% said they always do.

But nearly half of employers in the society's 2010 survey said they run credit checks on candidates for positions where financial history is deemed most relevant.

If you're applying for work:

There is no proven link between credit history and work skills, according to a study done at Eastern Kentucky University. And in the society's survey, only one in 10 employers said passing a credit check was the most important factor in a hiring decision.

The vast majority of employers are much more interested in whether you’re a “good fit” with the company culture, have relevant work experience and specific skills for the job, the society found.

Still, some employers see a chaotic credit history as a sign that you may be an unreliable worker.

For a company to access your credit history, you have to give written permission.

Management consultant Nick Corcodilos, who writes the blog Ask the Headhunter, advises job seekers not to “provide consent for a credit report, or even fill out application forms, until after you decide you’re really interested” in the job.

But if you are, and you want to stay in the running, refusing to allow a credit check probably isn't an option.

Among companies that do check credit, more than half conduct the check after offering the candidate a job contingent on the check’s results, the society's survey found.

Nearly two-thirds say that if the credit check turns up something that might affect the hiring decision, they may give the job candidate a chance to explain.

If you have bad credit and are looking for a job, consider these ways to minimize the impact your credit issues could have:

Let the employer know if there's a valid reason your credit is bad. For example, if you are a recent victim of identity theft, let the employer know before they run your credit. Tell them you'd be happy to sign the consent, but you'd appreciate the opportunity to explain some recent incidents that affected your credit.

“Some workers have found the best approach is very direct,” says Anne Janks of, a nonprofit that offers online guidance on workplace rules and rights.

“For example," Janks says, "tell the employer: 'My credit isn’t great because my wife lost her job.’ Or, ‘We have a lot of bills because of an illness in my family -- but I didn't take time off for it.’ Or, ‘I was laid off when the company closed, but I’m a reliable worker -- even more so because I need my job.' "

Be proactive about proving you're a good employee. If you know your credit is less than stellar because you've simply not handled it well in the past, have other evidence ready to illustrate you are responsible.

Janks suggests giving hiring managers copies of awards for attendance, performance reviews and letters of recommendation from former employers.

Ask why you're turned down for a job. It's legal to reject job candidates because of credit issues. But employers are required to tell you if that's the reason and provide a copy of the credit report they used to evaluate your financial history.

Bankruptcy is an exception: Section 525(b) of the bankruptcy code forbids employers from discriminating against workers because they have a bankruptcy on their record.

Companies can't fire employees who file for bankruptcy, and they can't refuse to hire someone who is bankrupt.

However, it can be difficult to prove what factors influenced a hiring decision, and some employers never acknowledge that credit played a role in rejecting a job candidate.

Challenge any mistakes on your report immediately. Obtain free copies of your credit reports from, and look for obvious mistakes. Information is posted to the wrong reports all the time.

Correcting errors on your report probably won't help you get the job you were applying for -- getting a mistake corrected can take months -- but it will help prevent any credit-related issues in the future.

If your credit is bad, don't just give up and accept that you'll always be saddled with that history.

The majority of employers check a job candidate’s credit history for no more than the last 6 to 7 years, according to the society's survey. With some dedication, you can improve your history over time.

Our 7 smart moves to improve your credit score can help you get started.

You can follow on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Patricia

    Checking someone's credit history should not be allowed. I bet these guys listed below had an excellent credit rating before they were hired.
    A bad credit rating doesn't necessarily mean that the new employee cannot be trusted. These guys were trusted, a judgment based on their credit rating, look the damages that followed.

    Financier Robert Vesco proved a prominent figure in a number of famous embezzlement cases throughout the 1970s...

    In 2008, financier Bernie Madoff was found guilty of a $50 billion "Ponzi" scheme, a complex form of embezzlement that allowed Madoff to steal money from investors while paying it back with capital earned from new investors...

    In November 2009, Matthew Mercuro, chief financial officer for the companies of professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, stood accused of embezzling approximately $365,000 from the athlete...


  • Don

    Checking someone's criminal background is understandable. Checking credit is ridiculous. I have managed people for over twenty-five years and can tell you from experience that I've had employees who I knew had credit/money issues yet were great employees. Checking credit is a H.R. Manager being lazy and/or being a nosy busy-body. I am all for a private sector employer wanting to run their business as they see fit but not when it crosses the line into people's personal affairs. I've asked several H.R. people over the years what evidence there is that a person with credit issues is any kind of a risk and have never gotten solid evidence. It appears to be just a theory that H.R. people came up with to justify their importance.

  • Michael P

    It is a violation of privacy to be finding out an employment candidate's credit history. It is something extremely personal and it should be illegal to inquire about it from an employee. In some states it is already illegal. I hope employment discrimination laws ban it through out the country. If we all refuse to sign permission to investigate our credit, we will be taking away power from these abusive employers.

  • Tay

    I think its crazy that a mere credit check can disqualify so many qualified candidates. I've been searching for a job for at least 6 months now and I have yet to find one and I can think of no other reason than my credit score. My score has nothing to do with my work ability. I'm EXTREMELY motivated now more than ever to be the best worker so that I can attempt to do something about my credit score but I can't find adequate income to even begin working on anything. Its very deterring and its hard to try to stay optimistic about this. I think it should banned unless it be applicable to do a credit check for the job you are applying for, i.e. accounting or financing or something high end. A mere team worker at your local grocery store, or even mcdonald's should not require a credit check. That's ridiculous if you ask me.

  • NAL

    Even temp agencies check credit now. I had four temp jobs end abruptly on the second day and just told that the 'background check came back' and you didn't pass the credit piece..

    These were for TEMP jobs. Seriously, they need to check credit for a six week data entry job??

  • Nadine

    In the "no free lunch" dept: The IRS is letting taxpayers who have been out of work for at least 30 days avoid some penalties for failing to pay taxes. They'd get an extra 6 months to pay up and avoid the penalty. But, they would still owe interest on the unpaid taxes. Thanks for, uh, almost nothing.

  • jenne

    And looks like there are more jobs to be had out there -- the Labor Department said employers added 227,000 jobs in February, and even though the unemployment rate didn't change, it was the third month in the row for job growth -- first time since early 2011.

  • Pariah

    America has become a fascist country... discriminating against a variety of 'types' of citizens in order to give preference to those it considers 'worth' more... even the old 'American Dream' is itself a validation of discrimination.... Soon, I fear, we will realize just how much our government, big business, and even our 'well-to-do' neighbors wish the 'undesirables' (like me) would simply 'go away'... I fear that the 'normal', 'law-abiding', 'responsible', 'employed' people of the United States will all turn a blind eye as the rest of us are 'eliminated'. This kind of stuff has happened in modern Western Civilizations before, and I think history is repeating again itself right here in America... we are now living in a Politico-corporate Capitalist-Fascist country.

  • Laura

    After the loss of a job, our finances eventually spiraled until we lost everything. There are all kinds of discrimination in the workforce, age was ours. He finally found one, but by then it was too late to save the house. I work for a major bank was trying to find a job at a credit union because the culture and values they hold are more in line with what I believe. Unfortunately the credit check has resulted in rejection after rejection, although in most cases I was the most qualified candidate, so perhaps those values are not quite what I thought them to be.It's too bad that in these times when millions of good people, people that have worked hard all their life, payed their bills, spent within their budget, made all efforts to stay afloat cannot find a job that will allow them to continue in the workforce and payback what they owe, contribute to society, because of a credit check..that our entire worth, or value as an employee is based on that. It's no wonder we, our nation, is in a state of dysfunction. All the talk about putting America back to work? Not so much.

  • Lucy

    Well, some people -- and more all the time -- are going back to work. The Labor Dept. reported today that initial jobless claims fell last month to their lowest point since February 2008. Remember -- just about everyone has acknowledged that this recovery is going to be slow. At least now it appears to be steady. Pray this continues.

  • Jane Eleanor Knight

    If you are applying for a high-profile job or are seeking employment in the entertainment industry, more often than not, employers will check your credit history, although other factors will determine whether or not you are hired. These include police background checks; educational history (i.e. college transcripts) and motor vehicle records. For instance, the entertainment industry in Hollywood regularly consults the LAPD's Threat Management Unit to determine which candidates are deemed "potential celebrity stalkers". So if you've had a traffic accident that is even remotely your fault or have slacked off in college with a GPA lower than 3.0, you're just as likely to be denied employment as you would if you had a low credit score on Fair Isaac. This may explain why most writers who work on "The Simpsons" are Harvard graduates.

  • kim

    Equifax, Esperian and TransUnion reports don't exist in Europe and other countries. Criminal reports, yes. Drug checks? Yes. There's a reason for that. It's called common sense. Maybe people should start looking for jobs in Europe or other countries and throw their credit cards in the garbage. If the government turns a blind eye here and checking credit reports continues to be lawful in the USA it sets up their own people to fail when they are trying to work and be productive. People go through rough patches in their finances, even for medical reasons, divorce or job loss - and now companies treat it like a crime. They are trying to swim again and the credit check serves nothing more than to drown them. Is the government unaware of all that unemployment pay steadily foward because of the toll credit reports take?

  • Juan Carlos

    With all of the companies going bankrupt and the government baling them out of their problem, even gets me more upset when individuals are denied work because of their credit rating. You are right many other countries do not use this as a tool to hire individuals rather the criminal background or drug use. In this country we are backwards. How many of you can think of cases that have been brought out to light by incidents where someone is hired for high security risk positions and they committ a crime and find out that they have a criminal record(eg. teachers, governmet employees etc.) Lets just keep from giving individuals jobs that maybe had financial issues due to lost of employment or their health and give jobs to criminals.

  • katie

    I was just turned down for a job because of my being bankrupt. Despite this job having nothing do do with money at all. In fact there is no possible part of the job that deals with cash at all. I racked up enormous debts in my early 20s when i was manic due to undiagnosed bipolar disorder. The employer in question, despite my explanation as to how I ended up having do apply for bankruptcy has just decided to withdraw the offer. I think I am being punished for mistakes I made when I was not well and shouldn#t have even been allowed to obtain credit. After having to sue my previous employer for discrimination (and winning) I feel like I am back at square one, punished for having a disability,

  • Gia

    I've been turned down for several positions recently - (these companies were supposedly, "EOE"). I had great credit for years and a good job. My mother became partially crippled in a car accident and has had multiple operations on her back and leg, after that my father was diagnosed with cancer only one year later while she was still recovering in a hospital bed. He suffered for three years and eventually died along with my dog a few days before. I spent time on an off helping to care for my mother and father over those few years and it took a toll on my emotional well-being and even my physical health after all the stress. My brother disappeared for a time during all of this to take care of his own life and his own needs which laid an even heavier burden on me and even more stress. I eventually lost my job and credit. I could no longer make payments. I didn't realize I would stand to lose all my value in the work place regardless of previous work experience for having a credit issue. I'm being discriminated against unjustly because of companies that run credit checks. I don't see my way out of this if I cannot find a job that pays the bills and my debts. I remember even when my credit was good I felt violated when a company would perform a credit check. I felt it was unethical. So now, they've lumped people with bad credit alongside people who are criminals. In fact, if I were a criminal instead of person with bad credit I would have an equally or less challenging time finding employment. Either way...That's insane. Other countries have been saying we're arrogant and hypocritical for so long. I'm now inclined to believe them. Make up your mind USA.."Character Ethic?" Are you sure......

  • Richard Hughes

    Good advice. Like you say, most companies don't even check credit until after you have started work, so providing that you are able to explain any discrepancies in your credit score and back this up with evidence that you are an employable individual you should be able to get work and then work on improving your credit score!

  • Leann

    Companies want you to improve your score before they hire you. Do they know that you can't pay your bills, let alone on time. if you don't have a paycheck?

  • Lisa

    I was just turned down for a job position after they ran my credit. BOY Does this hurt!! After 18 years of work experience in this position. WOW!!! Love this Country when you can come from another country and get a job with out any credit just based on your nationality. Yah know it also is a sad thought that they want the Unemployment rate to go down yet they keep putting good people down for mistakes that was made when someone was going through a bad time or out of work and just unable to get things caught up. Well we sure can not get things caught up when we get turned down for employment when employers down grade us and not even giving us the opportunity to explain the issues. I bet some where down the line these HR-CEO'S or Employers was given a second chance with there mistakes what about giving others the same second chance.

  • tommymac

    I have also been turned down for jobs due to poor credit. I used to work in the financial industry for 25 years and was laid off due to the Bank getting into financial trouble for THEIR lending practices. Something needs to be done about this issue. A law should be passed so employers can not discriminate based on past credit history....if large bailouts have been given to GM and JP Morgan, why don't the unemployed and general public get second chance???

  • Sarah

    I had a child in 2008 with severe disabilities. I could not return to work due to the level of nursing care he required, I could not find a sitter. I could not pay my student loans, I could barely pay my bills and the babys medical bills with my husbands salary. Only now that he is school age I can use that time away from him to find work. But I can't find work now because of being behind in paying those student loans and my credit is bad. All from having to care for my seriously ill baby. I have an MA and was a Director. I was NOT financially irresponsible. This is insane to be treated like a criminal for this.

  • Debbie

    You know it simply amazes me how a person like me who has worked all my life since 15 1/2 until 3 yrs ago due to lay offs. I have never been fired I have 6 jobs my whole life 2 of the 6 were very long term 15 and 17 years respectfully. The reason I left relocation out of state and divorce after 20 yrs.with that divorce came bankruptcy. Since I was 18 yrs old I started building my credit and did very well I might add. prior to bankruptcy my score was 762 because my ex charged all my credit cards (which were paid off) to the max ( without my knowledge by the way) for his business instead of getting a small business loan there was no way i could pay all those bills I am talking 250,000! I lost everything now i can't even pay someone to give me a job. Now how in the world am I supposed to fix my credit and raise my score if I can't work. My credit has absolutely nothing to do with my ability to preform my job duties and do them well. They run a back ground check which includes a criminal back round and I don't even have a speeding ticket let alone a criminal record. So how is it they can hold my credit against me and sleep at night. My unemployment benefits are exhausted I have no income at all now. What am i suppose to do live under a bridge? You can not tell me that every employee is squeaky clean had no credit problems come on that is unheard of'.All I want to do is go to work put in a honest days work for an honest days pay. Why can't we see their ( the hiring managers or owners ) credit report what if it is questionable? I may not want to work for a company who has managers and executives who can not manage money. Humm how odd is that. Just let me go back to work you won't be sorry that is for sure.

  • cmj

    I worked for 18 years with a major telecommunications company before taking a 'buyout' to relocate to another state because of my husband's job. Stay at home mom for 6 years. Decided to go back to school to become a Medical Assistant. Starting salary not great, but I saw it as a foot in the door to the medical field, which I was always interested. Landed a job right after graduation. I was never fired from any job and was able to maintain great credit. Then last April, my oldest child was diagnosed with cancer and I had to quit to take care of her. My credit is now in the toilet...most probably getting ready to refer account to collections agencies, and after reading this and so many article, I have to say that I'm terrified to apply for jobs knowing that many will probably 'judge' me based on my current financial situation more than my work history. If you don't have a job, you can't pay. If you don't pay, you probably won't get a job. I feel like I can't win.

  • Penny

    There are now some states which outlaw random senseless credit checking for employment, but they have the stipulation that those employers whom they exempt from the law (law enforcement and the financial industry, usually) must make it clear on the job announcement that you must be able to pass a credit check to be considered for employment. In some states it just seems that the ONLY jobs that are still hiring are law enforcement and the financial industry - also the health care industry seems to be exempt because they have this elusive "the person will have access to other people's medications or medical records" and things like hotel housekeeping have this elusive 'the person will have access to other people's belongings" sort of exemption to the no-credit-check-for-employment rules.

    What we need is some uniform rule that doesn't exempt the only industries that are still hiring anyone - I mean, come on, medical scheduling CALL CENTERS, people? Cell phone companies and IT help desks?? I mean, it's almost no wonder that all the call centers are now overseas in countries where people don't have "credit" or credit cards.

    Lawsuits take time and even if Legal Aid will represent you (so it's no money out of your pocket) there's still the length of time out of the job market looking for other jobs - and trying to survive without one in the meantime. Employers need to know that people WILL sue for this. They do it because they think that the average American uneducated dolt doesn't know their rights, the law, and won't take legal action.

  • Dave

    My biggest issue of contention with credit checks are that companies who rely on them to make a hiring decision are making a judgement that the applicant is unreliable. Bad things happen to good people. There are many extenuating circumstances that can contribute to credit problems such as an illness in the family, divorce, job loss due to layoffs,etc. This is not indicative of their character but indicative of the individual circumstances they find themselves in as a result of these unfortunate situations that occur in life. I find this absolutely appalling that companies rely on credit checks to make hiring decisions. What about all these financial companies who used unscrupulous methods to offer mortgages to people who really couldn't qualify for them, and as a result they were offered a buyout. Should we tell these companies I don't want to work or do business with you because of this? I think we should and see what they say. That's the problem with corporate America. Hopefully there will be laws enacted that can prevent companies for being allowed to do this. It's just not right.

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