Clarifacts

Potential employers take peek

By Russ Wiles, The Arizona Republic. 

Paying bills late and other credit problems can make it harder to land a job.

Employers increasingly are pulling credit reports on job applicants, as those reports may spotlight money problems that can hint at irresponsibility, inattention, dishonesty and other flaws.

“We’ve seen a radical shift over the last two years toward more background checks in general and credit checks in particular,” said Sherri Mitchell, chief executive officer of All About People, a hiring firm in Phoenix. “Employers seem to be asking, ‘If somebody can’t handle their own money, how can they manage ours?'”

For years, employers in banking and other financial fields have pulled credit reports on job applicants. Lately, that has spread to industries and positions that don’t involve money-handling.

“An employer might pull your report if you have access to a large amount of cash, access to confidential information, use expensive equipment or have access to company credit cards,” said Kevin Klimas, president of Clarifacts, a pre-employment screening firm in Phoenix.

Employers, he said, tend to focus on whether an applicant has paid bills on time, has triggered collection efforts and so on – and how such issues got resolved. Credit reports also list legal judgments and other public records, along with name and address changes.

Mitchell said she often encounters job seekers who think their credit records are better than they really are.

Applicants must offer consent before an employer pulls their records. Because credit reports aren’t always accurate, job applicants should check for errors and get them corrected. Anyone can order three free reports each year – one from each of the three credit bureaus – at www.annualcreditreport.com.

It’s wise to order all three, because each report may contain different information.

“As a job applicant, you should be intimately familiar with what’s in your credit report,” Klimas said.

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