You've shined your shoes, know where you see yourself in five years and boned up on the firm's bigwigs. Before applying for that dream -- or even interim -- job, you may want to pull your credit report and deal with any problems first.
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Nearly half of all companies check an applicant's credit report prior to a hiring decision, according to a 2012 report by the Society for Human Resource Management. While some only give the reports a cursory glance, certain industries are especially discerning about what's listed. If your file indicates that you've had money troubles, you may score the interview, but not the position. To date, only 10 states limit an employers' use of credit information in employment decisions.
Here are seven jobs for which checking your credit report is de rigueur.
1. Parking booth operator. As long as it involves financial dealings, no job is too small for a credit check, says Steven Kane, a human resources expert and former associate general counsel for labor and employment law at Baxter international, a Fortune 500 global medical services and manufacturing company.
Even if you're considering such casual work at a car park, your credit report should be clean. "The parking booth where they take in money all day long is a good example," says Kane, who is also board president of the Oakland Zoo in Oakland, Calif., where they also check reports on potential employees. "If someone has a bankruptcy, that's something we'd look into and question. If it's a mortgage issue and there was a foreclosure, late payments or extremely high debt, that would also be a red flag." When you handle hundreds of dollars in cash each day, a report that shows you're trustworthy is important.
2. The military. So you want to do your civic duty by joining the armed forces? Fantastic. Unless, that is, you have a credit report that has collection accounts, unpaid loans or bankruptcies on it. Those black marks will affect your security clearance, which is an inquiry that focuses on your character and conduct. Financial responsibility is one of the key factors it gauges.
Each branch of the military has its specific credit requirements. The Air Force, for instance, will reject you if your monthly consumer debt exceeds 40 percent of the anticipated pay. Bad checks, repossessions, canceled or suspended charge accounts or indebtedness exceeding half the annual salary of your future pay grade will sink your chances in the Navy.
3. Accounting. Whether your goal is to become a CPA, auditor or other professional who balances books, it only makes sense that your own record should be above reproach. Since you'll have access to individual or company private data, a credit report that indicates indiscretions will be flagged.
Attorney Don Phin, president of the human resources company HR that Works, says late payments and bankruptcies will be a major barrier to employment in this field. "No one will hire you if you have them," says Phin. "You're viewed as risky. They may not take the time to find out what happened."
4. Mortgage loan originator. Securing loans for homebuyers can be a highly rewarding occupation. But a mortgage loan originator requires a license, and according to the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry, the way you've borrowed and repaid your personal debts is a factor in approval. Each state regulator independently reviews the credit information of mortgage loan originators in their jurisdiction, and your license may be rejected or revoked if your credit is damaged. As per their resource center, mortgage loan officers need to have "demonstrated financial responsibility, character, and general fitness such as to command the confidence of the community and to warrant a determination that applicants will operate honestly, fairly, and effectively."
The impetus for the high standard? Tony Deblauwe, founder of HR4Change, and author of "Tangling with Tyrants: Managing the Balance of Power at Work," cites the subprime mortgage debacle of 2008, when some in the industry were overstating incomes to get people loans they didn't qualify for. Today, banks are more selective with their employees, paying close attention to their financial management. "I don't think there's a bank or lender today that would knowingly hire someone who has a poor credit history," says Deblauwe.
5. Transportation Security Administration. Walk through this credit check slowly: The TSA expects its employees to possess stellar credit. As per its job application form, the administration is "very serious about the reliability and trustworthiness of individuals hired into the agency." You'll be turned down if you have cumulative delinquent debt of more than $7,500 and any amount of unpaid federal or state tax liens, delinquent child support, unsatisfied court judgments or delinquent student loans.
6. Law enforcement. Picture this: You're about to arrest a crook, when suddenly he whips out not a gun, but a wad of cash as incentive to let him run free. Do you take it? If you have overwhelming debts, you might hesitate. Therefore, a credit report that shows you're consistently behind on bills or maintain massive balances makes you appear risky to the department, says Richard Weinblatt (aka "The Cop Doc"), who is also dean of the School of Public and Social Services at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis.
"If someone is under financial pressure, they are more open to bribes," says Weinblatt. "The other thing we look for is people who have patterns of responsibility -- or irresponsibility. A one-time blip on a credit report is not a problem. But consistently not meeting your debts? That is a problem."
7. Temporary service positions. Hold on to your resume if you're trying to get by with a temporary position. A placement agency may not just hire you, but fire you if your credit report isn't up to snuff. Pre-employment screening is the norm and, when not disallowed by law, credit report reviews are standard procedure. According to the Robert Half Professional Staffing Services' document, "What You Should Know about Background Checks," they're conducted "to get a sense of whether a candidate is responsible with money or has financial difficulties that could affect his or her job performance."
There are a few reasons temp agencies look for a blemish-free report, says Deblauwe: "They take a risk by putting you in the position where there could be a security breach. Also, a good percentage of temps turn into permanent employees, so if everything is perfect and nice going in, there's less trouble in the future." It gives the agency flexibility with assignments, too. You may be working where excellent credit is not needed one week, but is the next.
Where might job seekers not experience discrimination for poor credit? Serving as a U.S. politician, apparently. As a society, Americans may be becoming more sympathetic to others who have money woes, and so can be surprisingly forgiving. As for what's on the credit reports, well, that's not public information. So while you may need to fix financial indiscretions before a job search, a mayor, senator and even the president is safe from the same scrutiny.