Will My Low Credit Score Ruin My Chances for a Job Offer?

I recently heard from Arianna, one of my readers who has been waiting for what seems like forever to finally get a job offer. And now after several great interviews and even better feedback, she’s finally in the home stretch…they’re ready to make an offer. All she has to do is wait just a little longer until they finish the background check. But she’s nervous about her poor credit history.

Even though the job interview process went remarkably well (we know not all do) and it looks like her continued determination (and patience) in finding the right job  is about to pay off, Arianna’s worried that her poor credit score will be the reason they don’t make an offer. Here are her words:

I have a low credit score due to a bad divorce that left me with 1 of 2 houses going into foreclosure. It has not been foreclosed on as of yet but my score is around 610. In my new job, I’ll have budget responsibilities and I am concerned  they may second guess me after seeing that. Ronnie Ann, I had to choose between being a single mom that feeds her kids or keeps a house. I chose feeding my family. Will that kill the deal for me or will they give me opportunity to explain should it raise concerns? People I know are giving me conflicting opinions. What do you think?

When I read this it broke my heart…especially knowing this is something all too many folks are going through right now. Poor credit history is becoming more and more common – and not always because someone has been intentionally irresponsible. There are countless stories nowadays with similarly agonizing choices.  Since when did credit scores become the all-powerful Oz – pulling all the strings behind the curtain? There are so many contributing factors (health, divorce, identity theft, one bad mortgage decision) that may unfairly leave a very responsible, job-worthy person marked by a low score – ironically unable to get the very job that will help pull them out of the hole. And sometimes they don’t even get the chance to explain

While there’s no way to know for sure how heavily credit scores weigh in this particular company’s hiring process, I do know each company has its own policy.  For some, 610 would be just fine – especially if they see Arianna’s choices as anything but irresponsible. But for others, it could be a deal breaker – especially when fiscal responsibility is part of the the job itself.

Luckily Arianna has a few things on her side:

  • She has great experience that matches what the company is looking for
  • She has a work history that shows responsibility
  • She sailed through the hiring process, leaving lots of good feelings that can help weight the decision in her favor
  • She is working with a recruiter who knows her story and can help make sure her credit score doesn’t sink the offer

Will her low credit score keep them from making an offer?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure until she finds out.  I’ve been reading some articles on the subject, and there certainly are stories where it appeared the credit score was the reason, but it’s hard to know if it was the deciding factor or if it only added to the decision. There are also plenty of stories where the employer was interested enough in a candidate to fairly consider whether or not the credit score truly means they shouldn’t make the offer.

While I can’t give her THE answer, if I were Arianna I’d stop worrying about – or even listening to – all the conflicting opinions since it isn’t helping and won’t change the outcome one way or another. At this point, I’d just set my mind on seeing myself in that job. Maybe a nice extra handwritten note to her main contact(s) at the company (focusing on her interest and not her poor credit history) – although if she’s working with a recruiter, explaining all to her recruiter and asking for her help may be her best bet. Unless the recruiter has other candidates up against Arianna, she very much wants this offer to go through too!

If I had to guess what will happen, my gut tells me that since the company really seems to like Arianna (the rest of what she wrote me leads me to feel there is a strong connection), they will most likely at least give her and/or the recruiter a chance to explain if her poor credit score is indeed a sticking point.

Should I check my credit score if I’m starting a job search?

And for anyone else…to help make sure your credits score does NOT keep you from getting an offer (sometimes we don’t even know there’s a credit score landmine waiting for us), Mel Otero in her article (see below) suggests you be proactive, honest, and positive:

In summary, do your homework and obtain a copy of your credit report, resolve any errors, take steps to improve the score and be honest. With honesty and a positive attitude, a prospective employer may be willing to give you the opportunity to prove yourself worthy of the job.

Good luck, Arianna!

Please add your thoughts and advice for Arianna. I know all of us are hoping to hear some good news from her soon!

Some articles about job search and credit scores:

Credit Scores and Job Offers by Tory Johnson

How Your Credit Score Can Affect Your Job Search by Mel Otero

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. D Weathersby says:

    Hi, Ronnie Ann:

    Unfortunately, Arianna’s credit report will prevent the company from hiring her for a position with financial responsibilities. They figure, if she is unable to handle her personal finances, how will she handle the company’s.

    Arianna may be given an opportunity to explain the reason for her poor credit, but the company may have a deaf hear.

    Due to the economy recession, job losses and the housing bust, tens of millions of Americans are experiencing the same as Adrianna, but companies are still utilizing credit reports as a major determining factor regarding who they will hire.

    Unfair? Yes. Realistic? Yes.

    Last year, due to a job loss and major illness in which I almost died, for three months, I was unable to pay the mortgage on my rental property (the bank would not agree to a short sale of the property. They wanted ALL of the money. Eventually they went bankrupt, and went out of business.); a business loan (I negotiated a lower payment and paid it in full. But, the lender for the second loan would not negotiate.) and ONE medical bill (the hospital will not accept monthly payments).

    After a slow, year- long recovery, I interviewed and impressed a Fortune 500 company for a job which I would not have financial responsibility. They checked my credit report, called me for an explanation, and stated, “sorry, but we are unable to offer you the job due to your poor credit report.”

    Ronnie Ann, the dings on my report were less than THREE months old. Prior to my illness, I had A+ credit on ALL of the credit bureaus.

    My plan is to send a letter to all of the credit bureaus, addressing each issue. This way, any potential employer can see that I have tried to pay the loans, but the lenders refuse to cooperate.

    -d

  2. Hey Ronnie Ann,

    As someone outside of the US looking in [Yeah, I'm jealous ;)] I’m no expert on what’s influencing the average American hiring manager but I am 100% confident of this:

    - for every company basing hiring decisions on credit scores there will be at least one that won’t give a hoot and many more looking at far more relevant factors (candidate experience, attitude, potential, fit-for-the-role, etc.)
    - for every Fortune 500 company there are a hundred smaller businesses with real potential for growth (even in this market) and that potential relies a great deal on them getting access to new, hungry and able people
    - in every rejection there is an agenda that goes way beyond the reasons most of us hear. They might just tell you it’s your credit score because it’s easy for them to do so
    - Every job you don’t get offers you new, first-hand experience that moves you closer to the last ‘No’ and first ‘Yes’ of your job search

    We have an old saying which is also appropriate here. Edited for the sake of propriety it is, ‘Don’t let the b*stards grind you down!’

    • Hey Ronnie Ann, I understand the feeling all too well of applying to hundreds of job and only receiving the “predictable factor” No. I am about 22 years old and have been unemployed for at least 7 months. Even though I have been diligent in my job search, I am concerned with how my bad credit history and past job performance is effecting my chances of being offered a permanent and stable job.

      In 2011- I worked for a company dealing with Memory Care and ADL Residents. The 4 or 5 months I was recruited there, I still could not earn enough money to pay my rent or bills on time and fees started bombarding my world. My room mate decided to file a claim against me even when I moved out of the apartment before my eviction notice. I still owed 600 dollars towards rent at the time and tried to explain my situation as to why I couldn’t pay my dues. I even tried to explain to my supervisor that I needed extended work hours in order to maintain substantial living. I was declined the offer unfortunately due to cuts in the companies budget. Despite my wages only earning up to 500 dollars a month my bank fees were increasing as well. I began to receive calls from collection agencies and began to grow ill due to the extra weight on my shoulders. I buried my hands in my lap trying to find solutions.

      Back in 2009-2011 I had everything planned out for me. I saved 50 percent of all my checks as a food server for 2 years. As a former foster kid, I also received assistance for housing and lived on my own for three years. Everything changed after I turned 20. I was no longer able to just work one job it would have to be two or three. My dad passed away when I was 17 so he was no longer able to support me and my SSI benefits vanished all together. Since, my room mate in 2011, filed identity theft against me, on top of various agency collections, I am terrified that I will never be able to find employment again. I don’t know what to do anymore. I couldn’t even function mentally when I was working at my last job. One reason why I was terminated from two jobs one working for only 5 months and another for a month. I worked at Round Table for the one month due to having another homeless situation come up.

      Regardless, I do not regret my past mistakes and I still have hope that there is a job somewhere out there for me. However, bad credit should not have an effect on any employment opportunities regardless. I feel that its unnecessary to depict a person in this fashion without even giving them the chance to explain the reasons why. I know I am not the only one dealing with a similar situation either. All I want is to be given a second chance to repair my life and clean up my debt.

  3. Oh D! What an awful story. Soooo stupid on their part. Makes me want to scream. Can only imagine how it made you feel! Smart to do all you can to get notes of explanation in your credit bureau files. Even if we can’t change the system overnight (oh how I hope it does change), we can do whatever possible to protect ourselves.

    As always, I wish you the best!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  4. Paul…what a wonderful comment! We needed something like that. So many folks going through hard times – we certainly don’t need credit bureaus mucking up stuff that doesn’t need to be mucked up!

    I’m sure a lot of people will get comfort from your comment. And I hope folks will also wander “across the pond” to your blog – one of my favorites. A breath of fresh air – as are you.

    Thanks again, Paul.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  5. Arianna here! I GOT IT!!!! I am so happy I can’t express it either in word, song, rhyme, or expression. First of all, Ronnie Ann, thank you for all of your support in my nutty job hunt. Your support and advice have been a crucial factor in securing my dream job.

    Now the rest of the story…..

    After emailing you and reading your post, I decided to visit with my Recruiter and my would-be manager regarding my credit before my report came back. I am a believer in “Right Time Right Place” and during conversations unrelated to my credit, I found a way during both calls to bring up my credit. Here is what I heard paraphrased of course, “As far as I know, unless you are showing a lengthy time period of serious delinquencies and charge offs, I don’t think it will be an issue. I will be sure and intercept any questions now that you have explained your history. I have full faith that you are our newest employee and we are going to proceed as such and I don’t want you to worry about it.” – that was from my recruiter. Then I spoke to my manager. Here is the amazing part, my manager was also in my exact same shoes a couple of years back when they got hired on to with the company. Single parent, divorced, 2 houses in foreclosure, etc… My manager’s words paraphrased, “You have worried one second way too long about this. We live in an economy where more people have poor credit even decent credit. All we care about is that you are making efforts to turn that around by believing that we are the company that will give you the keys to the car of success, growth, and longevity. Your documented history of excelling in this business is like our insurance policy for that car. We have no doubt in our investment. Should anyone ask a single question, and I assure you they will not, it will never get to you because I will squash all concerns immediately. So let me say, welcome to the company.”

    I can’t tell you how great it was to hear that. So in a nut shell I came to the following conclusion…

    Be honest. Own your mistakes. Show that you are working hard to make them right. Don’t believe for one second that you are the only person in the position. I promise, as I am now convinced, you are not. Be proud of you and when you are, your value is far more obvious to those who are in the position to judge.

    Thank you again Ronnnie Ann. and one more thing, this new job is not one I found. They found me on linkedin. I am also a believer in that as well now. Since they found me, I have recommended to several friends that they put up their profile and expand their networks and 2 of them have been found are in the interview process as well. I had no idea how that site worked until my recruiter explained how companies pay to utilize it. Very worth it. Thank you thank you thank you Ronnie Ann!

  6. Thank YOU, Arianna! This just put a huge smile on my face. I am sooooo happy for you!!

    Congratulations!

    Not only is this a company that allows you to be yourself and looks at the whole person- they really get it. And I love that your new manager told you not to spend even one second more worrying. Great the way they both rallied around you. Reflects on them but also on the person they see in you.

    PLEASE everyone – read what Arianna wrote. GREAT advice on this issue, on Linked In and on the whole job search in general.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. There is nothing as powerful than real world experience from my readers. I’m sure your words will go on to help others.

    I wish you all the best, Arianna. Wuhooo!!! Please feel free to offer advice to others here if you feel moved.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  7. It’s wonderful that Arianna got the job, but for others in this situation, I have to mention that it really depends upon the industry. I have worked for 2 major financial services companies and part of the background check includes a credit check (I was also fingerprinted). Because I worked in HR, I know of people at all levels who had offers rescinded due to credit issues (including administrative assistants). Another reason to be diligent about your credit and credit reports.

  8. Absolutely Jean! I’m glad you are emphasizing that Arianna’s experience doesn’t mean that credit scores don’t matter. But at least it shows that the door isn’t closed in all cases. An industry by industry, company by company situation I’m sure.

    Of course, That’s why I hope people still follow Mel Otero’s advice:

    “…do your homework and obtain a copy of your credit report, resolve any errors, take steps to improve the score and be honest. With honesty and a positive attitude, a prospective employer may be willing to give you the opportunity to prove yourself worthy of the job.”

    Thanks for making such an important point, Jean. Just nice to know it isn’t hopeless in all situations. Also, not all credit score issues are the same and it’s definitely worth standing up for yourself if at all possible.

    So it probably pays to meet it head on with honesty and sincerity see what happens. Worst they can say is “no” which they would have said anyway. ;-)

    And of course, if at all possible, the best time to start working on your credit score is BEFORE you need it!

    Again…thanks for adding valuable first-hand experience to the conversation. I know it helps folks who feel so confused by the entire process. Please feel free to add your voice any time! ;-)

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  9. Thanks, Ronnie Ann! As I’ve written before, I love your site and the wealth of information here is truly helpful for job seekers. I’ve shared it with people all over the country!

  10. Much appreciated Jean! Thanks for the support and for stopping by to add your own thoughts.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  11. Sonia Ochoa-Jaime says:

    I too like Arianna went through a divorce and now solely care for an 11 and a 12 year old. I am very happy to hear she finally recevied an offer- it gives me hope. I owned a business but decided to close it after obtaining a full time job where I could spend more time with my family. Owning a business many times affects your family life. A month (almost to the day) after I close my doors to my floral shop I am the first one in my department to be laid off (last one in, first one out)- first lay-off in company history. Yeah no kidding! So now I am left with no business as a source of income and no job- needless to say my credit may be in the 400′s if I’m lucky. I had one outstanding business loan, a 2nd mortage on the house, maybe 3 credit cards and a business lease that I broke early. So you have to choose, food or Victoria Secret payment- well, what do you think I choose. And yes, I did have my electricity turned off once or twice. No permanent job and it is now 14 months and counting. Several hundred job applications later (yes I am keeping an excell spreadsheet) a fianlly receive a call and 2 fabulous interviews. This Monday I will be meeting with the director of the institution which will be the deciding factor. However, they did mention the credit and background check. My backgorund I am not worried about in the least, my credit however makes me cringe and feel as though I will go into cardiac arrest. I did explain very little and my would be manager did say it would be a shame to loose me to poor credit history. But the good sign is the directors assistance still called (after the credit mention) to schedule an appointment (which is this coming Monday). I am not at liberty to say which organization the portential job is for (it’s world famous and located in Pasadena, Cal.) but I can say that this position would be the answer my children and I are looking for. I feel terrible not being able to take them to the movies because I am on unemployment and can’t spare the $30.00 or so. And the sad part is that they fully understand and it breaks my heart because at this age they should be children and not adults and have to share in my financial worries. I am still slighty hopeful since the VP of Operations sent my new potential employer a stellar letter of recommendation on my behalf (I am greatful for that) and they still appear very interested in employing me (and I would be honored to be employed by them!!!) but I can’t help to feel VERY anxious….PLEASE, PLEASE….so here’s hoping, that I do receive a job offer that will help improve my now destroyed credit- imagine it will only get worse as time goes by whereby ruining even more chances for a potential job- oh this vicious circle….

  12. D Weathersby says:

    Sonia Ochoa-Jaime:

    I definitely understand your concern regarding your potential employer basing their hiring decision on your credit history. It happened to me three or four times.

    Unlike you, during a yearlong, life threatening illness, I was unable to work. I paid many bills (mortgage, utilities, loans, etc); however, I could not pay ALL of my bills. My credit took a nose-dive.

    Prior to my illness, I had A1 credit, earned a high income, did not owe anyone and worked at excellent companies.

    Now, whenever a company states they will do a credit check, I cringe. What did I do?

    I contacted my U.S. Senator and Congressional member. They were useless. I pressed my Senator and received a B.S. form letter. Immediately, I called his office regarding B.S. the letter. Phone call generated more B.S. spiel.

    I did not give up. I conducted research on companies basing their hiring decision on a person’s credit history and discovered IL Rep. Jack D. Franks (D-Woodstock) introduced House Bill 4658, creating the Employer Credit Privacy Act preventing employers from checking job seekers’ credit history.

    Immediately, I called Rep. Franks office. Told them my situation and offered to testify. They added my name to the list. No, I have not heard from them. However, I do keep in contact with the office.

    Fast forward…After several hearing and passing both houses, according to a May 28th Breaking Story by the Chicago Tribune (http://chicagobreakingbusiness.com/2010/05/credit-checks-bill-awaits-governors-signature.html) the credit checks bill awaits the governor’s signature.

    Yesterday, I followed-up with Rep. Franks’ office for an update. Although the Governor (Pat Quinn) has not signed the bill, he has signed every bill introduced by Rep. Franks.

    I called the Governor’s Office for an explanation on his delay. I spoke with an idiot who tried to intimidate and out-talk me. He realized his tactics were not working, he calmed down. (Note: I worked with the former Governor’s Office.)

    Before hanging up, I clearly stated, “I realize the Governor has 60 days to sign this into Law. I hope HE realizes how many VOTERS are closely watching his action regarding this Bill. The election is in November, which means he has to sign it or face our wrath!”

    He defeatedly said, “I understand.”

    I replied, “I’m sure you BOTH understand the consequences of HIS actions.”

    Quinn was not elected into the office. The former Lt. Gov. assumed the position when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was fired. In essence, Quinn badly wants to be VOTED Governor of Illinois.

    Why did I write a lengthy response?

    If checking a potential employer’s credit history is NOT illegal in YOUR state, you need to get off of your duff to do something proactive.

    As long as you are nervous, anxious and stressed about a potential employer pulling your credit history, it will continue. You will continue to be denied jobs!

    Seriously, stop hoping they do not check; they will.

    You are not the only person in your state affected. However, you can and should do something about it.

  13. Thanks D for sharing this important information and for your words to Sonia. Much appreciated! ;-)

    Sonia: My heart breaks for you and for others who have gone what you are going through. I agree…it would be great if no child that age had to understand this situation so well…on the other hand, sounds like you’ve raised great children. That ability to understand – and having a mother like you – will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

    All you can do is make sure your potential employer knows and will try to help. While, as D tells us, that is not always enough, it’s the best you can do. This ridiculous situation of using a credit score to keep people from improving their credit by getting an actual job is beyond reprehensible. Yes…if needed, reach out to every local politician and non-profit you can to make sure you aren’t stuck. But I am praying for you that won’t be necessary and this time – after amazing diligence and determination (that alone is a strong job credential) – you finally get a “yes”. PLEASE let us know what happens, Sonia. Good luck!!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  14. I had a written offer rescinded after the corporate office reviewed my credit history (in the 400′s due to divorce and irresponsible ex-husband who mishandled our money and our credit). The position had nothing to do with financial responsibility and both the recruiter and the 3 member panel of managers all wanted me to work there. They could not say anything to make a difference. I had told all of them of my poor credit history and they all thought that shouldn’t be a factor of my job performance. Guess what? It matters to big corporations and I am sure medium size as well.

    So now I target smaller companies that do not have HR departments or background checks. So far, I have had success through LinkedIn in obtaining multiple interviews. However, no job offer yet. Cross my fingers. Just wanted to add my 2 cents that it happens but people don’t talk about it.

  15. Ladies & Gentlemen, your comments have been helpful and somewhat unsettling. I am about to go on a third interview/meeting with a company that I interviewed for, which if I get it will be my first “big-time” job after completing my master’s. In the position I would have full profit & loss responsibility. And they did do a credit check, and I have not discussed my issues with them–got laid off from a job wherein I was making a lot of money doing part-time work, family health issues, full-time graduate school, etc. I am just wondering if they are actually calling me in today to tell me “NO”. I hope not!!! I have stellar references, grades, past job performance, etc. And one of my former bosses sent a recommendation letter to the CEO of the company…..hopefully those things outweigh my credit report. Any thoughts/comments are appreciated!!!

    • Joanne,

      We can’t say why you are being called in…only that — in our experience — most employers don’t invite you in a 3rd time to turn you down.

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

  16. I am curious about employer’s take on pending court cases in background checks. Do those show up? I have a pending court case involving an ex. He is retaliating because I filed a claim against him 2 years ago which affected his career so now, he is trying to do the same in return. The case will probably be thrown out since it’s obvious what this is really about and I have not done anything but try to remove myself from a crazy person. I was laid off from my job in July and am in the interview process with several companies. The case will take next place early next month. I am hoping that by time I finish interviewing and receive an offer, the background check will not occur until after the case. But if not, how are pending cases perceived?

    • Nik,

      I have no idea, sometimes when a company runs a background check they will let you know which company they use — and sometimes you can see what is involved.

      The main thing that I would avoid — in all situations — is talking about the court case at all. Or using adjectives to describe it. Calling someone you once had a relationship with as a “crazy person” is never a good idea in public. Better to not talk about it — or if you do — say there’s been a misunderstanding in your life which makes you sad, and which you’ve learned from in terms of the future.

      Good luck,
      Chandlee

  17. I find it amazing that the same leaders of the
    companies that won’t hire us due to credit are
    the same leaders that are under scrutiny and accused
    of fixing ‘Libor’ as well as being a significant
    reason as to why our economy has collapsed.

    How dare they use our personal credit, which
    is bad in large part due to their actions and
    deception, to judge our competences with money!

    I have gone through many interviews just to be
    told via some ‘canned answer’ afterwards that they
    hired another candidate. I’ve even been given a
    start date and salary amount.

    Good luck to all! Remember that you can initiate
    a dispute with all 3 credit agencies online and for
    free!

  18. I to am in the same boat as many of you due to my ex-husband deciding the grass was greener on the other side and ultimately destroying my credit. By the time he was done the two cars we had owned had been repossessed and he had been evicted from the apartment we had shared. Now I have been given a job offer but they want permission to get a consumer report on me and so the nerves begin. I am going to explain the reason behind the poor credit but it still scares me. This is a job breaking into a field I’ve wanted to be in for so long and I know I can advance my career goals with this company but I just see it all slipping away from me. I’m so frustrated that a credit report speaks louder volumes than a person’s work ethic!

    • chandlee says:

      Kathryn,

      Explain the situation without any adjectives on your ex-husband — e.g. this is what happened. My husband lost his job and was in charge of our finances. This is what you will find. If you have been able to pay the bills consistently since you split up, this may be less of a problem for you. You could also say what you learned and how you’ve handled it since then. If you have friends and former colleagues who can serve as references for you — ask them to do so.

      Good luck,
      Chandlee

      • Thank you Chandlee for your words of advice. I got the position and finished up my hiring paperwork today. Official start day is Wednesday. I was completely honest without sounding like a hateful ex-wife and they were understanding as well as grateful I was so honest and forthright with them about my past. All I can say to everyone here is keep on keeping on and remember that someone will appreciate your honesty as well as your personality. Good luck to everyone still looking!!

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