In a recent article in the Boston Globe, "Less-than-clean credit history may just cost you a job offer," its writer, Diane E. Lewis, stated that the use of credit checks by U.S. employers considering job candidate has increased 55% over the past five years. Initially, the practice was common only among employers of companies in the financial sector. But more and more companies in all sectors are performing credit checks on candidates applying for jobs. Their reasoning? It lets them assess applicants' honesty and integrity, something you can't always discern from a resume or interview. It serves as a "general measure of responsibility and organization," according to a representative of one staffing firm.
Of course, this practice can put some people at a disadvantage in the hiring process—those perhaps with outstanding student loans, young people who haven't yet had a chance to even establish a credit history, or even people whose credit has suffered due to something not really under their control, like a divorce settlement or identity theft.
Over the last few years, people attempting to check references on a job candidate have come up against a lack of information because past employers are afraid of being named in libel suits and are no longer as candid about the performance of former workers. So some prospective employers have turned to credit checks, which the Internet has made readily available.
I feel like there's a real invasion of privacy issue here. Even beyond that, I'm not sure a credit score, or even a credit history, is necessarily indicative of a person's integrity and nature. What do you think?
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.