In our last post, we discussed new laws on the books in several states that bar employers from checking the credit of prospective employees before making a job offer. Florida lawmakers are currently considering several different proposals that would also ban Florida employers from screening job applicants based on credit history and unemployment status.

But for now, Florida hiring managers can still ask permission from job seekers to review their credit histories. According to a recent report in the Sun Sentinel, many employers said that an outstanding judgment against an applicant, an account in collections, a bankruptcy or even a home foreclosure could prevent them from making a job offer.

Human Resources executives say they are caught up with the times, though. They said they frequently discounted a blemish on a credit report when the situation was outside of the job seeker’s control. And credit check screening may not be as widespread as many consumer advocates guess. Only about half of all hiring managers for positions in the financial services industry run credit checks on prospective employees. And only about one in six hiring managers runs credit checks for all job applicants.

Regardless, when you know that your credit history has suffered during the severe economic circumstances, you don’t want to have one more hurdle to face when you’re already facing an extremely competitive hiring market for job seekers. So what can you do if you are job-seeking with a bankruptcy, an account in collections, a home foreclosure or other credit issue in your recent past?

Executives from companies that complete credit background checks for employers advise job seekers not to focus on the credit score. Instead, check all three credit reports for mistakes and get the mistakes corrected immediately. If your credit report reveals some problems, like a pattern of not paying bills, you should go directly to the source — the credit reporting agencies — and indicate how you will pay bills in the future when you have income. Should you reach an agreement with a creditor to satisfy an outstanding debt, make sure that you ask each credit reporting agency to show the debt as satisfied on your credit report.

Experts disagree on whether to voluntarily disclose credit issues to prospective employers.

If the Florida Legislature enacts a law that bans employers from screening job applicants for credit issues, Florida job seekers will be able to breathe a little easier. Until then, job applicants may want to aggressively address debt issues revealed on their credit reports.

Source

SunSentinel.com, “How to handle a credit problem as a job seeker,” Marcia Heroux Pounds, Feb. 10, 2012