Thursday, August 17, 2006

Probing Job Applications

Sick of seeing New York yet? I figure you've seen it up there longer than I spent there. So, off to another item that has been rolling around in my head since before the trip: credit checks.

A co-worker of mine approached me a few weeks ago. (Seeing as I have my head in a book most of the time, it seems that I'm always the one to ask unusual questions.) He asked me, "Why do you think that companies are now running your credit when you apply for a job?" He felt really uneasy about the idea that an employer gets to poke around in your personal history.

My first response to him was "because they can." My second was that it makes sense for an employer when it comes to a skilled field. If my credit was horrendous and it shows that I was lucky that I haven't been evicted from my home yet, why would an employer want to invest money into training me for a position? If I've already shown that I'm not responsible with my bills and that homelessness is a future possibility, what would keep me from not showing up to work, overcharging a customer or stashing a $20 bill from the cash register in my sock? Sure, they could take a risk on an underdog but when it comes to a small business you want to take as few risks as possible.

He then asked me, "What about those young kids that have just come out of school or are in college?" Sure, many of them find their way into credit debt but debt doesn't usually exclude you from a job (or we'd all be having problems.) Showing a continuing trend of credit issues screams that there is a current problem that should be resolved before more responsibility is given. Some of the bigger problems stems from not having a strong job history (while attending school) and now telling someone that you want to redirect your focus to the job market. This is also a great reason for entry level positions as each of them shows your willingness to work as well as gives the employer someone to call and ask, "Did Martin have a problem showing up on time?"

So overall, I don't see an employer having access to credit information as a bad thing. Do I think that it should play a major role? No. We already give out an amazing amount of information on an employment application in the hopes of being hired (former addresses, former employers, educational summary and even the names, numbers and addresses of people that can vouch for you.) Letting them see that I don't change jobs every week and that I pay my bills isn't going to kill me.

As an employer, would you use all the information available to you a prospective employee to make your decision?


Teri said...

It does make some sense especially if you are applying for a job dealing with a lot of money. I can see the employer wanting to know if you owe tons of money in order to assess if you might try to steal it. Did you know that when you apply for a quote on car insurance they also run your credit?

LoraLoo said...

I do see it as an effective loss prevention tactic... and one could probably tell a lot about responsibility via a credit check. Do you think it will become as common as a drug test in the not so distant future? Even at McDonald's one could cost the company a lot of money if stealing.

Lucy Stern said...

Yes, I can understand why looking at a job history would help in making your decision as to hiring someone. Point well taken.

Lily said...

I just do not buy the reasoning that if they work with a lot of money it's ok to run that credit check. Does having a bad credit score make you any less honest?

Job history is more important than credit history when determining ones reliability and dependibility.

They only reason I can see is if the job requires the use of a corporate credit card. Other than that I think your initial reponse of "because they can" was right on.