Dear Debt Adviser,
I just lost a job offer because of my credit. I am 33 and had some personal problems last year that caused my credit to get really bad. Before that, I never had any late payments.
I’m not sure what to do or how to handle job opportunities. Help.
I informed the (outside) recruiter of the problems before beginning the process. But I don’t know if that was relayed to the company’s human resources department. Should I have discussed it in my final interview with HR?
Your letter is a great illustration that a credit history affects more than just the ability to get credit and get it at favorable terms. Credit histories also affect your ability to get hired, get promoted, rent an apartment and get reasonable insurance rates.
Your experience will be valuable to an increasing number of people as credit continues to tighten, defaults on mortgages and credit cards rise and employment falls.
My first suggestion is to make sure you have done everything that you can to improve your credit. To do that, you will need copies of your credit reports from each of the three major bureaus if you do not already have them.
You can get a free copy annually at AnnualCreditReport.com. For employment purposes, there is no need to pay extra for a credit score — just get the free report.
I want you to look for any inaccurate or out-of-date negative items and dispute them. Dispute instructions come with the report. Around 25 percent of reports have errors, so get out your magnifying glass and check each account closely.
If you have any valid negative items that are unpaid, make up a plan to bring them current or pay them off if possible. This may require some expense reductions on your part to free up funds.
Second, take a breath. Once you have done all the damage control that you can, you just need a little time and consistent on-time payments to improve your credit report. What, you might be asking now, should you do in the meantime when you need to find a job right away?
You are on the right track to mention your past credit troubles when you are interviewing. As luck would have it, my brother Jim Bucci — the HR guru from Availity (a medical software company) — is currently visiting me. So, as I was grilling some burgers, I was able to grill him for some insight.
“By volunteering information about a difficult situation or period in your past, you may improve your chances of getting hired,” he says. “Companies always look for as many indicators of success as they can when making a hiring decision. Your ability to admit to a past problem and show a positive plan to correct it can count as points in your favor.”
A proactive approach may give you a better chance of remaining in the “potential candidate” stack rather than being filed in the trash can.
For my readers who see a layoff coming or plan to look for a higher-paying job in the future, remember to start the credit review and dispute process as far as six months in advance to allow time for corrections to show up.
Just as you check your appearance in the mirror before going to an interview, be sure to check your credit reports to assure that you look your best on paper.
If you will pardon a shameless plug: In July, the second edition of my book “Credit Repair Kit For Dummies” will arrive in bookstores and libraries. It has sections dealing with handling credit during a layoff and cleaning up your credit report before job hunting in more detail.
Whether you buy it or borrow it, I do suggest you check it out.