In addition to drug testing and often fingerprinting, companies both national and international have also required credit checks. But it’s become more the norm than the exception, because with the extreme number of people applying, companies have implemented it as a means of indicating a candidate’s character.
Unfortunately for the many who have been out of work so long they’ve destroyed their credit, a credit check strikes fear in their hearts. What if the company rescinds the job offer? It becomes a catch-22. You can’t repair your credit without a job, and you can’t get a job without good credit.
The solution for some candidates is to confess immediately. This results in eliminating them from consideration, which perpetuates their fear. To make the credit check issue virtually non-existent and remove the fear from the entire equation, let’s factor in some basic psychology.
As humans, we have the inclination to rationalize what we want. The more something is of value to us, the more we exclude from the picture anything that might impede our ability to obtain it. When you apply this to the hiring situation, it means that a job seeker, about to receive an offer, has value to the company. Consequently, the candidate’s bad credit becomes relatively unimportant to them.
By contrast, when you confess in your cover letter, you’re guaranteed not to hear from the company. When you admit to it during your first interview, you’ve just screened yourself out. Early in the process the company is still looking for reasons eliminate candidates. When you confess to having bad credit you’re not getting points for honesty; you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Factoring in additional psychology, most people don’t like surprises, certainly companies about to extend an offer. When you combine the relative degree of value with the effect of being surprised, the solution becomes much easier: tell them about your credit, but not until they’re about to extend and offer and consequently do the credit check. You have value to them, and you’ve removed the surprise. The result? The whole matter is brushed aside.
When an offer is imminent, there are phrases that will clue you in. To begin with, you’re generally aware of when you’re in the final stages of the process, if not when you’re the final candidate. The interviewers tend to smile a lot and say positive statements that join you both together. Or they request references. Failing that, they’ll make you an offer and expect you to take a few days to consider it. Now’s the time to bring it up.
Another tip: what you say and how you say it influences how the information is received. In other words, the bigger the deal you make of it, the more attention they’ll give it. When you share the information with a smile, and in an informative, but off-handed way, you’re communicating that it’s no big deal.
Wording would be something like, “By the way, I want to let you know that during the long period I was unemployed and juggling my bills, I ruined my credit. Since you’ll be doing a credit check, will my temporary bad credit be a problem?”
Yet more psychology: notice the inclusion of the word temporary, as well as the explanation for the bad credit. You’re satisfying their unspoken question of “why?’ which is likely to put them on edge about the subject, and at the same time, you’re telling them that it’s not the normal state of affairs. All they really want to know is that you’re responsible and not a constant excuse maker.
Bad credit and bankruptcy are usually accompanied by mitigating circumstances such as lengthy unemployment or an irresponsible spouse and divorce proceedings. We’re human. Companies understand this because they’re composed of humans. So instead of losing sleep, remember that by the time the credit check happens, they’re more concerned about getting you on board.