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    Running Credit Checks on Job Applicants is Rife on the Job

    (March 8, 2010) - Looking for a job? A strong résumé with great references isn't all you need these days. Add a clean credit report to your list.

    More than 60 percent of employers are running credit checks on at least some job applicants, up from 46 percent in 2006, according to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resources Management.

    Credit card debt, late payments and repossessions are some of the findings employers may see in these reports, which they are using to make judgment calls about potential hires.

    Sound strange? Definitely. Illegal? Nope, although some hope to change that.

    According to Steven V. Modica, principal of the Modica & Associates law firm in Greece, employers are able to use credit checks on any potential hire, not just those who handle money.

    This is creating lots of skepticism. For instance, an employer has to get consent to run a credit check. So if the potential employee doesn't grant consent, it may set off some red flags with the employer. And in today's economy, there are multiple qualified people for any one position, so you need to stand out — and not in a bad way.

    If you don't offer consent, "Do you have any doubt who's going to get the job? I don't," Modica says.

    That's why lawmakers in 16 states, including New York, have proposed outlawing most credit checks, saying the practice should be only for employees who handle or oversee money. (The bill has been referred to the House Financial Services Committee.)

    While it may not be popular, this screening tool isn't new.

    Marcia Marriott, an associate professor at St. John Fisher College who also teaches in the human resources graduate program at Nazareth College, says this has been around for decades. She says credit checks should be used only in certain situations, such as when the employee would be working as a comptroller or as an accountant.

    With employee theft playing a role in 30 percent of business failures, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it's no surprise companies are eager to hire carefully.

    But credit checks for all? Although some employers may believe that a job candidate with a poor credit history isn't a reliable or honest person, that isn't always the big picture. There could be many reasons why someone runs into money trouble — a sick child, an illness, a nasty divorce.

    "There often are extenuating circumstances. You might lose good people in that process," Modica says.

    Source: Democrat & Chronicle

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