Polish Your Credit Resume

If you are looking for a job, you probably have a long list of what needs to be done: Search the wanted ads. Update your resume and references. Buy interview clothes. Review your credit report? The last task is an often overlooked step in the job-search process. However, for many employers, credit reports play an important role in hiring decisions, and having a strong credit report can increase your chances of landing a job.

Why would an employer check your credit report? While reasons can vary, many employers see it as in indication of responsibility, reasoning that someone who pays his or her bills on time is more likely to show up to work and finish projects on time. Checking credit reports is an especially common practice for jobs that require handling money, where employee theft is a concern.

If your credit report has blemishes, don’t despair. There are many things you can do to polish your “credit resume”:

  • Always pay on time: If in the past you paid your credit cards or mortgage late, filed for bankruptcy, or made other credit missteps, you cannot change that, but you can establish a positive payment history in the future. Most negative information can stay on your credit report for seven years, but the past two years carry the most weight.
  • Lower your debt: Even if you have never missed a payment, having a large debt load can hurt you. If you have high balances on credit cards and personal loans, explore ways you can lower your interest rates and free up cash to make more than the minimum payments. Make an effort to not take on more debt in the future.
  • Keep your old accounts: A long credit history with the same accounts indicates stability.
  • Avoid excess credit applications: If you apply frequently, it may be seen as a sign that you need to rely on credit to pay your bills.
  • Correct errors: Many credit reports contain inaccurate information. If you see an error on your credit report, contact the relevant credit bureau and ask them to fix it.

Following these tips can help ensure that you have a strong credit report in the future, but what should you do if you need a job immediately and have a less-than-stellar credit report? If you know that the potential employer will be checking your report, the best thing to do is be up front and honest. Having negative information on your credit report is not necessarily fatal, especially if the employer knows that your problems were due to circumstances beyond your control (like a job loss or illness) or that you have made changes to be able to better manage your bills in the future.

Not sure what is on your credit report? You can get a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, through the Annual Credit Report Request Service. Visit annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228.

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