Proactively Addressing Bad Credit-Report Issue

Debi writes:
With so many companies doing background checks how do I handle a having bad credit report? I was out of work for a little over a year and my credit is shot. I’m still
working on repairing the damage. How can I proactively address the credit issue?
Should I include an explanatory paragraph in my cover letter — or bring it up when I
get an interview?
I feel it’s a double-edged issue. If I bring it up I could be negating their interest from
the get go but if I don’t bring it up it could look like I’m trying to hide it.
Do you think having a bad credit report would be enough of a reason for an employer to
not contact a potential employee who has the experience and skills they say they want?

The Career Doctor responds:
First let me stress an important rule of job-seeking. Never never include anything negative
in your cover letter resume or job application. By providing negative information in any of
these documents you basically eliminate yourself from consideration. The time to address
any negative information is in the job interview — once you have made the initial cut.
I still remember one of my favorite bad cover letters which stated in the first sentence of the
letter “While I have been fired from my last two jobs…” Who would ever keep reading that letter?
Now credit reports are a sore subject for me because it’s a trend in hiring that I do not like nor
support. So many people have been downsized or simply struggling in low-wage jobs and thus
have problems with their credit report that I think this tool of evaluating a candidate’s worthiness
makes no sense except for industries like banking or accounting. And no one has ever been
able to show me a study that correlates a bad credit report with a bad employee yet some
employers will not hire you without a good credit score.
So I totally am behind you here. Do not include any mention of it in your cover letter and do not
bring it up in the interview — until and only then the employer ask for references in preparation
for a background check. It is ONLY at this point that I would bring it up. I would ask if they just
check with references or if they do a more detailed background check. If they do a more detailed
check then I would go with a short explanation about your credit rating — of why it’s bad and
the steps you have taken to fix it.
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