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The peril of credit ratings

By Stephanie Dudgeon,

Aside from a few tips from friends, the vast majority of my job search has taken place via my laptop.  It has largely consisted of searching online company Web sites and jobs Web sites.

The online job boards that I visit cover the spectrum in terms of the quality and quantity of offerings.  Some of the larger sites, once useful, now appear to be sloppily managed when it comes to the search software in place and the outdated offerings posted.

A really good indicator of a bad jobs Web site is the amount of spam I receive in my personal e-mail account.  Case in point:  Several months after posting my resume online with one, I received an e-mail from a Nigerian source, claiming that they would hire me as a project manager but, first, I needed to send $50,000 to their bank account.  Oh, please.

But more irritating than those scams are the constant stream of “tips” coming to my personal e-mail from the jobs sites.  The tips have dramatic titles like “4 Ways To Be Irresistible To Employers” or “Don’t Make These Interview Mistakes.”

But one tip has offended my sensibilities on several different levels.  It was the tip that advised me to know my credit rating and make sure that there were no errors so that employers wouldn’t pass me over.  This is an especially sensitive topic since I had my identity stolen last year and an unidentified person obtained a loan for an expensive vehicle on my credit line.  But on a broader level, I think that an individual’s credit report should be an issue between said individual and that individual’s creditors.  A potential employer can’t ask me about my health; why is inside information about my financial health permitted?

And when in a country with a high rate of employment, a disturbing foreclosure rate, and a high number of people driven into a state of bankruptcy, this hiring tool becomes especially obnoxious.  I think that any potential employer has a right to investigate me for a potential criminal background.  And you could make the case that certain jobs (i.e. those involving national security or the financial sector) would be justified in searching an applicant’s credit report.

Otherwise, it strikes me as being a lazy hiring practice.  Millions of Americans, including those who are employed, have had their finances smashed.  It is outrageous that we should have to listen to somebody tut-tutting under their breath about our finances.  We know our credit ratings have slipped.  That’s why we are looking for a job – so that we can pay our bills and restore our financial health.

In the wake of recent events, I am curious to see if my government will eventually address the issue of employers using credit reports as a weapon against unemployed job applicants.

Especially since Standard & Poor’s just thoughtfully downgraded my government’s credit rating.

Stephanie Dudgeon, a 48-year-old former project manager from Columbus, Ohio, has been unemployed for five months. Read more about her here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.

Read more updates from Stephanie here.

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