Credit Checks More Common During Employment Background Checks But Are They Always Necessary?

MSNBC Article Quotes Employment Screening Resources President Lester Rosen

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer

According to a recent article on MSNBC — Job Candidates Undergoing Credit Scrutiny — applicants applying for jobs these days can expect prospective employers to verify resume information, contact references, possibly do a criminal background check, and even be asked by companies to allow credit checks to scrutinize their credit histories.

The article cites a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in which 60 percent of the responding companies claimed they perform credit checks of some or all job candidates. Breaking down the survey results further, only 13 percent of organizations performed credit checks on all job candidates while 47 percent performed them on selected job candidates, usually for positions with fiduciary and financial responsibility such as handling cash, banking, and accounting.

MSNBC also reported that credit checks are required about half the time for senior executive positions and that the SHRM survey also showed that potential candidates with outstanding judgments, accounts in collection, or a bankruptcy in their file may be passed over for a job.

Lester Rosen, President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), was quoted in the MSNBC article as saying employers are “looking at the debt level compared to the potential income from the job”  and added that “if someone is under water financially as shown by the credit report, the thought is perhaps there could be a motive to embezzle or steal.”

However, while Rosen says credit checks are one method employers may use to hire honest and trustworthy employees that also provide some legal cover if that employee turns out to be dishonest, ESR does not encourage routine credit checks on all candidates since credit checks often contain errors and can feel like an invasion of privacy to applicants.

Rosen’s advice in the article for employers is to limit credit checks to relevant positions such as those that involve money. In fact, with many states recently passing laws limiting the use of credit checks for employment purposes, employers need to be careful when, to whom, and how they perform credit checks on prospective job applicants.

For jobseekers, ESR also provides information — at no charge — to job applicants on background checks and credit check reports can help job applicants navigate the background check process and maximize their chance at employment. The information is available on ESR’s ‘Applicant Resources’ page at:

Whether the use of credit checks for employment purposes is discriminatory to certain job applicants — which ESR named Trend Number One in its Third Annual Top Ten Trends in the Pre-Employment Background Screening Industry for 2010 — is a question that will be asked as long as employers run credit checks on applicants with money troubles.

For more information on background checks and credit checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at