Experts Reveal Best Practices for Running Credit Checks during Employment Screening

By Thomas Ahearn, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Editor

A recent article from Inc.com, ‘How to Run a Credit Check,’ reveals best practices from experts for every step of the credit check process during employment screening so that employers may check the financial stability of potential employees.

According to the Inc.com article, employers using credit checks must consider the strong protections for potential employees that are built into federal regulations. They also need to be prepared for what to do with the results of the credit check and whether a bad credit history should automatically disqualify a job applicant from working at their business.

Financial background check experts – including Jared Callahan, Director of Client Relations for Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – agree the following five basic steps should be followed to get the most out of credit checks:

  • Step #1 – Have a Permissible Use
  • Step #2 – Get Permission
  • Step #3 – Find a Service to Use
  • Step #4 – Interpreting the Results
  • Step #5 – Do a Test Run

Step #1 – Have a Permissible Use

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) dictates what constitutes a permissible use for credit reports:

  • In connection with a credit transaction;
  • Employment purposes;
  • Underwriting of insurance;
  • Professional licensing; and
  • Account review or other legitimate business needs.

For employment purposes, Callahan says only potential employees seeking jobs related to financial responsibilities should be subjected to a credit check: “If you’ve got ditch diggers out in the middle of nowhere, a credit check might not be relevant.” Employers also need to make sure the credit report is for a relevant purpose and that they are not arbitrarily digging into someone’s financial history.

Step #2 – Get Permission

Federal law requires employers always disclose when they seek to run a credit check on job applicants and they need to get their permission in writing too, along with personal information since credit check agencies require a full name and Social Security number. “The candidate’s rights are absolutely bulletproof protected by the Fed and the state you are in,” Callahan says.

Step #3 – Find a Service to Use

After attaining the permission of applicants, employers running credit checks on potential employees may use services such as Employment Screening Resources (ESR) that provide special employment-only credit checks with other background check information. These services usually charge a fee to run a credit check.

Step #4 – Interpreting the Results

Experts advise that standards for weighing the results should be established before employers start running credit checks on job applicants and that it is important to have a plan in place for what items will signal “red flags” or warning signs.

However, Callahan warns employers against jumping to a conclusion no matter what the credit report says since up to 75 percent of all credit reports contain incorrect information, including wrong home addresses and inaccurate bankruptcy details. “You really have to take a credit report with a grain of salt,” says Callahan, who also suggests that employers give subjects of credit reports a chance to respond and produce authentication for any financial points appearing on the credit report.

Step #5 – Do a Test Run

Consumers can run their own credit reports since the FCRA allows consumers to receive one free credit report a year from each of the three main reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Consumers running their own credit check can keep on top of financial issues such as identity theft while finding and correcting inaccurate information. Government regulations make it easy to go online and contest the details of credit reports.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading background check provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – recommends that employers should approach the use of credit reports for employment purposes with caution and use them only if there is a business justification. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is very concerned about the use of credit reports for employment purposes and has filed legal actions against some firms that use credit reports alleging that it results in a disparate or discriminatory impact.

In addition, some states are considering, or have passed, legislation to restrict the use of credit reports for employment purposes.  For example, effective January 3, 2011, the State of Illinois restricts employers from using credit reports for employment purposes. Under Illinois House Bill 4658 ‘The Employee Credit Privacy Act,’ employers in Illinois may not use a person’s credit history to determine employment, recruiting, discharge, or compensation.

The Inc.com article ‘How to Run a Credit Check’ is available at http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/12/how-to-run-a-credit-check.html.

For more information about credit checks, visit the Employment Screening Resources (ESR) website at http://www.ESRcheck.com

Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. Employment Screening Resources is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). ESR was the third U.S. background check firm to be ‘Safe Harbor’ Certified for data privacy protection. To learn more about ESR’s Leadership, Resources, and Solutions, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.

Sources:

http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/12/how-to-run-a-credit-check.html

http://community.ere.net/blogs/doreenkoronios/2011/01/effective-132011-state-of-illinois-restricts-employers-from-using-credit-reports-for-employment-purposes/