HR Doesn’t Even Like Credit Checks, So Why Are We Still Doing Them?

Two new posts on Fistful of Talent make the claim that most of the time, HR reps don’t want to see a prospective employee’s credit report.

Kris Dunn starts off by saying that credit reports are subjective, not to mention TMI. “One person ran up 3 credit cards to Macy’s and never paid them off, and one person owes Barnes and Noble 5K. Who’s worse? I have no idea…

I don’t want the info, because it’s HARD. Hard to know that about the people who work for you (hey! We’re getting ready to promote Bob Isn’t that great!), and hard to do anything with borderline bad info (‘Kris – I don’t want anyone working for me with any form of debt’).”

And recruiter Josh Letourneau writes that “FICO numbers don’t tell the whole story…there are a good number of Americans today who have challenged credit histories due to a layoff, divorce, identity theft, death of a spouse, medical catastrophe, etc.”

The government doesn’t even like pre-screening candidate credit checks; Congress is still considering a bill that would eliminate the practice, and Hawaii and Washington state have already passed bills that limit credit checks in employment screening. Bans or restrictions are also on the table in Michigan, Ohio, Connecticut, Missouri, New York and Texas, according to Workforce. In California, a restriction passed the legislature twice, only to be vetoed twice by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So why do we have credit checks for potential employees? Employers are looking for the potential for theft or irresponsibility. “”Companies run credit checks to look for very high levels of debt or financial irresponsibility, which they see as a reflection on character,” Andria Ryan, partner at Fisher & Phillips in Atlanta, told Workforce. Yet research indicates that employee attitude is a better predictor of employee theft than credit scores. And most fraud is committed by veteran employees feeling “excessive organizational pressure to perform,” not new hires.

More than half (53 percent) of employers who perform screening say that the screening adversely affects hiring in just 4 percent of cases. Ten percent of employers say hiring’s affected 10-15 percent of the time.

Publish date: October 22, 2009 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT