An emerging trend is for companies to use credit reports as an employment screening tool.
New research suggests that using a summary of your credit report — your credit score — to screen potential employees is not supported by the evidence. Contrary to what many employers consider common knowledge and practice, researchers found no correlation between poor credit scores and bad behavior on the job.
A credit score is the distillation of much of the information in your credit report to a three-digit number. The most commonly used credit score is the FICO score. Scores are not a permanent part of your credit file and they do not persist in the credit bureau’s databases. Credit scores are not shared with third parties — including your current or a potential employer — by any of the credit reporting agencies.
According to a 2010 poll by the Society for Human Resource Management, 60 percent of surveyed employers conducted credit checks (getting a credit report, not your credit score) for some or all candidates as part of the hiring process. But the upcoming study in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows no connection between poor credit scores and theft — although some interesting connections were discovered.
“With regards to personality and credit — it makes sense that conscientiousness is related to good credit, but what was really interesting was that agreeableness was negatively related to your credit score,” said Jeremy Bernerth, Ph.D., assistant professor at Louisiana State University.
“That suggests easygoing individuals actually have worse credit scores than disagreeable and rude individuals,” he said. Such congenial people might get themselves in trouble by co-signing loans for friends or family or taking out additional credit cards at the suggestion of store clerks, according to Bernerth.
“It was telling that poor credit scores were not correlated to theft and other deviant types of work behaviors,” said Bernerth.
“Most companies attempt to justify the use of credit scores because they think such employees will end up stealing, but our research suggests that might not be the case.”
Although the study looked at credit scores and theft, employers do not have access to a potential employee’s credit score — only their credit report. The study suggests that the summary of your credit report — your credit score — has no predictive value on whether you will steal from an employer.
Source: Louisiana State University
This article was edited on Nov. 5, 2011 to clarify the difference between credit scores and credit reports.