More than 1 in 4 companies do financial background checks before hiring or promoting employees. That may be a huge problem.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly used the term credit scores, instead of financial background checks or credit reports. The story has been amended.
Killing it in the interview is no longer enough.
Thousands of employers — more than 1 in 4 — are now vetting potential new hires by conducting a credit or financial background check on them before hiring them or giving them a promotion, according to a survey of more than 500 small/medium business owners and managers from the National Financial Educators Council. Employers in the Midwest are the most likely to do this (34%), followed by the Northeast (28%), South (27%) and West (18%).
Employers say they do this for a number of reasons, Michael Aamodt, a principal consultant at DCI Consulting Group, told the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at a hearing on the topic. They often believe that employees who are in financial distress are more likely to steal or accept bribes or will be so stressed from their financial situation that it impacts their performance. They also believe that a bad credit history “suggests that the applicant is irresponsible and is not conscientious and thus will be a bad employee.”
But is it fair to use credit and financial background checks to vet employees? Some research suggests it’s not. A 2014 study published by a researcher at MIT concluded that credit status is not a solid indicator of how productive a worker will be. And Aamodt’s own meta-analysis of the few studies available on the topic concluded that “any conclusions would be premature” about what finances tell us about an employee — though he did add that financial problems seem most highly correlated with frequent absences and least highly correlated with performance rating.
What’s more, many credit reports contain errors — often unbeknownst to the person. A report by the Federal Trade Commission found that 21% of consumers had found an error on their credit report that was substantial enough to impact their score. This means that roughly 40 million Americans could have a mistake on at least one of their credit scores, CreditCards.com concluded.
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