Money

What employers are looking for when they check your credit report

A store front window in Miami Beach.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
A store front window in Miami Beach.

Next time you apply for a job, be prepared for a credit check.

"Employers may look at a limited version of your credit report when making hiring or promotion decisions," Rod Griffin, the director of consumer education and awareness at Experian, tells CNBC Make It. "A credit report can give insight into a person's financial health and is a valuable tool for verifying identification and information provided on a job application."

A CareerBuilder survey found that 72 percent of employers conduct background checks on all the employees they hire and, of those, 29 percent check credit reports.

But what exactly are employers looking for? Here are the questions they're hoping to answer.

Can you be trusted with money?

If you're applying for a job where you'll be managing a company's money, there's a good chance your potential employer will take a look at how you handle your own finances.

"Any missed payments or bankruptcies could signal signs of being irresponsible elsewhere and negatively separate you from the competition," Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at WalletHub, tells CNBC Make It.

Griffin agrees: "Financial difficulties reflected in the credit report could indicate additional review is necessary."

Are you who you say you are?

A credit report is also a verification tool, and it's used for many positions that require security clearance.

"Employers may also compare the identifying information in a credit report with the information you provided on your job application to help verify your identity and prevent employment fraud," says Griffin.

What employers can't do

Employers can't check your report without your knowledge. In fact, they first need to obtain written permission. And in some states, specific other restrictions apply.

They also won't have access to the full report. They only see a version "that omits any information that would violate equal employment laws or that the employer has no reason to receive," says Griffin. "For example, neither date of birth nor account numbers are part of a report received by employers."

They do not see your credit score, either. A credit report includes information about the standing of your financial accounts, payment history and available credit, while a credit score is an assessment of your credit report that indicates how likely you are to repay a loan.

"Employers never get credit scores," says Griffin. "This is perhaps the most pervasive myth related to credit reporting."

Another common credit report misconception is that monitoring your credit report will hurt your score. In actuality, staying on top of that information is helpful and free. So, next time you apply for a job, check your report to ensure everything is accurate and find out where you might be able to improve. It might help your chances of getting hired.

"You can't do anything about your credit report until you know what's in it," says Griffin. "If there's something you need to address, take action."

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