Credit score can hurt in job hunt

David Hemley said if employers are using a candidate's credit score as an initial screening tool for hiring, they probably shouldn't because it's not indicative of that person's job performance.

Hemley, a professor of economics at Eastern New Mexico University, is concerned that the unemployed in New Mexico may stay that way because a state senate bill that would have kept credit scores out of the hiring process was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez.

"The thing is, I can see where that can be extremely discriminating," Hemley said.

Hemley says he understands employers using a person's credit score for jobs where they would work with money or credit cards, but he says screening credit scores can hurt those who have been laid off attempting to get back into the workforce and recent college graduates.

"Suppose an individual is 50 years old and at no fault of their own, they get laid off and their home goes into foreclosure; they're going to end up with a bad credit score," Hemley said. "The only way they're getting out of this mess is to be employed. That's why I'd argue it should not be used for that or someone getting out of school because they're going to have debt. If they're not able to get a job, their credit score is going to go south."

Hemley adds that even though unemployment rates in Roosevelt and Curry counties are relatively low, such a process can still cause potential harm to a person's job prospects.

Unemployment rates were last reported in March as 4.7 percent for Roosevelt County and 4.8 percent in Curry County, according to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.

"You have to look at both sides of this, I don't think it will have a big effect on unemployment rates, but it will impact individuals depending on the circumstance," Hemley said.

According to a Public News Service story, credit company Equifax says there is no relationship between a person's credit scores and job performance and it no longer provides credit scores to companies looking to hire.

"I don't think it's a serious problem in these two counties but if you're using it as an initial screen, it needs to be rethought and that's what Equifax is saying," Hemley said.

Laura Wyche, director of the Clovis Workforce Connection office, says case managers warn job-seekers about their credit scores hurting their chances.

"Once it gets to the point where we're getting them job ready, we let them know anything that can affect them getting that job," Wyche said. "It is something that is discussed in the process as they register into our database."

Wyche said she doesn't know of any instances where an employer turned a candidate down because of a credit score, but noted she would never know because employers aren't obligated to disclose reasons they didn't hire someone.

Wyche said in regard to specific jobs where she's certain employers do weigh a candidate's credit scores with more importance, it would be government jobs and ones where people are given a security clearance.

"Anyone in a position that can be manipulated or blackmailed, they're probably going to do credit checks," Wyche said. "If you're thousands in debt, you may entertain the thought of payment for information."

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