Will yesterday’s bankruptcy filing come back to haunt you in today’s job search? Some job seekers worry that a background check could unearth embarrassing details about the state of their finances, but is this a reasonable concern?
If you’ve filed for bankruptcy, you definitely aren’t alone. According to the National Bankruptcy Forum, a nationwide group of bankruptcy lawyers, almost 800,000 people filed for bankruptcy in 2016 alone.
While it’s true that no federal, state, or local government agency can consider your bankruptcy when deciding whether or not to hire you, the same can’t be said for private sector employers. Private employers don’t have the same constraints as government agencies, and they are allowed to run a credit report as part of a standard background check.
If you are dealing with a spotty credit report that contains a bankruptcy, how should you handle it during a job search?
1. Ask Questions
If you know you have a background check coming up, find out what the background check includes and whether a credit check is part of it.
2. Be Honest
If you find out that a credit check will be part of the equation, set up a time to have a brief discussion with your potential manager about your past. Explain that you have a bankruptcy in your past and give a very brief explanation of why your credit is damaged. Having a bankruptcy isn’t always a personal failing. The leading cause of bankruptcy filings in this country is medical debt. Divorce is another common reason.
Trust your potential new boss with the information about your bankruptcy. This tactic is the lesser of two evils. If you are honest, they will appreciate your openness. If you lie, you could be fired later for being dishonest.
3. Be Reassuring
Being honest is very important, but so is reassuring a potential employer that these financial problems are behind you or are being handled responsibly. Explaining the steps you’ve taken toward fixing the problem could mitigate the negative impact of the bankruptcy on your employment options.
4. Come With Great Recommendations
We’ve all made mistakes, and one financial misstep does not mean you won’t make a great employee. If you have a blemish on your record like a bankruptcy, you may need to provide a bit more evidence of how great you are as a worker. If an employer asks for three references, provide a few additional written recommendations as well. These can be personal or professional references. The idea is to have additional people vouching for what a great employee you’ll make.
5. Consult an Attorney
If you were passed over for a role and you believe that it was solely due to your bankruptcy, you may want to consider consulting an attorney.
This situation does happen. According to a Demos survey of low- and middle-income households with credit card debt, one in ten job seekers were denied jobs due to information in their credit report. While you may not have recourse, it’s always a good idea to consult an expert to find out your rights.
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