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Careers

Can a Credit Score Kill a Job Offer?

No, but your credit report might, so be upfront about problems.

Despite what you may have heard or read, employers do not have access to job candidates' credit scores. That should come as a relief to cash-strapped job seekers with maxed-out credit cards or other score-busting blemishes.

SEE OUR SLIDE SHOW: 7 Ways Job Seekers Sabotage Themselves

But your prospects for getting hired aren't immune from a poor credit history. In most states, employers are able to check a potential or current employee's credit report, which lists information such as balances on your loans and credit accounts, late payments, and debt collections.

About 13% of employers check credit reports for all candidates and 47% check for those applying to selected positions, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Employers are usually most interested in the credit backgrounds of applicants who will handle finances, hold an executive-level position or have access to other employees' confidential information (such as human-resources professionals). The black marks that might give an employer pause are ones that leave the deepest stains on your record: a loan default, a bankruptcy, a debt that's gone to collection.

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An employer must obtain your permission to pull your credit report. But declining is "like saying no to a Breathalyzer test," says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com. “The consequences are sometimes worse than just getting it over with," he says -- namely, the employer could choose another applicant for the job if you are secretive.

Be honest and upfront about any problems. A potential boss may be sympathetic to the financial trauma that a layoff and long bout of unemployment have caused. And keep in mind that your credit record is only one piece of your profile. According to the SHRM, credit history ranked lowest among criteria employers used to vet candidates.