Johnny C. Taylor Jr.
Johnny C. Taylor Jr. tackles your human sources questions as a part of a collection for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Useful resource Administration, the world’s largest HR skilled society and writer of “Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval.”
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
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Question: In going through background checks, I have seen credit listed in some requests. Do employers look at your credit report in the hiring process? How is credit information relevant to employment matters? – Melvin
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: Employers may find credit information relevant in certain instances. Depending on the role or industry you are seeking, an employer may include a credit report as part of your background check for the position.
While I can’t speak to the exact circumstances you’re facing, careers where responsibilities would include handling credit cards, cash or other company funds may warrant a credit check. Positions such as financial officers who have access to financial data or funds and have authority over managing large sums of money will likely require a credit check.
A candidate’s financial condition usually does not come into play unless the position involves the handling of company or client funds. In the event a credit report is deemed necessary, the discovery of bad debt may disqualify candidates from the hiring. Bad debt is typically defined as having past due balance greater than 60 days, debt that has been referred for collection or debt written off by a creditor. Going further, if bad debt exceeds 10% of the open position’s salary, it may be considered a risk regardless of when the debt occurred. However, debt more than five years old or debt that originates from student loan obligations or extensive medical care for immediate family is not generally considered a risk.
Prior to utilizing credit checks in the hiring process, employers should be able to demonstrate a clear business necessity and job relevancy that credit history will have on an organization. Employers should also check state and local guidelines that may prohibit the use of credit reports as part of the hiring process. A detailed policy outlining when credit checks will be conducted should be established by employers who choose to do so.
Your concern is understandable as credit reports contain extremely sensitive personal information. And indeed, there have been instances where companies have improperly used such information. There is even a possibility of discrimination if an employer uses credit checks as part of the hiring process as this may have an adverse impact on protected classes. Further, under the federal Bankruptcy Act, a filing of bankruptcy may rarely be used in employment decisions. Employers should be able to delineate a clear reason for obtaining your credit information. So, don’t be afraid to ask. Good luck in your career search.
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Q: I am currently searching for a new position. In interviews, I know it’s coming but I never have a great answer for the interview prompt: “Tell us a little bit about yourself.” What is the best approach to this interview question? What are interviewers looking for? – Jackie
Taylor: Interviewers typically use this question as an icebreaker or to quickly get to know a candidate. Before responding, remember the interviewer most likely will have your résumé in front of them so try not to give a narration of your résumé. It is really an identity showcase for your personality, values, and reasoning. It provides the interviewer a glimpse at how you might fit within their workplace culture.
The best approach is to relax and be personable. A simple way to think about this question is to draw a line through the present, past and into the future of your career. Start with talking about what you currently do and include a recent accomplishment. Then, bring up how your previous jobs have prepared you for this current opportunity. Lastly, share what you are looking to do in the future, and specifically why you are interested in the job you are currently interviewing for.
Here are some other tips:
• Consider the audience. Is this from a recruiter, a panel of interviewers, or a hiring manager? A response should be tailored based on the audience.
• Start the conversation by describing your key qualities. Some examples include being innovative, organized, or self-motivated. Make sure it relates to the job and be prepared to provide examples.
• Keep it brief. Don’t discuss your entire work history and life story. The point here is to only share information relevant to the position for which you are interviewing. The interviewer may ask you to elaborate when they get to their standard interview questions.
• Be professional. Avoid disclosing information about current workplace conflicts, a family situation leading to seeking new employment, or bad-mouthing a current supervisor. Appropriate personal information to reveal may include a geographic location change resulting in seeking new employment, seeking professional growth, changing careers, or seeking a change in your current role.
• Shine! Beyond outlining your previous responsibilities, highlight the big accomplishments, talk about when you went above and beyond or successfully accomplished a task or project despite challenges. Remember, you are trying to stand out from other candidates.
Seize your only shot at making a first impression with an interviewer! There are no do-overs. Be personable, pleasant, take pride in your achievements and smile when sharing them. Put your best foot forward!