Johnny C. Taylor Jr.
Johnny C. Taylor Jr. discusses your human resources issues as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest professional human resources society and author of “Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval.” “
Questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
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Question: Going through background checks, I saw credits listed in some requests. Do employers review your credit report during the hiring process? How is credit information relevant to employment matters? – Melvin
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: Employers can find relevant credit information in some cases. Depending on the position 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 face, careers where responsibilities would include managing credit cards, cash, or other corporate funds may warrant a credit check. Positions such as financial officers who have access to financial data or funds and have authority over handling large sums of money will likely require a credit check.
A candidate’s financial situation is usually not a factor, unless the position involves managing company or client funds. In the event that a credit report is deemed necessary, the discovery of a bad debt may disqualify applicants from hiring. Bad debts are generally defined as having an overdue balance of more than 60 days, debt that has been referred for collection, or debt written off by a creditor. To take it a step further, if the bad debts exceed 10% of the salary of the open position, it can be considered a risk regardless of when the debt arose. However, debt that is more than five years old or debt that arises from student loan obligations or extended immediate family medical care is generally not considered a risk.
Before using credit checks in the hiring process, employers should be able to demonstrate a clear business need and suitability for the job that the 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 indicating when credit checks will be performed 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 cases where companies have misused this information. There is even the possibility of discrimination if an employer uses credit checks as part of the hiring process, as this can negatively impact protected classes. Additionally, under the Federal Bankruptcy Act, a bankruptcy filing can rarely be used in employment decisions. Employers should be able to define 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 looking for a new position. In interviews, I know it’s coming but I never get a good answer to the interview prompt: “Tell us a little bit about yourself.” What is the best approach for this interview question? What are investigators looking for? – Jackie
Taylor: Interviewers typically use this question to break the ice or to get to know a candidate quickly. Before you answer, remember that the interviewer will likely have your CV in front of them, so try not to give your CV a narration. It is really an identity showcase of your personality, your values and your reasoning. It gives the interviewer insight into how you might adapt to their workplace culture.
The best approach is to relax and be kind. An easy way to think about this question is to draw a line between the present, the past, and the future of your career. Start by talking about what you are doing now and include a recent achievement. Next, discuss how your previous jobs have prepared you for this current opportunity. Finally, share what you are looking to do in the future, and in particular why you are interested in the position you are currently interviewing for.
Here are a few more tips:
• Consider the audience. Is this a recruiter, a panel of interviewers or a hiring manager? An answer must be tailored to suit the audience.
• Start the conversation by describing your main qualities. Some examples include being innovative, organized or motivated. Make sure it relates to the job and be prepared to provide examples.
• Be brief. Don’t argue about your work history and your entire life. The goal here is to only share information that is relevant to the position you are interviewing for. The interviewer may ask you to elaborate when it comes to their standard interview questions.
• Be professional. Avoid divulging information about ongoing conflicts in the workplace, a family situation leading to a search for a new job, or denigrating a current supervisor. Appropriate personal information to disclose may include a change in geographic location resulting in a search for a new job, a search for professional growth, a career change, or a search for a change in your current role.
• Shine! Beyond describing your previous responsibilities, highlight great accomplishments, talk about when you went above and beyond or successfully completed a task or project despite challenges. Remember that you are trying to stand out from other applicants.
Seize your only chance to make a first impression with an interviewer! There is no recovery. Be kind, personable, proud of your accomplishments, and smile when you share them. Put your best foot forward!