Bad credit could keep you from getting hired

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MARICOPA, Ariz. - Looking at them, you'd never know how tough times have been for the Blanchard family.

First, David Blanchard had a heart attack.

Then, both he and his wife Melanie lost their jobs.

“I was devastated,” she said.

After being laid off, Melanie began applying for jobs and landed several interviews that she feels went great.

“I'd be like, now that couldn't have gone any better and I'd never hear back from them and I just didn't understand,” she said.

But she says it became clear after one interview, when she was told the reason she didn't get hired was because of her credit.

“I said, ‘What does my credit have anything to do with my job performance or my ability to do a job?’” Melanie recalled. “And he said, ‘They really feel it's a reflection of your character and integrity.’”

Melanie says she didn't realize until then, by signing off for a background check, she also approved a credit check.

While she acknowledges she hasn't been able to keep up with all her bills lately, she says less than stellar credit has nothing to do with her ability to hold a job.

“I feel it's terribly unfair,” she said. “And it should be stopped.”

“A lot of people I talked to are surprised this is even legal, that prospective employers can check your credit?” 3 On Your Side’s Carey Pena asked.

“They really can,” Identity Theft 911 CEO Adam Levin said.

Not only is it legal, Levin says more employers, up to 60% now-a-days, run credit reports before deciding who to hire.

Like Melanie, Levin says the majority of job-seekers are against the practice, claiming it violates the Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Credit Reporting Act.

While the FTC tells 3 On Your Side there are no plans to change the law on a federal level, so far, four states (Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and Illinois) have limited the use of credit checks as part of the hiring process.

“There are 39 pieces of legislation in 20 other states but as to how far they'll progress and how quickly they'll progress nobody knows,” Levin said.

As for Melanie Blanchard, she now has a job after seven months of unemployment.

She's not sure whether her current employer checked her credit first, but says those who do are making it even tougher for unemployed Americans to bounce back.

“It's happening everywhere it's happening to so many people,” Melanie said. “And unfortunately, in the economy, it's happening to people who are hard workers, who mean well. They just want to do what's best for their family. They want to work.”

So what do you do if you have bad credit and are looking for a job?

First, Levin says, check your own credit for accuracy.

Consumers are able to get one free credit report per year at www.annualcreditreport.com.

If your credit report is incorrect, Levin says contact each of the three credit reporting bureaus and ask for an investigation.

If your credit report is accurate, Levin says sit down and decide how you're going to explain why your credit is bad.

He also recommends you figure out a way to correct your credit, and explain that if it comes up in an interview.

Also, be ready to give a time frame for how long you think it will take for your credit score to improve.

That way, Levin says, you don't get caught off guard if questions about your credit come up in a job interview.

So, we want to know, do you agree with employers who check credit to determine who gets hired? Leave your opinion below.