How Will Bankruptcy Affect Employment Opportunities

Can an employer choose not to hire you based on a bankruptcy filing? While you should certainly be sure you contact an attorney before filing Chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy, here is a concise overview.

No. Based on the Bankruptcy Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act, it is illegal for an employer not to hire you based on a past bankruptcy. However, many companies do pull a credit report in the later stages of the hiring process, and may use the information found there as part of their final decision. This is especially likely if you are applying for a job that can affect the company financially (accounting, payroll, etc.). While a bankruptcy alone is unlikely to prevent you from getting a job, poor credit preceding bankruptcy may be used as a determining factor that sets another candidate just a little bit ahead of you and helps the hiring company make a final decision to go with someone else.

How to Avoid This:

Honesty is the best policy: Before a company can pull your credit report, they need your permission. When presented with the waiver, ask the specifics of the background check. Will a credit report be included? If so, you should mention what a potential employer is likely to find there - late payments, past bankruptcy filing, etc.

Go on the offensive: Give your potential employer a brief explanation of your bankruptcy situation. Explain the extenuating circumstances that brought you to bankruptcy (illness, loss of employment due to current economic conditions, divorce, etc.) and what you have done to rectify the situation since. You don't need to go into great detail, just acknowledge the bankruptcy and leave the employer knowing that you take it seriously and are on the right track again.

Redirect: If appropriate, follow up the explanation of your bankruptcy with an example of how you learned from it and how that lesson can help you in the potential job. Or, redirect the conversation to one of your much strength that makes you a perfect candidate for the position.

Focus on the positive: If you have reached the credit reporting stage of the interview, you are most likely being seriously considered for the position. Remind your potential employer why you are a great fit for the open position, regardless of your personal credit history.

Finding employment after bankruptcy can be quite a challenge! Applicants applying for work in banking, retail merchandising, government, security, and outside sales have always been routinely screened by prospective employers to verify clean credit records, clear criminal background checks, and negative drug tests. However in recent years, extensive screening, including credit checks, has become the norm for increasingly more occupations. An individual may possess all of the qualifications, but if a Chapter 7 or 13 proceeding appears on the credit report, they may be denied the job. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires consumer reporting agencies to divulge information (good or bad) about job applicants to business owners requesting it. Since Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcies remain on a consumer's report for as much as ten years, debtors with blemished financial records face real obstacles when seeking employment after bankruptcy. The best recourse is to inform interviewers regarding any discrepancies that might be found in credit reports or background checks before they discover them. Fortunately, some companies realize that bad things do happen to good people. They may choose to overlook negative financial histories and hire a bankrupt individual based on past work performance, experience, and professional qualifications.