In the course of a job search, there's a host of things you can do to lower your chances of getting hired. You could submit a resume laden with errors, or botch an interview by showing up utterly unprepared. But if your resume is solid and your interviews seem to be going well, there may be a less obvious reason companies seem to keep passing you over: your credit.
Believe it or not, as many as 60% of employers run credit checks on prospective employees before extending offers. If your credit is poor, it could be keeping you from landing your dream job (or any job, really). Thankfully, there are steps you can take to bring up your score -- and increase your chances of getting hired in the process.
1. Pay on time every month
Of the various factors that go into your credit score, your payment history carries the most weight. Your payment history speaks to your ability to pay bills on time, and so if you want to improve in that area, the solution is simple: Start paying on time.
Remember, if you get a credit card bill you can't pay in full but make your minimum payment by its due date, that won't count against you. But if you pay that bill late, your score will get dinged. If you need help keeping track of your various bills, sign up for auto-pay options where available, and use a calendar (electronic or paper) to record when your remaining bills are due. The timelier you are with your payments on a whole, the more your score stands to climb.
2. Pay off your existing balance
If you're carrying a hefty credit card balance, it could be hurting your score -- even if you are making your minimum payments on time every month. That's because a high balance can drive your credit utilization ratio into unfavorable territory, thus taking your score down with it.
Your credit utilization ratio represents the amount of available credit you're using at once, and having it surpass the 30% mark could damage your score. That means if your total line of credit is $10,000, owing more than $3,000 at any point will hurt you. Therefore, if you pay off part of your existing debt, you'll lower that ratio and raise your score in the process.
3. Ask for a higher credit limit
We just talked about the fact that lowering your credit utilization ratio can be instrumental in boosting your score. But here's another way to improve that ratio: Increase your line of credit. And the best way to go about that? Ask your current credit card company for a higher limit. This is a far better option than applying for new cards, since each time you do so, it counts as a hard inquiry on your credit, which can hurt your score.
Though you might need to persuade your credit card company that you're worthy of an increased limit -- say, by submitting proof of a higher income -- it's worth making that call. In a 2017 CreditCards.com survey, 89% of cardholders had their credit limits increase simply by asking, and if you have a strong history of making your payments on time, you're likely to get what you want.
4. Review your credit report for errors
Sometimes, all it takes is a single mistake on your credit report to send your score plummeting. Therefore, checking your credit report for errors -- and reporting the ones you find -- is an effective means of boosting your score. And if you think credit report errors are uncommon, think again. It's estimated that a good 20% contain mistakes, albeit with varying degrees of severity.
For example, your report might misstate the amount of a given loan as $14,200 when it's really $12,400. Or, it might a list a certain debt that was never yours to begin with, which can happen if another borrower with the same name happened to take out that line of credit. You never know what sort of error you might uncover on your credit report, so request a copy from each of the three major credit bureaus and study it thoroughly.
It's one thing to lose out on a job opportunity because you're underqualified, but it's another to get passed over because of a sloppy credit history. If your credit score could use some work, make an effort to improve it. You'll not only increase your chances of getting hired, but you'll help your finances to boot.
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