You've fine-tuned your resume, dry cleaned your best suit and now you're ready to apply for a job.
Not so fast.
You might want to get a copy of your credit report first.
Some employers review applicants' credit histories as part of a background check.
In case they do, it's a good idea for job seekers to get a copy of their credit report beforehand and fix any errors so they don't risk being unfairly denied a job, said Anthony Rodriguez, staff attorney at the Federal Trade Commission.
An employer may be looking to see whether job applicants have been paying their bills on time, have big debts or have any judgments against them. Knowing a potential employee's financial history is particularly important for certain positions, such as a bank teller, Mr. Rodriguez said.
"An employer will want to know whether or not your credit history is flawed in any way, because you are going to be handling money for someone else," he said.
Consumers are entitled to a free credit report every year from each of the three main credit bureaus by calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228.
When reviewing the report, people should look for such things as credit card accounts that aren't theirs and accounts listed as unpaid that have been paid off.
People with common names are especially prone to having accounts in their files that belong to someone else, Mr. Rodriguez said.
"I have a fairly common name, and I have seen accounts that aren't mine," he said.
Any discrepancies can be disputed by writing or calling the credit reporting bureau. The bureau typically has 30 days to conduct an investigation and correct any errors, Mr. Rodriguez said.
Employers must get a job applicant's permission before obtaining a background report, which may include a credit report and a check of criminal and driving records, the FTC says. People can withhold their consent, but then the employer might not hire them.
Employers generally have the right to make hiring decisions based on what they find, Mr. Rodriguez said. They aren't allowed to be discriminatory by excluding certain groups, however, such as having a blanket policy that excludes everyone with a criminal background, he said.
An employer must let applicants know if they were denied a job or promotion based on a background report. The employer also must provide the name of the company that supplied the report.
People who suspect an employer is breaking the rules should voice their concerns directly to the employer, the FTC says. If that doesn't work, the agency will take complaints toll-free at 1-877-382-4357.
For more information on background checks and credit reports, visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre36.shtm.
For tips on disputing errors on credit reports, visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre21.shtm.
Patricia Sabatini: email@example.com or 412-263-3066.