Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Credit scores: Useful for selection, but not for the reason you think

Many employers use credit scores as part of their hiring process, despite the lack of evidence regarding their usefulness, the unpopularity of this practice with applicants, and the fact that the EEOC is not a fan.

Adding to our understanding of the issue, in the March 2012 issue of Journal of Applied Psychology (which I will review fully in my March research update), Jeremy Bernerth and his colleagues describe the results of their study where they found:

1) A significant positive relationship between credit scores and task performance

2) A significant positive relationship between credit scores and OCBs

most likely due to

3) Credit scores being positively related to conscientiousness

because there was

4) No significant relationship between credit scores and workplace deviance, such as theft

Interestingly, credit scores were negatively correlated with agreeableness, which the authors say suggests that more agreeable people are more likely to do things like co-sign on questionable loans.

So the bottom line is credit scores may be valuable because they link to performance ratings and OCBs (likely through personality), not because they predict things like theft.

Which leaves the obvious question: why not just use a personality inventory, which is designed to measure conscientiousness and has little adverse impact (unlike credit scores)?


Philip said...

It is probably a lot less time consuming/expensive to check the credit score of each candidate than to use a personal inventory.

BryanB said...

I don't think it's that difficult for an organization to set up an online personality inventory; there are several vendors who do this routinely. But you're probably right from a "we've always done it this way" perspective.

HR Consultants said...

I would vouch for the use of credit score simply for higher personal integrity even if there were no proof of positive correlation with better performance.