Will debt settlement ruin my chances at getting a new job?

Question

I am trying to work out a settlement with my credit card company. I owe them around $15,000 and want to settle for less because I've been out of work for awhile. I'm looking for a job, and I'm worried that settling this debt will stop me from being hired. Should I worry?

Answer

You should worry—while it's hardly universal, a number of companies do check job applicants' credit scores as part of conducting background checks. Debt settlement will appear as negative information on your credit report, since it represents failure to pay a debt in full. As such, it will lower your credit score.

It's hard to say exactly how much it will lower your credit scores, since the credit reporting agencies keep the exact formula for determining credit scores secret. However, most knowledgeable commentators or observers feel that it can lower scores by 60 – 120 points, which is a significant impact.

You ask, "will debt settlement ruin my chances at getting a new job?" The answer is it may (depending on whether the specific companies you interview with check credit scores) have a negative impact on getting a job. It won't bar you from new employment, but it can certainly make getting that new job more difficult.

On the other hand, there's no advantage to you in defaulting on a debt that you cannot pay (which also has a strongly negative impact on credit) and then being sued. You may wish to consult with a lawyer experienced in helping people in financial distress work through their debts; he or she will be able to evaluate your situation and recommend the best course of action for you.

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