| By Greg Fisher
The consumer reporting agencies all state that they do not provide credit scores for employment screening. Despite that, with a stroke of a key, a blogger set off a chain of events that stretched to the mainstream.
On July 29, in "Why Do Employers Use FICO Scores?," The Atlantic business and economics editor Megan McArdle writes, "A few days ago, I wrote about employers using FICO scores to screen potential employees." In the comments section of the blog post, Chris Lemens replies: "You are repeating a popular confusion."
Another comment is
TransUnion testified in a legislative session that they do not supply credit scores for employment screening. The other two consumer reporting agencies also state that they do not provide them.
In response to McArdle's July 27 piece, "Could We Stop Employers From Running Credit Checks?," John Ulzheimer tries to talk some sense into McArdle with his comment: "Employers don't get credit scores with the credit reports they can get for employment screening."
In the July 26 "FICO Frenzy," McArdle notes, "There was a great deal of back-and-forth in the left half of the blogosphere this weekend over employers who use FICO scores as a way of weeding out job candidates." JonF311 comments: "Also, a quibble here: it isn't the FICO scoire[SIC] that employers mostly use. It's the whole credit history."
With a link in that blog post, McArdle referred to "Credit Scores and Employment" by Matthew Yglesias of the Center for American Progress Action Fund who writes, "Via Kevin Drum, a fascinating Slacktivist post about the growing tendency of HR departments to check the credit scores of potential employees apparently deeming this data to be an important predictor of employee behavior."
With a link in that sentence, Yglesias referred to "The Catch-22 of Credit Scores" by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones who writes, "The Slacktivist comments on the increasing practice of HR departments checking credit scores before they hire people, a practice that (unsurprisingly) is heavily lobbied by the companies that sell credit scores:... "
With a link in that sentence, Drum referred to "Credit scoring and unemployment" by Fred Clark of the slacktivist who writes, "The misuse of these so-called scores in employment decisions functions primarily as a way of keeping the unemployed from gaining employment -- the precise opposite of what needs to happen, what ought to happen and what everyone wants to happen."
The first two sentences of "Credit scoring and unemployment" say:
The previous post arose from things I came across while failing to find what I was looking for. I was trying to find concrete data on the reportedly increasing use of credit "scoring" by prospective employers and its relation to the disturbing trend of very long-term unemployment.
Clark was referring to "Meritocratic Utopia" a dark satire in which he fantasizes about "a new, perfect, authoritative metric for human worth: the Human Worthiness Algorithm" which is a secret.
So, the slacktivist failed to find evidence of what he wanted to write about, but he wrote about it anyway. The echo chamber took it from there, and the rest is blogosphere history.
Actually, here is the rest:
Marginal Revolution - "Small steps toward a much better world"
Independent Political Report - "Covering America's third parties and independent candidates since May 2008"
Business insider (a copy of the The Atlantic piece)
care2 - "... make a difference"
San Francisco Chronicle (a reference and link to the Mother Jones piece)
The Atlantic editor's piece isn't the first time bloggers and their minions walked up to the edge (and jumped over it). Read the 1101 comments on the Daily Kos from a post earlier this year: "Why Should Your Credit Score Prevent You From Getting a Job?"
UPDATE: Kevin Drum makes a clarification.