Like many Americans, after last year's Equifax fiasco, I froze my credit with the big three. I'm on the job market, and at least all the Universities in the US do (or will do) a background check on the tenure-track faculty candidates (not sure if schools from other countries do so for international applicants).

So far I was able to get invites for interviews + campus visits, but I'm not sure at what stage the schools will do a background check.

So my questions are:

  1. does the fact that I have my credit frozen impact my chances as a candidate in faculty positions in the US?
  2. what about in other countries, such as Canada, UK, and other EU countries?
  3. If so, what should I do? just lift the freeze now? or will the school contact me if they can't get access and ask me to lift the freeze for them? or will they just reject me outright?

I've never had trouble with the law etc, or even my credits. The only thing is I have been a victim of at least one of these security data breaches in the past couple years, the worst probably being the Equifax fiasco, which prompted me to place the freezes.

Any advice or suggestion appreciated! Thanks!

  • The situation of freezing your own credit rating(s) yourself, versus having them frozen by other parties, makes all the difference in the world... – paul garrett Apr 29 '18 at 23:38

I'm on the job market, and at least all the Universities in the US do (or will do) a background check on the tenure-track faculty candidates (not sure if schools from other countries do so for international applicants).

I’m not sure where you heard this, but if by “background check” you mean specifically something that includes a credit check (as your question seems to suggest), I’m pretty sure the statement is false. At my large university where until recently I was a department chair and was closely involved with hiring of several new faculty members, I am not aware of any practice of running credit checks on anyone; if it happened at all, it would be part of the paperwork an incoming faculty member has to go through after already receiving and accepting an offer, so would have no influence on any decision making at the department side. In other words, at least at my university this would not be a concern in connection with your tenure-track application.

Aside from my personal experience, the other reason why I’m pretty sure your assertion is false is that in many US states it is illegal to base hiring decisions on job candidates’ credit history. Thus in those states no sane hiring process would attempt to obtain such information prior to making an offer, and I can’t think of a good reason why it would make sense to obtain it after making an offer either.

Good luck with your job search.

  • Thanks! this makes me feel much better. It just occurred to me to ask because a family member, upon knowing that I'm on the job market, asked me this very same question. Your answer with the above comments by others assure me that if any check is going to happen, it will happen after they make the decision. – PandaPants Apr 30 '18 at 0:41

Background checks would be done very close to the time the offer goes out—there's no way a school is going to perform five hundred background checks for a single faculty search.

You're allowed to request a temporary lifting of the freeze for either a specific period of time or a specific party. So you could authorize the credit agencies to lift the freeze for schools at which you're offered an interview. The latter might be the easiest option.

Also note that background checks are performed by the Human Resources department of the administration, not by the faculty committees, who as far as I know never see the results of such checks, because they are not entitled to do so. However, this also means that you're not going to be denied an interview just because the HR department wasn't able to perform the background check. If it actually were an issue in the interview process, the department would contact you and say "we'd like to have an interview, please give us access for a credit check" rather than "forget it, it's not worth the trouble."

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    I'm pretty sure schools in other countries aren't going to do a US credit check. Maybe include Canadian schools, just to be safe. But in other parts of the world you won't need to worry about this. – aeismail Apr 29 '18 at 19:09
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    @PandaPants I don't know why US universities should be interested in your credits, but I doubt a European university would be interested in checking your US credit. FWIW, I'm almost sure that my university doesn't do a credit check (I even suspect that it could be against the law such a check). – Massimo Ortolano Apr 29 '18 at 19:26
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    @MassimoOrtolano I know its weird, but as I understand it, it's standard procedure in the US when you apply to jobs (any job, not just in academia), in fact, in the US, in order to do anything important a credit check is almost always involved.... – PandaPants Apr 29 '18 at 19:31
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    I believe that doing a background check usually requires the applicant to provide their past addresses (age 18 on) so you will know when the check is occurring. – Dawn Apr 29 '18 at 20:29
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    When I was hired, they did a background check. It was after the offer but before the contract. It involved me filling out a rather annoying informational form where I had to list all addresses from age 18 on. – Dawn Apr 29 '18 at 23:36

These checks are purely for purposes of catching things like criminal convictions in your past. No one cares about your credit history. My recollection is that when background checks have happened to me, it's been after the offer was accepted, so I knew it was happening. It's not really possible to rule out something as impossible, but it would be probably the weirdest hiring issues I had ever heard of for a offer to get scuttled by a credit report. If it makes you feel better, just unfreeze your credit report, but I would rate it considerably below typos in your cover letter as an issue likely to cost you a job.

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