1. #1
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Ok, heres a question about Credit History

    My Credit History is not good. I am currently paying off 2 credit cards which I have been late on in the past, and a big fed tax bill. Other than that, I have no bankruptcies, and my auto loan is 10 months away from being paid off. The truth is, I quit a good job in 2004 to give Firefighting a shot, and went back to school (EMS Courses). While I was in school, I waited tables to make rent, ends meet, ect, and the tip money sometimes wasnt enough to cover the credit card bills. So now, 4 years later, I am still paying the last 2 off. I have a better job now, but the cost of living is still high. I am in a Catch 22 Situation, with the higher pay of a Firefighter, I could pay things off a lot quicker, but I will be disqualified from the process during the Credit Check.

    My question is, should I wait to apply to a Department until my credit is in better shape? I feel it would be an exercise in Futility to run stairs with a 50 pound pack, and practice with a sledgehammer, and spend hours at the Library studing Baron's Practice Firefighter Exams, only to get a form letter stating I am not being considered for the position at this time because of poor credit. I am a little bit bitter at this situation, as I feel personally that it is discriminatory to ASSUME (We all know what happens when we assume) that I wouldnt be reliable or responsible because of some credit mistakes in tha past. I read today in the paper that the US Miltary is hiring folks with criminal backgrounds, if I want to defend my country, it is OK if I was jailed for fondling some minors in the past, but if I want to defend my community, because I was late on some Credit Card Payments, I am stuck flipping burgers at McDonalds, even though I can easily pass the Stairclimber test w/ a weighted vest, and know how Haz-Mat works. I find myself at mediocre jobs, with good EMS knowledge of combi-tubes and getting an IV line started. I've been told by my peers that I'd make a good EMT, but because I was 3 months late on Mastercard, it is automatically assumed that I would be a poor candidate. It bothers me even more, as 2 cops in my community, 2 DETECTIVES making a hell of a lot more than me, were recently busted by Internal Affairs for Corruption, as both were guilty of stealing drug money from Police HQ, and both of these A-Holes probably have better credit than I do.

    Advice, please.

  2. #2
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    San Francisco Bay Area


    Credit can be a factor in your background. No chief wants bill collectors coming around the station, attaching your wages, or the temptation of a firefighter to steal on duty or in a citizenís home to cover their bills.

    Of course the best course of action is to maintain a good credit rating. Itís often not the problem but how you write out an explanation for the background. Most candidates turn themselves inside out when a simple explanation is often all that is needed to resolve most of the situations.

    Many candidates get stretched financially in their pursuit of gaining a badge working odd jobs while trying to complete their education, experience or medic school.

    Itís not the items of concern, but the when and why. Like most candidates that enter the hiring process, they get hyper vigilant and the voices of panic and guilt start running around in their heads.

    When did these incidents happen? If it was a financial problem, what was your financial situation then? Do you have a plan? How is your credit now?

    A recent coaching candidate who is close to making the cut was concerned about his credit. His credit started going south during medical school. I asked him if he had gone to his relatives with a plan first to help pay for medic school? He said he was too proud to ask. I said if you had asked them now, would they have come forward with the funds. He said yes.

    OK, get a plan together where youíre at now and what you need to turn this around and present it to your relatives. Then, go down in person, make the necessary payment or pay off the loans and most importantly get a receipt. Because it can take up to 90 days for your payments to make it up on your credit report. If anything bad shows up on your credit report, you will have the receipt to prove it paid. Too proud? Get out of here. Iíve yet to have a candidate get a plan together and present it to relatives that they didnít help out.

    Another candidate Timís credit got stretched because his wife and him figured out that if she went back to college and completed her teaching credential they could improve their finances. When credit report came up with the background investigator Tim was able to show that his wife already had already graduated, had a teaching job for a few months, showed improvement in all his payments, and getting the fire job would put them in a position to wipe out all the credit problems. Tim was hired because he had a reasonable explanation and a plan to back it up.

    Another: I have a question about backgrounds. I just picked up my package on Tuesday. I know they are going to check out my finances and this has been a rough couple of years for my family. My father in law was diagnosed with cancer about two and a half years ago. He deteriorated very quickly and could not work. He and my mother in law stood to lose everything, so my wife and I helped. We did have some slow and late payments on our credit cards and such because of the added financial burden. When my father in law passed away, he did not have insurance. So our financial help has been more needed that ever.

    My question is the city has provided a spot for me to give a brief "life story" as part of the background. Would this be an appropriate place to relay this story? I understand that late payments on my credit report may lead some to think that I am irresponsible, however, I was and am taking care of one of my own, and I believe the investigator should know that. Thanks for any thoughts, Jeff

    Reply: Yes, your reasonable explanation that you have put here can help. But what is your plan to correct your credit situation? Will getting the badge with this department provide the necessary funds to be financially sound? You must have a plan before you show up to meet the background investigator.

    JB: We have implemented a spending plan and are pulling ourselves out while still helping those who need it. Additionally, the badge with this fire department definitely will provide the necessary funds to be financially sound, but should I use that in the interview? I remember from the CDs you said never use, "pay, benefits, or days off."

    CB: Your credit will not come up during the interview. It we be handled when you get into background.

    The best way to find out about your credit is request a free copy from one of the 3 major credit bureaus. Here are the bureaus:

    Equifax Credit Information Services
    Box 105518
    Atlanta, GA 30348
    Phone: 877-463-5505 (for Credit Report orders) Phone (800) 685-5000
    (for disputes)

    Box 949
    Allen, TX 75013-0949
    Phone: 888-397-3742 (for Credit Report orders)
    Phone (800) 583-4080 (for disputes)

    Trans Union Corporation (TUC)
    P.O. Box 1000, Chester PA 19022
    Phone: (800) 888-4213 (for Credit Report orders)
    Phone (800) 916-8800 (for disputes)

    Howís Your Credit Score?

    So you make it into backgrounds on a job offer thinking your credit is OK. Then you are presented with a less than desirable credit report. When you look at the report you realize the bad items on the report arenít yours.

    You know the background is coming up at some time. You want to know what your credit report says about you. More than 30% of credit reports have errors. A recent check on mine revealed addresses I have never lived at, wrong birthday, job experience and some of my sonís credit and a car I never owned.

    If there is anything on your report that is not right, you can dispute it. The disputed company has 30 days to respond. If they donít, they will take it off. Many donít respond. If you still have a problem with an item, you can add a 100 word statement explaining why to your credit report.

    "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

    More Tips on getting hired and promoted by Firehouse Contributing Author Fire ďCaptain BobĒ Articles here:

    Fire "Captain Bob"


  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber
    JLam77's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007


    Suppose you were hiring firefighters, and you had 2 candidates with more or less equal qualifications, similar backgrounds, similar personalities, etc., except one hadn't had a late payment in 5 years, and one had a history of late payments.

    Who would you hire?

    If you're honest with yourself, you know the answer. Yes, it stinks, but I think you'll have to admit that it's fair.

    (And I'm sure you're qualified to do something other than flip burgers at McDonald's. People with Down's Syndrome can flip burgers at McDonald's.)

    Also, don't think you're wasting your time working out and preparing. Even if you get hired 5 years down the road, all that time spent working out won't be for nothing. I've been at this for a year now, and even if it takes me another year or two to get hired, I'm still working out every goddamn day. No sense getting a job offer and then showing up to the drill tower shaped like a marshmallow, ya know?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alucard View Post
    I feel personally that it is discriminatory to ASSUME (We all know what happens when we assume) that I wouldnt be reliable or responsible because of some credit mistakes in tha past. I
    They're not making an assumption. They're making an educated guess based on experience with hundreds of past candidates. People with poor credit are more of a risk, generally speaking, than people with good credit. And it's hardly discriminatory. Discrimination has to do with things like sex, sexual orientation, religion, ethnic background, race, etc. These are things that (besides religion) most people have no control over.

    An LA City Captain explained it to me this way: When you show up to a fire alarm at a bank in a big red fire truck wearing bright yellow turnouts, the bank manager will walk you right into the vault if you need access. If you show up at a celebrity's house, you might be escorted right into a famous person's bedroom. If you show up at a rich TV producer's mansion, you might find yourself in a room filled with priceless jewelry. The fire department needs to know that the people they have on the job are not in dire financial straits and therefore prone to perhaps try to steal something from a place they've been given unfettered access to. Given the opportunity to hire someone with bad credit vs. someone with good credit, they're going with the latter. It's not a guarantee the person won't steal, but they have to go with what the statistics tell them.

    Just keep working to improve your credit and keep trying to become a FF. If you're truly dedicated, you'll make it one day.
    Last edited by JLam77; 04-22-2008 at 02:24 PM.

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Flanders, NJ


    First, ignore what cap'n bobby says about his made up "candidates.

    Now, on to the problem at hand.

    Having credit card problems is not the end of the world. Credit reports are very detailed and will show, among other things, recent payment hx. on those over extended accounts. Two things are very important to show them that you have the problem under control.

    1. You have a plan for paying them off and you are current with your payments. DO NOT tell them that you are going to use the money you make after you get the job to make the payments. That is stupid and will most likely result in you having ZERO chance of getting the job.

    2. You have matured and you are not spending money you don't have. Cut the cards up and stop using them.

    The tax matter is a different story. Taxes are an obligation and a failure to meet that obligation is a possible sign of a lack of responsibility. Regardless of the circumstances, I would get this matter cleared up before you get too far into the process. I would also have a damn good factual explanation of the problem and the solution ready for your interviewers and your background investigator.
    Last edited by GeorgeWendtCFI; 04-23-2008 at 06:14 AM.

  5. #5
    Show me a Scania vehicle

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Lubbock, TX

    Default Don't you dare stop

    I can't give you much advice about your credit score and past credit foibles but be honest about your credit. The FF entrance process is what it is and you know that you have to accept it and improve upon your weaknesses. Sounds like you're doing that.

    What disturbed me the most about your post was that you think the practice for a physical and entrance test would all be in vain. Non of the work you do to get on a list, to become a better candidate to be a firefighter, is in vain.

    For me, it's been three years since I first started to become a FF, I have another interview in the coming weeks and everything that I've done in the past three years has been all for the betterment of myself and my road to become a FF.

    Never stop on the trail that you're on. Stay in shape, continually sharpen your mind. Be in a state of readiness. Will you be dissapointed at times? Definitely. What you do with that dissapointment is up to you.

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