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Credit Scores: Do Nice Guys Finish Last?

A new study takes advantage of the increasing (and somewhat controversial) use of credit scores as a tool for evaluating job candidates to examine whether scores are affected by how nice you are. Jeremy Bernerth, Daniel Whitman, Shannon Taylor and H. Jack Walker found that while there is a positive relationship between “conscientiousness and FICO scores, there is a negative relationship between agreeableness and FICO scores”:

The finding that credit scores accounted for a substantial proportion of variance in externally rated performance variables gives some credence to the practice of using credit scores as a screening tool. However, null findings between credit scores and workplace deviance call into question claims that employees with poor credit will engage in behaviors intended to harm the organization (Gallagher, 2006; Oppler et al., 2008).

Bernerth elaborates in a press release:

With regards to personality and credit – it makes sense that conscientiousness is related to good credit, but what was really interesting was that agreeableness was negatively related to your credit score. That suggests easy-going individuals actually have worse credit scores than disagreeable and rude individuals.

It was telling that poor credit scores were not correlated to theft and other deviant types of work behaviors. Most companies attempt to justify the use of credit scores because they think such employees will end up stealing, but our research suggests that might not be the case.