That’s right, before you begin searching for a new job, check your credit report to make sure there are no errors and to address any problems.

Why? More and more employers are using credit checks as part of their hiring process, in hopes that they might avoid hiring people who might commit fraud or perform poorly.

One person I know had co-signed a loan for someone. After eight uneventful years of on-time payments, the borrower lost his job and defaulted on the loan (never thinking to tell the person who co-signed for the loan).

The timing was terrible because, unbeknownst to the co-signer, the loan default appeared first on his credit report while he began interviewing for a fantastic new job that would have nearly doubled his annual income.

The offer came after six weeks and several grueling rounds of interviews. Everyone was thrilled to shake hands and agree on a start date.

You know where this is going: the credit check, which was supposed to be a formality, ended up killing the deal: the job offer was rescinded and the opportunity was gone.

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies.

To get your free credit report, visit this page on the FTC website:

Federal trade Commission (FTC)

Beware: There are lots of sites that will try to sell you your credit report, or sell you a credit monitoring or credit repair service. Avoid them by using the link above to the FTC website, and follow the link on their page to get your free report.

If you find errors on your report, take immediate action and make sure to confirm the errors have actually been corrected (many of them aren’t, even after being reported).

How To Dispute Credit Report Errors

Learn how to dispute via the FTC’s “Disputing Errors on Credit Reports” article (scroll down to the “Correcting Errors” section). Be very clear in your explanations, provide copies of all your documentation, respond quickly and fully to all requests for information and documentation, and make sure to keep following-up until the issues are resolved.

How to Deal With Legitimate Credit Problems

While not all employers conduct credit checks as part of their hiring process, you’ll want to know your rights and obligations for dealing with debt and credit problems.

A good place to start is the FTC article “Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself.”

Beware of Credit Repair Scams

The FTC emphasizes that there is “no quick fix for creditworthiness. You can improve your credit report legitimately, but it takes time, a conscious effort, and sticking to a personal debt repayment plan.”

Learn more in their “Credit Repair Scams” article.

This post first appeared on the Enlightened Jobs blog.