These days, it's likely that employers will be more forgiving to applicants who've recently experienced credit trouble as a result of the poor economy, according to Cunningham. If it's obvious that you have a long-term problem with credit, she says it's best to be honest: "Tell them that you've learned your lesson through the school of hard knocks and that you're a different person now."
Practice makes perfect. Just as you would normally prepare for a job interview by rehearsing answers to specific questions, think about what you'll say if the subject of credit comes up. "You need to come across as confident about this, because if you seem freaked out, they're going to freak out," says Hallie Crawford, a career coach and founder of the Atlanta-based company Create Your Career Path.
If you're having trouble calming your nerves, take comfort in the strong likelihood that the employer will be understanding. "Employers realize that tough things have happened to good people in the last few years," says Crawford. She believes most hiring managers are reasonable people who may have also had financial trouble at some point in their lives, and are willing to overlook a problem with credit—as long as you show it's in the past.
The bottom line: Always steer the conversation back to evidence that shows you're the best candidate for the job. Sharing stories of your accomplishments or how you've exceeded expectations at previous jobs (e.g., "I surpassed my sales targets every year") should convince an employer that you're responsible and may help them overlook your poor credit history.