Prepared for Continuous Background Screening?

Even if you passed your pre-hire background check with flying colors, you may not be out of the proverbial woods.

A growing number of employers are performing periodic background checks or so-called “infinity” screening on current employees. The ongoing scrutiny of your criminal activity, credit report and social media posts could have a major impact on your career.

“There’s no limit on the type of background checks employers can run on current employees as long as they have a signed release and the items checked during the investigation are legal and job-related,” explained Barry Nixon, a background screening consultant and COO of

Here are some of the positive and negative ramifications of continuous background screening, along with three ways to protect your career.

Positive Impact

Knowing that your fellow employees have clean records could give you peace of mind about sharing the responsibility for preventing data breaches. According to a Forrester Research report titled “Understand the State of Data Security and Privacy: 2013 to 2014,” 25 percent of survey respondents said that abuse by a malicious insider was the most common way a breach occurred at their company.

A major incident can mean a drop in stock prices, lost customers, restructuring and layoffs, not to mention months of hard work to repair the damage and rebuild trust, so any program that exposes unscrupulous insiders may keep you and your colleagues off the unemployment rolls.

Plus, having a pristine background may give you the confidence to ask for a raise or pursue a management position, since 29 percent of companies that re-screen employees do so in response to a status change, according to a 2014 benchmarking report by HireRight.

Negative Impact

You could be denied a promotion or even terminated if subsequent background checks reveal damaging information. For instance, you could be fired if you’re convicted of a crime or your employer discovers that you lied about your degree or qualifications on your resume or application. And you could be referred to a treatment program and disciplined for failing a drug screening.

Some companies are training supervisors on how to recognize signs of distress in employees. Your boss might transfer you to a lower-level position if your financial situation deteriorates and your job gives you regular access to large amounts of cash or confidential/proprietary information.

Joining a radical group, making negative comments about the company or sharing tips for camouflaging code or skirting firewalls in online forums could likewise raise a red flag with management. “Employers are increasingly looking at a variety of factors to see if the dots connect,” Nixon said. “You don’t want to attract attention in the wrong way.”

Action Steps

Get the Facts: If you don’t know whether your company is running post-hire background checks, ask. Many industries have regulations that require continuous background checking.

“The consent form you signed before you were hired may give your employer the right to run a background check at any time,” said Les Rosen, attorney, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources, a background check firm based in San Francisco. “Being informed is a best practice, so review the company’s background screening policy and any releases you signed.”

Know Your Rights: The employment decisions and policies associated with post-hire background checks haven’t been tested in the courts. Therefore, employers are currently required to follow the laws that apply to pre-hire checks… and you have rights, as well. Remember, employers in at least 10 states are either prohibited or have limited ability to check credit reports.

Be Vigilant: Don’t just monitor your credit report and criminal records: protest any errors. Make sure to turn up your online privacy settings, and always watch what you post on social media.

If you make a mistake, telling your boss might be better than waiting for him or her to find out. “If you’re being considered for a promotion, it’s probably best to come clean,” Nixon said. “Depending on the circumstances, an employer might be willing to overlook a small indiscretion if you’ve been a good employee.”

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5 Responses to “Prepared for Continuous Background Screening?”

  1. This is why I never use my real name for anything I do online, except for official things like the DMV, and job-hunting. If what I’m doing online doesn’t *require* my real name – I don’t use it. My opinions and beliefs are not the property of my employer.

  2. A Nonymous

    Joining a radical group? I had a co-worker once who thought the Sierra Club was radical. And a manager who told me in front of several co-workers he had googled me and commented sarcastically on my environmental activities. We pride ourselves on our constitutional rights to free speech and association, yet we self-censure constantly out of economic insecurity.

  3. George Corrigan

    I was recently fired because I did not have a large enough circle of friends:

    I’ve been semi-retired for about two years now. Given that, I’m not beyond making the extra buck or three here or there. So, I recently answered the call of a Head Hunter, and was ultimately hired for a three month gig at a local Power Plant (well, 48 miles one way) deploying new PC’s to about 1000 seats. It didn’t pay a lot, but a 13 year old could do this work. Maybe they chose me because I hold AN ACTIVE DoD Top Secret SECURITY CLEARANCE, or I’ve held a valid CISSP certification in good standing (actually, that last means something, presumably) since 2004.
    ​Umm, apparently not.​
    Yeah, there were those several intrusive motions to go through: urine test, finger prints, ID photo, blah, blah, blah, ad nauseam. Been there, done that, at least a dozen times or so since 1969 (insert cynical yawn of boredom here).
    They wanted four (not the customary three) non-related character references; still no problem. They got my next door neighbor, an old dart playing buddy, a long time close friend of my wife, and a childhood friend. Known all these folks for an aggregate 120 years, or so, give or take.
    Here’s where it gets downright ugly:
    I’ve learned that their SOP re the references provided are, to put it mildly, extremely unethical and quite possibly, extralegal. What they do, upon contacting each provided reference is to IMMEDIATELY DEMAND at least two additional personal references they can contact.
    And, they’re decidedly impolite, arrogant, and quite unprofessional in their methods, according to several reports I have from my (still, thankfuilly) friends.
    Well, it bears mentioning here that in addition to being semi retired, I live in the boonies, and don’t go mucking about much anymore — my main, (and sometimes only), day to day contact is Jake, the (Wonder how he got this far) Hound. Stimulating conversation is not one of his strong points. Barking at snow plows and the occasional bicyclist, is.
    There’s no damn way they were gonna find 8 (or more) people to stalk and harass.
    A week later, still no badge. Fielded questions about it with an answer much like: “I live in the boonies, and can count my friends on one hand, not two or three.”
    So, they fired me.
    For not having enough friends.

  4. Joseph Martinez

    Yes, the continuous background screening is good in some way. But, it may be also the cause of emotional torture of the employees. So there is chance of lower productivity as they can’t give full attention to their work thinking about the consequences if anything bad comes in the screening report. It will definitely pick the bad employees as well as put pressure on the good employees who are consistent in their work and far from any crimes and substance abuse. However, the employees can do self-background check to know if there is any red flag prior to the employers do.