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