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Background Checks for Jobs on Rise

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Jobs in today's economy are scarce and even harder to get as employers scrutinize the backgrounds of potential employees before making job offers.  I have written about how HR people search social networks and credit histories to determine whether someone would be trustworthy and dependable, especially where the job involves high professional standards (like teaching) or financial security issues (like banking and investments).  However, as can be seen in an article in yesterday's New York Times, these background checks are becoming more prevalent (they are not limited to large businesses, as smaller concerns start to use them) and easy to get, as businesses specializing in conducting these checks are springing up.

The article talks about a start-up business that provides scanning services to companies looking to go paperless.  To address concerns raised by potential clients that private, confidential records are being handled and scanned by trustworthy employees, the owner looked into background checks for hires.  These checks included:
  • Address and Social Security Number
  • Criminal background checks in federal and county databases
  • Driving records
  • Credit checks
As to driving records, the article observed: "This check is crucial because employers can be liable for accidents that happen on company time. In addition . . . the data can [also] offer insights, flagging those who flout the law or abuse drugs or alcohol."    The credit checks are important because "employees might be handling sensitive financial information. A low credit score can indicate that an employee is financially strained and might be tempted to steal."  Social networks also play a part.  One business owner, commenting on the article, observed: “I would recommend that [a potential employer] also do online searches. Checking sites like Facebook, Google and MySpace is free and doesn’t take very long. You can find out a lot about people that way.”

The lesson here is that people looking for a job in today's world need to be proactive in how they live their lives.  This includes:
The time to do this is now, and not after the interview process, or even after you lose a job and are forced to look for another one.  This is a life lesson that stresses the journey and not the destination.  In an electronic age, people can more easily find out things about you that would heretofore have been private, so follow your mom's advice, "keep your nose clean," and you will be more likely to avoid regrets when that life comes under scrutiny.
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