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Employers check potential and current workers for several reasons. The things an employer wants to know about you can vary with the kinds of jobs you might seek. Here are a few of the reasons for employment screening.

  • Negligent hiring lawsuits are on the rise. If an employee’s actions hurt someone, the employer may be liable. The threat of liability gives employers reason to be cautious in checking an applicant’s past. A bad decision can wreak havoc on a company’s budget and reputation as well as ruin the career of the hiring official. Employers no longer feel secure in relying on their instinct as a basis to hire.

Current events have caused an increase in employment screening.

  • Child abuse and child abductions in the news in recent years have resulted in new laws in almost every state that require criminal background checks for anyone who works with children. The move to protect children through criminal background checks now includes volunteers who serve as coaches for youth sports activities and scout troop leaders.
  • Terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, have resulted in heightened security and identity-verification strategies by employers. Potential job candidates and long-time employees alike are being examined with a new eye following September 11, 2001.
  • Corporate executives, officers, and directors now face a degree of scrutiny in both professional and private life unknown before the Enron debacle and other corporate scandals of 2002.
  • False or inflated information supplied by job applicants is frequently in the news. Numerous studies and news articles, citing varying results, have been published on the topic of resume fraud. While study and survey results may vary, it is clear that human resources professionals are alert to the potential for embellished or outright falsehoods. Such reports make employers wary of accepting anyone’s word at face value. For more on resume fraud, see Sam H. and Della L. Dekay, Lying On The Employment Resume: Is it Legal?, presented at the 2008 Association for Business Communication,,  
  • Federal and state laws require that background checks be conducted for certain jobs. For example, most states require criminal background checks for anyone who works with children, the elderly, or disabled. The federal National Child Protection Act authorizes state officials to access the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database for some positions. Many state and federal government jobs require a background check, and depending on the kind of job, may require an extensive investigation for a security clearance.
  • The “information age” itself may be a reason for the increase in employment screening — the availability of computer databases containing millions of records of personal data. As the cost of searching these sources drops, employers are finding it more feasible to conduct background checks.