Background Checks

Is there a waiver that’s too inclusive, one that goes beyond the bounds of what a prospective employer really needs to know about a candidate for employment?  I think the answer is probably, “Yes, there’s a point beyond which a waiver can grant an employer too much access to a candidate’s entire past life.”

In a recent article in the online version of Forbes Magazine, written by Adam Tanner, a candidate for employment was asked to sign a release that read, at least in part, as follows, “I understand that the company may rely on this authorization to order additional background reports, including investigative consumer reports, during my employment without asking me for my authorization again as allowed by law.”  It also says that information could be gathered from “past or present employers, learning institutions, law enforcement, courts, the military, credit bureaus, testing facilities, motor vehicle records agencies, as well as “all other private and public sector repositories of information; and any other person, organization, or agency with any information about or concerning me.”  Does any of the language in this release seem to go too far to you?  (See highlights and underlining.)

It makes perfectly good sense to do as thorough a check of candidates for employment as possible, but language like that noted above probably goes too far when it specifies that the prospective employer can talk to anybody, any organization, or any agency which you know or are acquainted with!  I don’t have a problem with public records or information that might be online and available to anybody.  The essential problem is that the more sweeping the waiver the more likely the prospective employer is to stumble on information about someone else with the same or a similar name and find information that has nothing whatsoever to do with job performance or information that is, frankly, false.

If a state requires a background check, then common sense should prevail.  Talking to references provided by the candidate, verifying information provided by the candidate on a resume or job application, checking information on social media, and public records checks are all acceptable – depending on the level of the position – but a waiver that allows the prospective employer to check anything is probably too invasive.  (Frankly, the waiver cited here sounds like something a private investigator would need.  It includes everything but permission to peek in windows!)