Should “Going the Distance” With a Background Check be an Anomaly?

How much information is too much information when a background check is considered for employment? Or, how little is too little? In some cases, the information investigated is necessary; for example, fingerprinting and looking into national criminal records for those applying to positions involving children, the elderly, or the disabled are practically standard now. Conducting a credit check for someone handling a large amount of money, for example, is also somewhat standard. But, what about for a position of office?

A recent article from WALB News mentions that the city of Albany will be conducting extensive background checks on candidates applying for a Civic Center Director position. As this article mentions, those involved in the hiring process are doing more than simple criminal background checks and drug testing. Rather, they’ll be doing a bit of online research for each candidate. This may include, as the article mentions, finding any news stories in which the candidate is mentioned and searching through online profiles. After all, a candidate working for the city should be free of criminal convictions and present a positive online image.

The likelihood of a candidate having drunken Facebook photos in this case is probably slim. The Civic Center Director for a medium-sized city like Albany is far from an entry-level position. Any individual applying has already been through stringent application processes many times, and presenting a positive image – in an interview, background check, and online – is a given.

For this type of position, the scope of investigation is appropriate. Measuring a candidate’s view points through a news search for an entry-level position, however, is excessive. But, as we’ve seen plenty of times on this blog, even prominent employers, such as a city hall, don’t always conduct background checks. In this case, the extensiveness of the city of Albany’s background check matches the responsibility and prominence of the position.