September 12, 2013

No Second Chance

In a September 12th interview on NPR, it was reported that second chances to make it are getting harder to come by in the age of real time information.  I like to think that this is not true, but more and more I see that people are being locked out of their first choice employer because of an indiscretion.

A company’s reputation rides on the reputations of their employees.   Employers care about their image so they have to care about the image cast by their employees.  Before you will be hired for a job you will have to prove yourself fit to hire on more than one level.

Companies hire firms to vet candidates at the professional level.  Investigators who know how to find any indiscretions you have in your background- like former FBI and NSA agents, former police officers, computer security experts, insurance investigators, and retired military officers, will conduct a search and find information you don’t even know about yourself.

They will look everywhere.  They will be culling through college records, credit reports, criminal records, Facebook postings (yours and your friends’), Google, LinkedIn, and in some instances they will look at medical records.  Pilots, FBI agents, and law enforcement agents, for example, have to pass the highest level of scrutiny. Professionals who are licensed (nurses, doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. ) are required to meet a code of conduct and can face diciplinary action which is searchable. For example, licensed engineers must not misrepresent his or her qualifications to a perspective client or employer.

I have worked with candidates who had job offers withdrawn after background checks revealed a sketchy internet posting, a lie on a resume,  previous DUI, credit default, a positive drug test and/or criminal record.

An economist interviewed on NPR this morning predicts that the scrutiny of the American worker is going to get even more intrusive in the future.  Tyler Cowen, author of the book,  Average is Over, acknowledged  "everyone will be ruthlessly graded – every slice of their lives, monitored, tracked and recorded."

Cowen believes it will be harder to recover from failures because of the tools used to monitor individuals:  "I think what happens is when there is more and better measurement, it's like credit scores. Once you get a bad credit score ... it is possible to fix it, but ... it's pretty difficult. So I think it will reward people who are disciplined ... but it also will harm some others."  

I think it is already happening.

Credit agencies – Equifax, Transunion, and Experian make a ton of money tracking the financial health of anyone with a credit history. Defaulting on your credit card or bankruptcy will instantly show up on your record and will be searchable by employers.

Some categories of workers are more intensely scrutinized and monitored.  Anyone in a professional or managerial category faces a credit background check.

Under California Law AB22, the use of pre-employment credit reports is not allowed in some cases.  Credit checks are legitimate screening devices for anyone who is considered for a managerial position, or a position in which the person is, or would be
    (A) A named signatory on the bank or credit card account of the employer. (B) Authorized to transfer money on behalf of the employer. (C) Authorized to enter into financial contracts on behalf of the employer.
Or in “A position that involves access to confidential or proprietary information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, process or trade secret that (i) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who may obtain economic value from the disclosure or use of the information, and (ii) is the subject of an effort that is reasonable under the circumstances to maintain secrecy of the information.”   That covers a lot of people… designers, engineers, bankers, lawyers, sales personnel, managers, administrators come to mind.

Anyone who expects to work for a living needs to think about the consequences of their actions. You are being watched – it is not your imagination.  You may not get a second chance…so don't mess this up!  

If you do have something in your past, clean it up! Take a driver training class to clean up the DUI or clean up your web presence and pay off your debt.  If you don't know how to clean it up find an expert who can guide you. Hopefully you can recover your good name and maybe get a second chance.