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Check, Please

To keep information safe, more companies are conducting background checks on workers being hired for tech jobs.
With so many high-profile--and who knows how many undisclosed--identity-theft and security breach incidents, companies are re-evaluating procedures and processes to keep data safe. And for some organizations, that means taking a closer look into the backgrounds of tech workers, who often have access to a company's most sensitive information.

If you're an IT pro looking for a new job, chances are pretty good these days that your prospective employer will conduct--or have a third party carry out--a background check on you. That screening will likely include not only confirming your education and prior work experience but also verifying your identity, checking for a criminal record in the United States and internationally, and, possibly, a credit-history check.

It doesn't matter whether IT job candidates will be hired as internal staff or as contract workers from a third party, credit checks are becoming increasingly important, says David Nachman, VP of business development at HireRight, a vendor of background screening services and technology tools to employers.

"By looking at credit history, companies can see if a person may have a motive to steal," including data or identity information that could be sold or used illegally, Nachman says.

Many companies that conduct background checks on IT pros also tend to screen other employees as well, although the extent of the screenings often depends on the job or role the worker will have, as well as the ability to access sensitive company data, he says.

"It's important to screen all employees," says Denise Smith, an HR business systems analyst for Nvidia, a maker of programmable graphic processors, which uses HireRight's online employment application and background-check services.

"IT workers potentially have access to highly confidential company and/or employee data," she said in an E-mail interview. "These employees should have the highest level of ethics and integrity."

For all its new employees, Nvidia checks education, identity, and 7-year criminal history. And for all high-level management employees and all finance-related positions, the company also checks credit history, she says.

Screening isn't just for newbies. Increasing numbers of employers are starting to do periodic checks on their existing workforce, particularly if an individual has an internal job change or promotion that gives that person access to expanded or confidential company information. In some cases, he says, that screening is aimed at safeguarding the company from risks such as potential allegations of negligence.

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