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Do Companies Run Background Checks for Promotions?

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If you get a job and work there long enough, you might become eligible for a promotion. That’s great, but what guidelines does the company follow?

Do companies run background checks for promotions?

Let’s examine this issue.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the following:

  • Reasons for Running a Background Check
  • What Is Included in a Background Check?
  • Company Background Check on Current Employees
  • Company Background Check for Promotions?
  • Protecting Employees Rights
  • Limitations on Background Checks
  • What Happens if Something Is Discovered?
  • Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?


Reasons for Running a Background Check

A background check is common when considering hiring for a position with a company.

Here are some facts to know about background checks:

  • Actually, a background check is completed to verify the information that has been reported on the application.
  • In addition, a potential employer will want to know about your criminal record to look for disqualifying factors that would eliminate you from job consideration.

What Is Included in a Background Check?

Let’s take a quick look at the type of information that can come from a background check.

A background check typically includes information such as your criminal history, which will indicate any felonies, misdemeanors, or arrests. It will show how long ago your conviction was.

It will also show your educational level, including whether you are a high school graduate or have any college or trade school background. A driving record check will be included for any position where driving is a significant part of the job.

For many background checks run by potential employers, a violent crime, sexual offense, or drug-related crime eliminates you from consideration.

While a credit check can be done as part of a background check, many companies don’t conduct this type of check. They often decide to focus on the criminal portion of such a review.

To help you be on top of things, you can run a background check on yourself. In fact, we recommend doing exactly that to know what an employer would see. It helps to be prepared.

Company Background Check on Current Employees

Now, it isn’t typical for a company to run a background check on its current employees. 

There is no legal requirement to do so, but it is legal according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Typically, observation of an employee’s work on a day-to-day basis is sufficient for managers that interact with those workers daily. The quality of their work and their demeanor, professionalism, enthusiasm, and dedication to the job and the company are obvious. This may be more valuable than conducting an often lengthy and expensive background investigation.

If there is no indication of an employee has done something wrong on the job, an employer must have the employee’s consent before screening them. However, some companies put a clause in their original application consent form that allows them to do a background check after hiring if the need arises.

While some companies have an “honor clause” that requires employees to report criminal charges whenever they occur, some consider it important to repeat a background check periodically.

There are several reasons to conduct a background check on current employees. Typically, these reasons focus on changes on the job that directly involve an employee’s status and a potential change to that. Among these possibilities, there may be reassignment to a new area with different responsibilities not covered under a previous background check.

Some companies conduct a background check when deciding which employees to retain at a company in the event of a changeover. Some companies conduct a background check on current employees after an accident to deal with issues with insurance companies and the legal department

Then, there may be cause to do a background check at the time of a promotion, which typically involves increased responsibilities and a new job description. 

Conducting a background check can help ensure the promotion of the right candidate.

Company Background Checks for Promotions?

Most companies, of course, don’t do a background check when they are considering an employee for a promotion.

But they could do so if they chose to go that route. It is within the company’s rights.

Let’s take a closer look at this possibility.

When a business is filling a management position, the company has a choice to either hire a new employee or promote a current employee. A potential new hire would have to undergo whatever type of background check the company has set up.

Since there is a background check completed on a new hire, it makes sense to do a background check when considering promoting a current worker to a new position.

So, if they are thinking of promoting someone to a management position, why wouldn’t they want to run a background check?

The simple answer is that most employers believe they already have enough data on someone to not have to go that route.

But then again, a business doesn’t know everything that there is on any employee. What if an employee got into trouble with the law? An employer might hope that an employee would come to them and admit it, but that isn’t always the case.

An employee might not do so for fear of being fired and the humiliation that could accompany such an admission of guilt to their employer.

So what about a promotion to a higher-level position? It may allow employees greater access to sensitive information. This might be a time for a background check.

Employees often have a background check run will gain access to more: 

  • Exclusive information
  • Company data
  • Customer data
  • Company facilities  

A change in responsibilities and requiring different skills and education are typical concerns for a company when planning a promotion. 

There are several reasons why screening an internal applicant for a promotion is important. Typically, there will be a different set of responsibilities. Often these responsibility differences include: 

  • Increased access to financial documents or handling money
  • Requiring travel outside the country
  • Driving a company vehicle as part of a new position

The more significant the job position is to the company, the more in-depth a background check is. The more visibility the position has, the more important it is to do a careful background check.

Most companies do not conduct a background check when the promotion is from one lower-level position to another. An essential point to think about in conducting a background check for a promotion is that it helps eliminate discrimination against any candidates applying for that position.

Protecting Employees Rights

Let’s look at the guidelines that businesses must deal with in thinking of running a background check on someone for a possible promotion. There are certain guidelines and legal restrictions protecting employees’ civil rights. 

It is important to note that when a company wants to screen current employees, it must provide in writing information stating the reason to do a background check. 

Then, an employee must give written permission for a current employer to run a background check.

Then there are some rules that apply when someone doesn’t receive that promotion they were looking for. It’s important to consider those also.

Anyone who is denied a new position or a promotion must receive all information related to the discovery and be given a chance to challenge that discovery.

Limitations on Background Checks

Even when there is a background check for a promotion, companies cannot always use the information they find. 

Laws in many states do not allow companies to use certain information relative to an applicant’s credit as a deciding factor. Bankruptcy cannot be used to fire or deny promotion to anyone.  

What Happens if Something Is Discovered?

If a crime is discovered in a background check, typically they know the type of finding that would be significant enough to concern them.

When a business considers a promotion they usually know the quality of the person they are considering. A background check in this situation would then become much like the one that would be done if it were a new employee. So, many of the same guidelines would apply from the employer’s perspective.

The company knows the types of crimes that would disqualify you. These would be the same ones that would eliminate you from being hired by that business in the first place. 

Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?

If you are in the position to be applying for a promotion or at least being considered for one, you likely have a good idea of what the company would see.

You can always run a background check on yourself to know for sure, especially if you have a question about what might or might not show up or if something from the past would still show up now.

Doing a background check before applying for promotion will allow you to know exactly what will be discovered when the company does its review. 

Remember that you are in a good situation if you have a job and have reached the point of being considered for a promotion.

Give yourself the best opportunity to succeed. Keep up your hard work to live an honest life and put the mistakes from the past behind you.

Be defined by how you respond to the mistakes you make. Keep up the hard work.

So what do you think about this blog post about whether or not companies run background checks before promotions? Have you or someone you know had a company run a background check before a promotion? What was that like and what happened? Please tell us in the comments below.

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