Friday, November 13, 2009

Employees Gone Wild - Part One

As we look at Part One of our series on employees gone wild, we’ll be presenting an insider’s look into pre-employment screening. They have a saying in human resources that you interview the CANDIDATE, but hire the EMPLOYEE. Every HR pro has tales to tell about how those turned out to be two different people.

The job market has changed. The American economy as a whole isn’t going to borrow its way out of a recession. There’s no stimulus package out there to pump up small business owners, and the government’s ready to tax the snot out of us. The good news is, if you’re a small business owner looking at hiring today, you’re probably already doing a lot of things right. Laid off workers know this intuitively, and with 17% of the workforce either unemployed or underemployed, job seekers are getting more desperate with each unanswered resume posting. Many candidates seeking jobs today are skilled workers who previously commanded a higher wage but now have a skill the market’s already saturated with. That’s why you see that five o’clock live news spot featuring manufacturing engineers and investment brokers waiting in line to become supermarket checkers.

If you go back a decade ago, two thirds of HR professionals had pre-employment background checks done on their new hires. Today, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s Workplace Violence Survey, 96% of HR pros have background checks done on their new hires, which is great. Of course, as industry insiders, we scratch our heads and wonder why the other 4% of HR pros are intentionally sailing into uncharted waters when they could easily buy the chart.

We understand how small business owners rationalize a decision to take the plunge and hire unscreened employees. They like to call their own shots, they trust their gut, and they often underestimate both the cost of leaving a position open, and the cost of a bad hiring decision. In order to find the perfect job candidate, the small business owner needs to identify the required competencies for the position. Core proficiencies, like using a certain tool, are easy to identify. After that, matching the candidate to the job gets tougher. Harder elements to define, like fitting into the workplace culture, having the required self-motivation, or being able to relate to your company’s clients can be absolutely critical. The smart small business owner screens resumes for the core proficiencies, but carefully screens candidates during the initial interview to identify those harder to define elements like fitting into the company culture.

Once you identify that hot shot who’s a rising star, it’s important to realize that time kills deals, especially with highly desirable candidates. The trick is to go from the initial contact to the second interview and close the deal before the candidate looses interest. That’s called trusting your gut. Don’t just trust your gut. Trust, but verify. A professionally conducted background report should generally clear in 72 hours.

Today’s job market is filled with people who will say anything to get their foot in the door, and while we might admire their initiative, we’ll soon regret their hiring. Some of them are simply crooks who’ve developed a workaround because they know they have something to hide. Think of Frank Abignale, the character played so well by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. He was a MASTER OF ILLUSIONS. We don’t have enough data to publish statistics, but the gut feeling we get here at Informed Decision Background and Information Services Inc., is that the appearance of this MASTER OF ILLUSIONS type of character is definitely on the rise. When you think you’re signing the next Luke Skywalker to boost your company above the stratosphere, the odds of inadvertently bringing aboard a Darth Vader go up dramatically. Fortunately, a simple social security number verification, criminal history, sex offender registry, and verification of a couple of job references will almost always screen out Darth Vader and save the company planet without breaking the bank.

While today’s tough economy means candidates are more likely to have bumps in the financial road, you still want to look at how your prospect can handle money if the candidate’s going to have access to the company’s finances. A pre-employment credit check won’t show you a FICO score, but it will enable you to identify problems like charge offs, bankruptcies, or other indicators you might want to know, without having to dig too deeply into the personal life of your company’s CFO-to-be.

Today we’re seeing is a re-emergence of older workers. It seems like a larger percentage of our pre-employment screening requests are for older candidates.
If you’re hiring for a position where a degree is mandatory, you’ll want to ask the candidate whether the name they’re using now is the same name they were using when they graduated. At Informed Decision Background and Information Services Inc, we verify people’s education and references on a daily basis.

The legal pitfalls of negligent hiring and negligent retention are familiar issues to top HR pros. For small business owners, the game of employee roulette gets played more often. Play at your own risk only if you dare. If you think you’ve got Luke Skywalker the candidate, have him checked out. Here at Informed Decision, our typical client will ask for SSN verification, a criminal history in at least one county, a sex offender registry check, and verification of two references. Throw in driver’s license verification if the job requires operating a vehicle, and educational verification if the job requires a degree, and you’re well on the way to unmasking Darth Vader before he turns the death star on your company.

Finding the right candidate can often be done without posting to a job board at all. Small business owners are adept at networking through friends, chambers of commerce, trade association meetings, and other people in the business. Keeping a pulse on the community can be a great start to hiring the next Luke Skywalker. Trust your gut, act decisively, but verify before you make the final decision. And oh, by the way, make sure Luke fills out those Application for Employment, and Consent for Background Investigation forms completely before he gets his chance to save the company planet.