This is part 3 of a series of posts on problems with the hiring process - and how to counter them.
Even if a background check finds criminal records, it’s not the Holy Grail. Too many businesses, schools, and sports organizations think that if they find out someone has (or has not) been arrested, then that’s all they need to know.
Last week, the New Jersey school bus driver at the wheel of a fatal head-on accident with a dump truck had 14 previous license suspensions. And while he has a currently valid driver’s license and the appropriate commercial license (and presumably passed a background check), an investigation by a local television station revealed that that since getting his driver's license in 1975, he had a total of 14 suspensions, eight speeding tickets, a careless driving ticket and a ticket for an improper turn in 2010. And all of this information was readily available at the New Jersey Dept. of Motor Vehicles, had anyone thought to look.
He began driving school buses in 2013.
This example demonstrates that it is entirely possible to hire a dangerous employee who does not have a criminal record, or an outstanding employee who does. Criminal record checks are not enough. Many businesses we have worked with have told us, “We would rather take a one-time felon who has been convicted, done their time, gotten out, and is upfront about what they’ve done than somebody who is maniacal, shady, and secretive about their past.” The fact is that trustworthiness cannot be boiled down to criminal convictions.
Consider the examples I gave in the last post in this series, or the example of the school bus driver. In none of those cases did the person have a criminal record. They were guilty of misusing the systems in place, perhaps, but they had not been arrested, tried, convicted, or had their information submitted correctly for it to be accessible.
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On the other hand, many good, qualified, and trustworthy people have been arrested for reasons that should at least be discussed. For example, if someone applying was arrested in their twenties for disorderly conduct at Mardi Gras, you could at least take time to ask: Does that really mean anything? Should that one offense keep that person from having a chance at a job they are highly qualified for if they are also honest about what they did? Yes, they did something stupid and got caught, but you have a choice to have a conversation rather than just write them off.
Keep in mind that people who are prone toward dishonesty but have yet to be caught are often really good at what they do. Trustify had a case that perfectly illustrated this . A law firm had hired a seemingly amazing paralegal. She worked hard, and everyone loved her. She stayed late on weekdays and even came into the office on weekends. One day, she disappeared, along with tens of thousands of dollars.
What that office never knew was that this woman was an incredibly talented and wanted con-artist. She was one of the best. The FBI knew who she was, but the law firm had been fooled by one of her fake stories. She worked late and on weekends to have ample time to falsify invoices and slowly steal money. That was when she was doing all of her dirty work.
In this case, not doing a thorough check hurt everyone – especially the law firm. And that woman is still out there. She could still be stealing from other companies in the same exact way.
All this illustrates the failures of background checks – in all kinds of industries, for all individuals – and the need to screen employees in new, better ways. Sometimes, the result in a financial loss to a company, a job opening that isn’t immediately filled, and in the case in New Jersey, the tragic loss of a teacher and a 10-year old student.
If you want to learn more about our Trust and Safety Checks conducted by licensed investigators, you can do so here.
About Danny Boice:
Danny Boice is the co-founder and CEO of Trustify, the first technology platform linking people to experienced investigators on-demand. Proud father of 5 (plus a dog!) he started Trustify with his wife Jen in 2015 after personally dealing with the difficulties of finding a good investigator in a hurry. Danny’s journey as an entrepreneur and journalist includes founding Speek, a conference call service, as well as serving as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and being featured in the Washington Post, Fast Company, and The Wall Street Journal (to name a few). Danny and Jen believe in the positive power of private investigators and are actively engaged in partnerships with a variety of nonprofits including Becky’s Fund, an organization devoted to helping the victims of domestic violence.
Catch up with Danny Boice's latest writings on Medium.