Danny Boice on Screening People: Ongoing Checks
Welcome back. I'm Danny Boice - Trustify's Co-Founder and CEO. Today, we proceed to the next installment in our series on Trustify's Truth & Trust Lifecycle.
As a business, you need to be aware that screening should be done in a recurring fashion. Facts about a person can change over time, for better or worse. With our own PIs and employees, we perform safety checks before they start working for us, and we also do check-ins. We have found that people change and life situations change. Perhaps an employee started dating somebody new, began to have a drinking problem, or lost a bunch of money gambling. You will need to consider points at which an employee might be more prone toward doing something desperate. Of course, you can’t discriminate against someone just because they have lost money, but knowing that fact could lead you to more important information.
As an employer, you need to be able to piece some of this information together. For example, you might not want credit card information, but it could be useful to have information about any liens or collection activity. In most cases, people sign something that gives permission to companies like ours to pull credit and check them out. We can figure out most of a person’s assets if needed. With this information, you could deduce what a person might owe. This is why knowing where a person is with their mortgage can be very telling.
Our PIs are experts at piecing together this kind of information. For example, they might find that someone is $200,000 upside-down on their mortgage with liens showing up all over the place. They might find that the person was also using a gambling site or get data from an iCloud hack that shows they were texting their mistress. Of course, these cases would be much different than an employee who has a very sick child and is spending everything they have on the child’s medical bills. As an employer, you would need to consider each of these cases individually, but the information is helpful either way.
As this point, you might be wondering about the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You might be asking, “What about a person’s privacy.” It’s a fair question. FCRA compliance is a pivotal topic when it comes to employee screening. A short list of things is simply out of bounds if an employee is not aware you are vetting them. However, you can have prospective employees sign a one page document that allows a thorough check and essentially puts everything in-bounds. What remains off limits helps eliminate discrimination. For example, if a company finds out a person is homosexual or is part of a particular ethnicity, there could be too much potential for discrimination.
Keep in mind that you are only limited by FCRA when you are screening a prospective full-time employee. If you are screening a contractor, you can look up whatever you want.
Five to Ten Closest Contacts
Screening should involve checking the five to ten closest contacts a person has. We place a lot of effort—equal to the effort we place on gaining data from other sources—on finding a person’s five to ten closest family members or friends. The hypothesis behind our focus here is simple: we believe you are a sum of the people with whom you spend the most time. If you don’t have five to ten close relationships, that is telling in and of itself.
The way we get this information is through public records that show various phone numbers and addresses a person has had over the past years. That information is easier to pull than you might think. We then cross-reference the information. We check to see who is connected to the shared number or address. If a person has shared either of these with someone for an extended time, that someone is likely a close friend or family member.
We might also be able to discover a person’s five to ten closest contacts through social media alone. Getting information about immediate family members—parents and siblings—is extremely simple. If we see a person tweeting or exchanging Facebook messages with the same set of people, and especially if there is real life linkage like having gone to the same college, that tells us two people are more than just Facebook friends. In some cases, when we have to dig deeper into social media, we might have a PI make a Facebook profile that looks completely legitimate and send a friend request. Most people are too quick to accept people as friends, and the PI will have immediate access to a whole new set of information.
We run the same deep check, with all our data sources, on these five to ten people. We can quickly score these people to find out if they are a bunch of fraudsters or are likely felons. With this information, we get a good picture of who the person is that we are screening. People who are not criminals rarely spend a lot of time with people who are.
If you’re still skeptical that using information from social media can be legitimate for the job-seeking world, let me present some research. Research has shown that social media gives a better indicator of who a person is than trying to find a red herring of a criminal record in a specific county. For us, the story about the nanny with the SemenDemon Twitter handle was nothing new; that’s barely moving the needle in our work. People reveal more than you might imagine via social media.
Using information from social media can also give you a quick, honest view into a person’s life that you would never get otherwise. We can quickly spot, for example, when a person uses language that is related to racism, drugs, or misogyny using social media. Whether you are a small or large business, you know that culture is a big deal. When you are hiring, you have to look at a person’s abilities and skills, but you should equally consider their cultural fit. Information gleaned through social media can help you do that right from the start.
In our company, we value the fact that we have 40 percent minorities in our workforce and that 70 percent of our workforce is female. Instead of beer pong tables, we have a room for nursing mothers. Culture is huge for us. If a prospective employee posts something on social media that even comes close to anti-minority or anti-female, it’s a deal-breaker. It goes against everything we do.
You gain a lot of insight with a thorough check. You can get a sense of person’s life views and personality, which can keep you from a lot of heartache later down the road.
Again, screening is just the beginning of the lifecycle, but we’ve spent a lot of time on it here because it’s an essential checkpoint. If you skip over this, you will have more issues later. Embedded within the screening checkpoint is the task of checking references. We’ll consider that part of the process in the next chapter.