Defensive driving instructors will tell you that 60% of all serious traffic accidents are avoidable. Why? Although we may not have driven recklessly ourselves, we may have failed to recognize the signs of impending hazard and to take evasive action.
Similarly, we can avoid the anguish and civil liability associated with hiring violent or dishonest offenders by remaining alert to the signals of applicant fraud and by following preventive screening methods. Today, preventive screening methods are even more important due to the threat of terrorism and the risk of injury from copycat criminals.
Lesson 1: Application Omissions
Minor omissions on a candidate’s employment application may be innocent. But, if an employment application leaves you with an incomplete picture of a candidate’s background, this may be just what the applicant intended to do. Applicants with prior histories of violent or dishonest behavior will not go out of their way to provide you with the information you need to contact those who may prevent them from obtaining employment.
Take a few minutes to review each employment application for completeness while the applicant is still there. If there are any omissions, have the applicant provide the information on the spot. Later, during the employment interview, check for inconsistencies between the written application and the candidate’s verbal account of their work history. Dishonest applicants may have difficulty recalling the fabrications they made. A pattern of omissions in the following areas of the employment application may signal trouble: the criminal conviction question; reasons for leaving previous employers; addresses and telephone numbers of former employers; dates of employment; and, names of former immediate supervisors.
Lesson 2: Verify Previous Employment
Even if you are certain that the previous employer will verify nothing other than dates of employment, it is important to make the call. In most cases, dates of employment are all that you will need to detect applicant dishonesty. Even though the applicant may have accurately described their job title, duties and salary, dates of employment may have been manipulated in order to obscure other employment.
Lesson 3: Avoid Fraudulent Personnel Reference Schemes
Fraudulent personnel reference schemes are common but may be tricky to detect. For a fee, operators of these lucrative scams provide the applicant with a telephone number to use as a business reference on his/her application. These con artists will generally answer the phone by saying “personnel” or “may I help you” – very common responses. The numbers will typically be direct, with no company operator or switchboard involved, and will be answered promptly. These professionals won’t provide you with information, but will be happy to verify information you provide to them from the employment application.
Never tell the person who answers the phone the name of the company you believed you were calling. Do not say, for example, “is this the ABC Company”. Instead, say, “I’m sorry, what company have I reached”. If you have reached a scam operator, the response you will likely hear is “click”. Another quick way to detect a reference scam is to give false information from the application to see if he/she verifies it.
Lesson 4: Beware of Uncheckable References
Dishonest applicants may list one or more uncheckable sources as references on the employment application. These sources often take the form of small independently owned establishments that “went out of business”, or whose “owner retired”, or “passed away”. Dishonest applicants may list uncheckable references on an application to avoid revealing a real job from which they were fired, or to obscure jail time. Company names may be fabricated altogether, or may have operated at one time. Be cautious, and take extra care to look into the alleged business.
Lesson 5: Examine I-9 Documents Carefully
Falsified documents may be difficult to detect. Producing counterfeit documents and stealing legitimate documents for alteration is big business. Following are some suggestions for processing I-9 employment documentation:
· Know and follow INS regulations for verifying employment eligibility. Legal requirements and sample documents may be downloaded through the INS Web-site at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/
. If you need further support call your local INS office or the INS National Customer Service Center at 202-514-2000
· Determine whether the information on the document pertains to the individual presenting the document (if the person appears to be 18 and the identification says 40, there is a problem; if a man presents the document with a woman’s picture, there is also a problem). Look for discrepancies between the information depicted on the documents and the information provided on the employment application.
· Look for alterations as evidenced by erasures, photograph substitutions, etc. Official documents are never altered, they are replaced.
· Check to be sure the document is squarely cut.
· Determine that the printing and engraving is parallel with the edges of the document in addition to being sharp, clear, and unbroken.
· Verify Social Security Number information through the Social Security Administration after the employee has begun work. If the name and date of birth provided by the employee does not match the Social Security Administration records, a problem most likely exists.
Lesson 6: Conduct A Due-diligence Criminal Background Check
Criminal history checks are a critical part of the employment process. Countless civil suits are filed each day alleging negligence in the hiring process. A significant portion of these suits stem from faulty criminal background check procedures. Consider the irreparable harm that may occur to a child who comes into contact with an employee who has a serious criminal offense in their past. To be sure your record check process is effective and able to withstand legal scrutiny, consider the following:
· Conduct criminal background checks on every person that you hire, not just on some. Screen volunteers the same way that you screen employees who appear on your payroll.
· Be certain that outside contractors and vendors use due-diligence screening methods to check the backgrounds of their employees who have contact with children and who make frequent campus visits. Adopt a policy that prohibits vendors and contractors from supplying workers that have convictions for violent or sexual offenses. Communicate this policy to your outside vendors and contractors.
· Conduct criminal record checks in all places the applicant has lived and worked, including out of state venues. To help verify the information the applicant has provided and to determine where criminal record checks must be done, have your background screening service provider run a “social security number trace”. This is the best way to detect application falsification and to confirm the correct venues to check.
· Consider using real courthouse searches rather than “database” searches. Courthouse searches provide the most accurate information because you are searching the original record source. Some private companies purchase public record information from counties and states for re-sale to employers and may only update periodically. These types of searches may provide the employer with incomplete record information, or may not detect the record at all. Some state governments have “repositories” that contain criminal records obtained from direct on-line connections with counties, or that have stringent reporting guidelines. Repositories of this nature are an acceptable source of employment screening information. Other states offer searches through databases that do not require local governments to report upward, or that have loose guidelines in place to govern the reporting process. These are not true “repositories” and should not be relied upon as a sole source for employment screening information.
· Adopt a policy that requires current employees to report any criminal conviction they may receive.
The employment screening process is an important part of your student safety program. It touches every part of your operation, including the quality of the education you provide and your district’s public image. To be sure your districts screening procedures are sound, have a consultant experienced in educational security services assess them for you. Most will not charge for this type of review .
Bill Dolphin is a veteran security consultant with Texas based, Asset Control Inc., and co-developer of ChooseToCare.com, an innovative Web-based student / faculty tip-line program. Please address questions or comments about this article to firstname.lastname@example.org