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The US Department of Labor offers the following statistics:

  1. 53% of all job applications contain inaccurate information.
  2. 49% of the 3,100 hiring managers surveyed had caught a job applicant fabricating some part of his/her resume.
  3. 34% of all application forms contain outright lies about experience, education, and ability to perform essential functions on the job.
  4. 9% of job applicants falsely claimed they had a college degree, listed false employers, or identified jobs that didn”t exist.
  5. 11% of job applicants misrepresented why they left a former employer.

Employers can take the biggest hit when by hiring the wrong person.  The US Department of Labor adds that negligent hiring has had verdicts costing up to $40 million, with the average settlement is nearly $1 million. Moreover, employers lose more than 79% of those cases. Those statistics are reason enough to check carefully. What we will look at here are five things that even if you don’t check anything else, these are essential to finding the “best” applicant for the job or rental.

Verify Everything It can be easier than you think.  One thing you will want to do is verify using the applicant’s Social Security Number through a “Social Search” through a screening company.  That report shows every address ever associated with that Social Security Number.  It may also show some interesting information about where your applicant has lived.  Just imagine the fun you could have if the report shows your applicant living in the last few years at an address not listed on the application. One interesting item this report can show is if more than one person is using the Social Security Number. More than one person cannot legitimately have the same number.  If it were possible to give the same number to more than one person, how could each of those people pay taxes?  How could each of those people collect Social Security at retirement?  How could each of those people have his or her own credit report? More interesting things about the Social Search is that it verifies that the Social Security Number is within the valid range, shows any other names the owner of the number has used, shows the date and state where the number was issued, and may provide names of previous employers. Zip Reports offers a Social Search as part of its screening package.

Don’t Rent to a Criminal The US Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that there are 6.94 million people on supervised probation and parole. Plus 700,000 felons are released from federal and state prisons every year. Those people will be looking for work and places to live. Criminal background searches find them out. A few years ago, in an example of a negligent hiring suit, a jury awarded a $12 million verdict against an apartment complex for wrongful death in the murder of Sharon Santos.  It seems that the Scott Villa Apartments and Francis Property Management had hired a convicted felon and registered sex offender who murdered Ms. Santos. According to the Burbank Leader newspaper, neither the Apartments nor the property management company had done a background check because it would have been “a paperwork nightmare.” Huh? A background check would have been a paperwork nightmare? It’s difficult to see how that might be since screening companies do them daily.

Credit Report For some jobs and rentals, good credit may not be all that important, and so no basis for rejecting  for bad, or less-than-ideal credit. Even so, a credit report offers some other interesting revelations.  First, it lists previous employers and addresses.  You most likely will get some of the same information from a Social Search, but a credit report also lists bankruptcies, judgments, possibly evictions and garnishments. Sometimes applicants “forget” to include those items on an application, especially evictions and garnishments.  People who are evicted often show a pattern of being booted from apartments.  People who have wages garnished can end up a paperwork irritation for employers.

Driving Record

Even if an employee isn’t going to be driving for work, a DMV Report could be beneficial.  Has this person been convicted of a DUI?  Has he or she been convicted of reckless driving?  Has he or she had his or her driver’s license suspended or revoked? Each of those issues might preview other potential problems that could affect your bottom line.  In addition, if the applicant has a suspended or revoked license, how will he or she get to work? Someone with a DUI might have a drinking problem that could end up with an employee showing up either drunk or severely hung over, or not showing up at all.  If he or she shows up drunk, you, of course, can probably fire him or her immediately. A drunk employee invites a negligent hiring suit. Just so with a hung over employee.  He or she will not be performing at the top of the performance ladder.  And hung over people are also prone to accidents and workman’s comp claims for employers.

Past Employers Usually employers won’t tell you much if you call for employment verification.  You will get length of time on the job and maybe salary, but not much about why your applicant left that job, especially from larger companies.  With smaller employers, sometimes you get more complete information.  If the employee left under less than exemplary circumstances, even if the owner knows the law, you might get something like, “you didn’t hear it from me, but. . .” Regardless of how much information you expect to get from a previous employer, just verifying the length of employment and salary may give you some insight into a work record and the truthfulness of the job application.

 One more important thing Before you take your first application (or your next), establish a written policy that says who will be screened, what will be checked, and how you will evaluate that information.  That may protect you against claims of illegal discrimination but also make sure you remember to do everything you need to do.  Run it by your attorney, too. Extreme care in hiring is more important than ever in this increasingly litigious society.  Good customer relations are all important to the success of any business, and those relations can take an immediate downward turn because of just one bad employee.  That’s not to mention the average $1 million judgment for negligent hiring.

By Robert L. Cain

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