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Screening for the top.


TOP MANAGEMENT IN MANY companies is realizing that a business is only as good as its employees, and hiring right is a company's first and best defense against business abuses and potential disaster. Consider Exxon Corporation, whose critics charge it should have screened a certain ship captain before allowing him to operate an oil tanker in such a vulnerable position in Alaskan waters. Employee screening has become imperative for such high-level positions, especially with a company's profits and reputation hanging in the balance.

The Exxon case may be an extreme example, but there are many other reasons why companies are growing more concerned about prospective employees' backgrounds. Annually, billions of dollars in losses can be attributed to a variety of personnel problems, including drug abuse, theft, and embezzlement, as well as immeasurable losses in productivity.

A job application alone is often inadequate to judge an individual's ability and integrity. Trained professionals and professionally designed screening programs are the best ways to elicit the truth about potential employees.

The first step is a well-designed employment application specifically for professionals and management, adhering to labor regulations and providing the information necessary to conduct a thorough background investigation. Employers should review their application forms every six months and make revisions to incorporate new laws and company policies or procedures.

A completed application can reflect an individual's ability and integrity. However, what you see is not always what you get. Many applications and resumes are full of misrepresentations. A thorough background investigation is recommended for all applicants for sensitive company positions.

The key to all successful preemployment screening and background checks is developing a program that is most appropriate for the level of employee. A program designed for upper-level positions, such as CFOs, CEOs, VPs, and other senior managers, should be more intensive than a program designed for lower-level employees. Although the application process may be the same for both, a more thorough background check should be conducted for upper levels, including a 10-year employment retrospective as opposed to a five-year background check for lower-levels. A complete field investigation is also necessary.

The field investigation may include a civil court records check, an investigation of criminal background, research into property and business ownership, an interview of neighbors to determine an applicant's character, and a check with state licensing boards. An in-person security interview should also be conducted with each applicant so the investigator can make a personal judgment about him or her. This interview also lets the applicant know the employer is security conscious and goes to great lengths to protect the company.

Whether a company performs its own preemployment screening or contracts to have it done by an outside firm, following a few essential steps will help ensure a successful hire.

First, the employment application should be filled out completely and thoroughly and contain the following:

* the applicant's social security number and any other names used (maiden, nicknames, aliases)

* complete start and end dates for residential, educational, and employment information, with an explanation for any gaps

* complete address and telephone numbers of residential, educational, and employment references

* at least two references conforming to company policies regarding personal references

* a signature on the application and any related waivers or releases

Second, if a personal interview is conducted, the applicant should be reviewed and any discrepancies discussed with the applicant. The position should be explained clearly to the applicant. The applicant's appearance, actions, and reactions should be noted.

Third, employees should be assessed in terms of their suitability, reliability, and trustworthiness to ensure the safety and security of the company's property and employees. Interviews of an applicant's previous employers and neighbors as well as an investigation of the applicant's financial standing can reveal the necessary information.

Fourth, each hiring manager should ensure that final candidates for employment properly and completely execute all necessary materials, including a complete, signed application authorizing credit and background checks and releasing all parties obtaining and supplying information from liability. Once all forms have been reviewed and found to be satisfactory, precluding a need for a more thorough investigation, then a decision can be made.

Fifth, if the position in particularly sensitive, hire a professional to investigate and screen the applicant to minimize the potential for a negligent-hiring lawsuit.

The steps outlined here give the basics of screening for high-level positions. Companies that take the proper precautions when hiring for those positions can avert potential disaster.

Alan T. Sklar is president of Creative Services Inc., an investigative, security consulting, and employee screening firm in Mansfield, MA. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Preemployment Screening
Author:Sklar, Alan T.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Previous Article:More than a gut feeling.
Next Article:Prescreening priorities.

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