Screen In the Best, Screen Out the Rest

Just as you should consistently ask applicants questions that get you all the information needed, so should you question yourself every time you consider hiring a new employee.

By Mel Kleiman, Contributing Editor.

One of the fastest growing classes of lawsuits today are employment law filings. In addition to discrimination and wage/hour actions, we’re seeing an increase in negligent hiring and negligent retention cases.

Negligent hiring is when an employer either fails to conduct a due diligence screening and reference check before making an offer of employment or when the employer does check references and hires the applicant in spite of having found adverse information. Negligent retention is when adverse information is ignored when it comes to light after the person has been hired.

These lawsuits can be filed by present, past or potential employees as well as by customers and the general public should you fail to meet your legal obligations as an employer, or if one of your employees causes harm.

While these risks aren’t new, today’s unemployment scenario and economic uncertainties have upped the ante. Not so long ago, the job interview was analogous to a dating game where both parties were trying to answer the question, “Are we a good match?”

Today, employers nationwide, including convenience store retailers, find themselves in the midst of both a war for talent and a war for jobs, and the hiring process has turned into a contest of adversaries in which desperate people do desperate things.

The war for talent has been caused, in part, by the fact that no matter how many people are in the labor pool, there are never enough A players and because most A players, both hourly and salaried, are unwilling to consider looking for a new employer or accept an unsolicited job offer until the economy stabilizes.

No rules have been left unbroken in the war for jobs either. On this front, the only job the applicants have is to ace the interview while the hiring manager has countless responsibilities, most of which are Priority No. 1. Therefore, the job seekers are better at interviewing than the interviewers. On top of this, many applicants today see no harm in either sins of omission or commission during the hiring process.

Minimize Risk, Maximize Results
The good news is it takes neither a lot of time, money nor manpower for an employer of any size to conduct effective screens and protect themselves against these risks. The secret is to use tools instead of the hiring manager’s time.

There are only two sources of information about an applicant: the applicant and everyone who knows anything about the applicant. And, there are only two ways to collect information about the applicant: directly (verbally) and indirectly (on paper via computer, Facebook, etc.).

Use Tools, Not Time
The more information you collect indirectly—using the applicant’s information or provider’s time rather than your own—the more information you’ll have on which to base a sound hiring decision.

Here are six tips for finding crucial background information on prospective employees.

1 Employment Application Blank: This tool, whether electronic or hard copy, is your first line of defense. It should collect all the data needed to determine if the person is a viable candidate and clearly spell out the fact that any misrepresentations on the form are grounds for immediate dismissal. It should also include all the waivers, disclaimers, and hold harmless statements needed to protect the employer while verifying the data. Completed application blanks are legal documents that must be kept on file for a minimum of two years or as long as your particular state or legal jurisdiction mandates. Once that time requirement is met, it is in your best interest to discard them in order to minimize your legal exposure should former employees or applicants later decide to sue.

2 Consent Forms: These include the applicant’s signed permissions for the employer to check references, conduct a credit check, execute a criminal background investigation, drug test, etc. Having these permissions signed up front with the employment application deters the unsuitable from proceeding, thereby saving you untold time and money. One convenience store chain tells applicants to go to the courthouse and pull their criminal background record and that they will reimburse them when they bring it back. Not everyone returns. Whether you get permission to conduct a pre-employment drug test or not, if your offer of employment is accepted, you need to secure the applicant’s consent to drug testing “for cause” since 30% of the accidents in the c-store industry are related to the use of illegal substances.

3 Telephone Pre-Screen: Next, you can minimize your legal exposure by calling qualified applicants to ensure they meet your minimum hiring requirements for things like wages, hours and reliable transportation, and that they have the necessary verbal communications skills.

4 Pre-employment Testing: Before you spend any time in an interview, test to ensure you’ll actually get what you need. Have applicants demonstrate or tell you how they would go about doing the important tasks they would be responsible for. There are also many well-designed, validated, inexpensive pre-employment tests available from any number of vendors.

5 The Interview: Essential here are the needs to establish control and position the applicant to tell you the truth. The wrong way to begin is to explain all about the job and the company. That just sets the applicant up to simply feed back what you’ve already said you need when you ask about the person’s skills and abilities. Instead, describe the position and company briefly. Then tell the applicant you will gather information by asking a number of questions and only after that will you answer any questions the applicant has. Should the applicant interrupt anyway, remind them that you’ll answer questions later.

Positioning applicants to tell you the truth is next. Just say something like, “I’m going to be honest with you about the job and the company and I hope you’ll be honest with me. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been fired or had a difficult boss. As long as you tell me about it, we can take it under consideration. But, if you don’t tell me and we find out when we do the background check, I can’t hire you.”

6 Reference Verification: Even though most employers will not do any more than verify dates of employment, position and salary, you must make these calls and document the fact that you tried. These records could make all the difference if a negligent hiring case is filed.

The most important—and risk-laden—decision convenience store managers make every day is who they allow in the doors to help build the business. Minimize your risk and maximize results by using tools, not time, for employee selection.

 

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