Think about this: according to the United States Department of Labor, each year nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence. Fraud committed by employees cost American companies approximately $20 billion annually, and workplace theft tops out at more than $120 billion.
Property managers have a duty to provide the best people for the job, but disquieting statistics such as these highlight how crucial it is for anyone hired by a residential building to be reliable, trustworthy and dependable. This means that applicants need to go through a rigorous screening process to weed out candidates with records of terminations, disciplinary action, or criminal history. Hiring good people is more than just checking boxes and doing cursory interviews; some studies have shown that up to 30 percent of applications already contain false information.
According to the HireRight Benchmarking Report, a survey of nearly 1,800 human resources, talent management, recruiting, security, safety and other professionals published by HireRight, a professional screening firm based in Irvine, California, most employers require screening in order to maintain compliance with employment laws and regulations, improve the quality of hires, protect their organizations from theft and fraud and reduce employee turnover and workplace violence. These background checks can range from Social Security number verification to employee's work and educational history, credit checks and, a sometimes even a peek at their Facebook page.
Before you even start on a background check however, ask for written permission. Even if you make a contingent offer of employment, the company can still consider the candidate pending the favorable results of background and reference checks.
A resume is a first impression of who your applicant is and can say a lot both positively and negatively. What are you looking for? Job stability. Do they stay at their jobs or hop from job to job? For schooling, call any schools listed as well as previous employers to confirm the applicant attended those schools and worked at those businesses. A former boss can tell a caller anything about the performance of the applicant, although most employers have a policy to only confirm dates of employment and final salary.
The Next Step
While a resume may give a first glimpse of the applicant's work history and skills, clearly it's not the complete picture; it is the interview that speaks a thousand words.
“Behavior-based interview questions can be used for both phone and face-to-face discussions,” says Jill Dunn, director of human resources and administration at Wolin-Levin Property Management in Chicago. “These questions give insight to how a person may react in a certain situation and allows companies to better understand a person before hiring—and for positions which require a technical background, those questions are also asked to ensure the candidate has the appropriate skill sets to be successful in the role.”
In addition to these questions, some hiring pros get a bit more personal.
“Obviously, the purpose of the interview is to discuss the applicant’s qualifications for the job,” says Michael E. Rutkowski, AMS, CMCA, principal at First Properties, LLC in Chicago. “However, I do like to get a feel for the personal side of the employee to help gauge if they will fit in with other staff, board members, and homeowners.” He says he often asks about hobbies or extracurricular activities that candidates are interested in.
It is important to remember that there are questions you simply cannot ask an applicant during an interview because the questions may be considered discriminatory and can land you in legal hot water. You can ask for their date of birth, but can’t ask them their age. For example, you can’t ask about race, color, religion or familial status such as “Do you have any kids?” or “Are you planning on starting a family?” says Rutkowski.
Background & Criminal Checks
John Reese, senior director of marketing at HireRight in Irvine, California says that his professional screening company comes in when the final candidate has been chosen for the job and the management company is doing their due diligence. HireRight provides 150 background screening services, which are dependent on the employer and the position being filled.
“If you’re serving the elderly or children, you might apply one set of background searches than you would for a different position,” says Reese. “We also make sure our clients’ policies are in compliance with any national guidelines about what they can and cannot do.”
For example, employers must verify the identity and employment authorization of each person they hire. Reese makes sure the companies are in compliant with a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, which certifies that an individual is authorized to work in the United States and must be completed for every hire after November 6, 1986.
Criminal checks are vital. Just imagine hiring a super who enters a business after hours and assaults a young woman working overtime and it’s uncovered later that you didn’t do the criminal check which would have shown they had prior arrests. The liability is huge. Criminal checks—including restraining orders for domestic abuse, civil cases for violent incidents and military, federal and court records—can be completed online or by professional security companies.
That being said, not every blip on a person's criminal history is grounds for throwing out their application. Whether or not you should hire someone with a criminal past depends a great deal on what their offense was, and what position they're applying for. “In an extreme example, if they were a convicted sex offender or convicted of breaking into a home, it’s obviously not a good idea to hire them as a doorman,” says one manager. On the other hand, throwing out an otherwise qualified applicant because of a single 20-year-old misdemeanor might rob your community of a potentially great employee. Ultimately, it's best to confer with colleagues—and possibly your community's legal counsel—and determine your level of comfort with the facts presented.
“Depending on the type of charge, the job being hired for, and the age of the record it could impact the outcome of the contingent offer to the candidate,” explains Dunn. “Age of the charge should be taken into consideration.”
Credit Checks, Drug Tests & Social Media
Bad credit? Find out why. Perhaps a divorce or medical issues? If your applicant has no credit, it might be a red flag to a bigger problem. In many states, there are specific requirements for how organizations can use credit checks for employment purposes. At a federal level, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) outlines rules for organizations about how they conduct credit checks for employment purposes.
For example, according to the act, under a background check performed by an outside company, items that cannot be reported for positions under $75,000 per year include bankruptcies after 10 years, civil suits, civil judgments, and records of arrest from date of entry, after seven years, paid tax liens after seven years; accounts placed for collection after seven years; and any other negative information (except criminal convictions) after seven years.
Drug tests are a test of either urine, sweat, blood, or hair to determine if the applicant has recently been using illegal substances. This can be a part of a successful employee background check. “Drug tests are a common request to complete the application process. It is still common to do random drug testing as an employer to the employee population, to ensure a safe working environment,” says Dunn.
Some employers are now surfing the net and checking Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other accounts to get an idea of possible new hires’ hobbies, personal lives and former reemployment and schooling. According to HireRight’s survey, 56% use or are planning to use social media during outsourcing and recruiting, while few (11%) report using it in background checks.
If an applicant has great references, a strong work history, and relevant skills, yet has a Facebook photo page full of drunken debauchery and profanity-laced status updates, it might be well worth an employer's time to follow up and ask some pointed questions.
Dunn suggests that when hiring, social media can be used to supplement the screening process, but it should not be the deciding factor. “Companies have jumped on the bandwagon not only to market their services and products, they now recruit from these sources as well. These, like any other tools, should not solely be considered when researching for candidates or screening efforts,” she says.
Once you’ve hired a new employee, it’s important to keep them trained and up-to-date on the policies and procedures of the building and of their job.
“Employees are encouraged to attend seminars and additional training to further their understanding/knowledge base for both themselves and our clients. Training can be paid for by either the employer or the client. If a union employee, typically it is the union that is delivering the training to ensure that members get all the right and relevant information,” explains Dunn.
“We offer continuous training/education through our Lunch and Learn programs, our online virtual FSR School, and internal training program. In addition the company supports our employees with recognizing that trade shows and external seminars offer valuable resources for employees to continue to expand their knowledge and stay current with industry trends and regulations.”
HireRight suggests that you commit to an effective screening program. “Every new hire represents not only a possible liability to an organization in terms of risks of workplace violence, employee theft and turnover, but also a potential advantage,” says Reese.
For more information on professional screeners, visit The National Association of Professional Background Screeners, www.napbs.com.
Lisa Iannucci is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The Chicagoland Cooperator. Editorial Assistant Maggie Puniewska contributed to this article.