Magazine

Seven Steps To Better Hiring

By James W. Bassett

The best way to handle employee theft problems, says James W. Bassett, is to identify dishonest job applicants before they are hired. In a two-part article, he outlines a seven-step approach to how thorough applicant screening prevents personnel headaches and increases profits. - Editor

Aaron Holt, owner of Secure Parking Systems, had a problem. Garage #3 had come up with three months of diminishing revenues. Someone was manipulating his vehicle counters and pocketing the money. Conventional methods of investigation had failed to find the cause.
Mr. Holt decided to have all 12 of his employees at garage #3 complete theft investigative questionnaires. Once completed, the questionnaires were mailed away for analysis; it showed the answers identified three employees as strong theft suspects.
The next day, a rumor began to circulate that Mr. Holt was having a theft investigator come to the garage and question all the employees. Mr. Evans reportedly said, "We know who they are and they're going to jail." The following day, none of the three suspects showed up for work. The police eventually talked to them. All denied stealing money, but the thefts suddenly stopped.
With minor script variations, this story is repeated hundreds of times every day in parking facilities throughout the country. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Employee Theft Is Easier to Prevent Than to Solve
The best way to handle employee theft problems is to prevent them from occurring. To do that, identify dishonest applicants before they are hired. To separate the desirables from the undesirables, you need to use several screening tools.
There are two basic sources of information about job applicants: The first is the applicant himself. If you take the right approach, he will divulge much of the information you're looking for. What he tells you about himself may allow you to make him a conditional job offer or reject him immediately. The second is outside sources. These include criminal record checks, driving-record checks, credit reports, drug tests, and work and personal references.

Here are seven steps to help you hire the best candidates.

Step 1: Have Every Applicant Complete a Thorough Employment Application
Use the best employment application you can find. It provides your first look at the applicant - who he is, where he's worked, and much more. Most employment applications are far too brief and fail to ask all the important questions. If you think yours could be improved, obtain a model application from www.TheftStoppper.com. Seventeen other employment-related forms are included.

Step 2: Give a "Carrot and Stick" Speech
Job applicants are more likely to answer your employment application questions truthfully if you tell them why they should. Tell the applicant something like this: "Sally, please fill out this employment application. Take your time. Make sure your answers are true, correct, and complete. They will be checked for accuracy. Be sure to list every job you've held in the past 10 years, including temporary and part-time jobs. And make sure you list the true reasons you left each one. If you have been convicted of any criminal offenses, list them too. We have hired people with criminal records, but only when they told us about them. You don't have to be a perfect person to work here. You didn't see any of our employees with halos over their heads, did you?"
Will this speech magically persuade every applicant to answer every question on the application truthfully? Of course not! But your applicants will give you more truthful answers with this speech than without it.

Step 3: Have the Applicant Take a Pre-Employment "Honesty Test"
Cash-handling businesses attract thieves like honey attracts bees. Some job applicants will apply to work at your company in order to steal your money. A good pre-employment "honesty test" will tell you if the applicant is theft-prone - and much more.
Honesty tests are especially important for assessing the employability of young applicants. They usually have limited work histories, no credit ratings and no adult criminal records. This makes the applicant himself the prime source for information about his employability.
The best pre-employment honesty tests include:
Questions that measure, in three different ways, the applicant's likelihood to steal: by theft admissions, theft attitudes and behavior in hypothetical theft situations.
Questions about other areas predictive of job performance including work attitudes, work history, customer service attitudes, and current alcohol and drug use.
Validity scales to identify those applicants trying to "beat the test" by answering falsely to make themselves look like saints.
A post-test interview worksheet with the test scores and risk levels. The worksheet lists the key questions each applicant answered incorrectly along with suggested follow-up questions. Those will help you help you improve your interviewing skills and make sure you cover all questions that are important for each applicant.

Next -- Part 2, Steps 4-7: The Interview and Background Checks

James W. Bassett, President of the Cincinnati-based James W. Bassett Co., is a small-business consultant on hiring and employee theft. He can be contacted at (513) 421-9604 or www.TheftStopper.com.

Article Abstract from January, 2006




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