Interviewing Applicants

A background investigation is not complete, and an organization is placed at risk without an interview conducted by a skilled interviewer. Many gaps can occur if we rely on solely on drug testing, a credit check, a criminal check and interviewing friends and past employers. A credit check will not account for personal loans and all indebtedness; criminal background checks may be the most lacking since having no criminal record does not mean the applicant hasn’t committed serious crimes or that convictions made it into the FBI reporting system.

Drug testing is reliable but some drugs such as cocaine disappear from the system quickly and may not be detected and there are ways to circumvent these tests. As for employer checks, it is well known that most employers are hesitant to report negative results and how many friends will give another friend a poor reference?

In order for the interview to yield results and be effective, the interviewer must be well trained in interviewing. Being a former law enforcement officer does not mean that one will be an effective interviewer unless they have worked as a detective, having both experience and interview training. Also, working in human resources does not mean that one is a skilled interviewer, again, without having both experience and interview training.

I recall a 20-year Area HR Manager interviewing an applicant who was a former police officer for a driver position in the armored car business. The manager walked into my office and said, “I am ready to make a conditional offer” which simply means that if the applicant passes all the other tests, he would be hired. I said, “I just wanted a few minutes with him” which I often did as a double check. Long story short, the applicant provided a glowering written-reference from his Chief, but during the interview, I noticed several non-verbal cues indicative of deception that caused me to ask probing questions which resulted in learning that he had been terminated for having sex in the station while working. Although the senior HR manager was an experienced manager, she had no formal training in interviewing while I had attended six interview and interrogation courses from John Reid & Associates and had interviewed and interrogated hundreds of people while working in both law enforcement and the private sector.

Another caveat, never shorten or forego the background check because someone retired from law enforcement, military or any career and is now looking for a second or part-time career. I can share several stories where this has proven detrimental, one being a Command Sergeant Major and another a State Police Officer both whom were terminated shortly after being hired, thankfully before any damage resulted.

During my 45 years working with military and law enforcement, I have found that although most are great people and many end up being good hires, there are enough lacking in character to warrant concern, if taking short cuts. I have known bad citizens who become good citizens and good citizens who have become bad citizens. Why does a man or woman who have been married 30 years and productive members of society turn to drugs or infidelity leading to other crimes? I am not sure why this happens, but we all know it does happen. So, although the adage that past behavior may be an indication of future behavior, we cannot rely on this to hold true, especially in high risk jobs, such as those that I have worked, these past 40 years.