Hiring Good Help The Ins-and-Outs of Good Hiring Practices

Hiring Good Help

Think about this—nearly two million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year and, in the United States, fraud committed by employees cost companies approximately $20 billion annually. Workplace theft tops out at more than $120 billion annually.

Property managers hired by condo boards and HOAs have a duty to provide the best people for the job, but with staggering statistics such as these, it’s crucial that anyone hired by a residential community 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. But be careful, studies show that roughly 30% of applications already contain false information.

According to the HireRight Benchmarking Report (hireright.com), a survey of nearly 1,800 human resources, talent management, recruiting, security, safety and other professionals from organizations of all sizes, 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 history, credit checks and, even a peek into their Facebook page.

“But before we even go down the road to drilling for more detail, we need to see if the applicant is qualified to do the job first,” says Dan Wurtzel, the president of Cooper Square Realty, a New York City-based property management company that handles buildings in Jersey City, Guttenberg, Fort Lee and Union City. “So our initial screening of the applicant is their employment history.”

Your First Impression

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.

Listen carefully to what’s being said when you call. “When calling for a reference, if you only hear “I can (only) verify that they worked here during these dates, that might be a red flag,” says Margie Russell, executive director of the New York Association of Realty Managers (NYARM).

Before you even start on a background check, ask for written permission. “We have what we call the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Before we do any background checks we must have a signed release from the potential hire,” says Annie Gonzales, a human resources officer with RCP Management Company in Monroe. “The standard checks are credit history, criminal history and for those with company vehicles we provide a driving history.”

Once you start that check, know what you’re looking for and where to ask for more information. For example, if your candidate has skipped years of employment, ask them why. Maybe they went back to school, decided to travel or some other explainable reason. Or you may find out that they were incarcerated and you’ll need further clarification or information.

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 that companies are compliant with federal Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, a document that verifies individuals who are authorized to work in the United States, and which must be completed for every hire after November 6, 1986.

Criminal Checks

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 failed to do a criminal check that showed 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.

For example, Mamco Property Management in Mount Laurel, uses a private investigation firm to complete background checks on prospective employees, says Community Manager Tracy Franklin.

“You have to look at everybody on a case by case basis,” says Franklin. “What were the circumstances? How long ago was it? Was it a youthful indiscretion? Those are the things you have to look for. If it wasn’t a felony that is huge.”

Whether or not you should hire someone with a criminal past also depends on what the position is. “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 Wurtzel.

Credit Checks

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. “A credit check, including the credit score, gives us a flavor of where the applicant is financially and if they have any liens or judgments against them,” says Wurtzel. “Again, it doesn’t mean they are disqualified, but this will require further questioning. We want to understand everything we can about an individual before we decide to offer them a job.”

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

Drug testing—a test of either urine, sweat, blood or hair—determines if the applicant has recently been using illegal substances. This can be a part of a successful employee background check. “The drug test typically comes at the end before they are offered the job and we can disqualify a candidate if they fail that test,” says Wurtzel.

RCP Management Company doesn’t do drug testing but instead promotes a drug-free workplace that prohibits the use of alcohol and drugs.

Social Media

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.

An amendment is underfoot to prohibit employers from demanding that job applicants turn over their Facebook user names and passwords. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, says the practice is similar to asking for your house keys—it’s wrong and employers shouldn’t be allowed to do it.

In New Jersey, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-3, has filed a measure that takes a wider approach to the trend. It prohibits all employers “from requiring a current or prospective employee to provide or disclose any user name, password or other means for accessing a personal account or service through an electronic communications device.”

Don’t Ask 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 some legal hot water. For example, you can’t ask about race or color. You can ask for their date of birth, but can’t ask them their age. Be careful.

“Whatever is on a criminal report/credit report is a public record and it’s okay to find out more information,” says Wurtzel.

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. Cooper Square Realty has a learning center that instructs and trains new employees on the aspects of their job.

“Whenever possible, if it is a building staffed with [unionized] employees, encourage the staff to take seminars and course work geared toward the human interaction side of their job,” says Russell. “The building can also insist that classes are taken or they can be brought to the management company or building if 10 or more union members join in.”

But what happens if it’s not the employees that are conducting suspicious activities, but it’s the residents. Wurtzel says that employees are trained to handle a variety of situations that arise. “If, at any point, a building employee feels a crime being committed, they are to call the police,” says Wurtzel. “Take the guesswork out of what the employee is to do by having the job description cover as many possibilities that can occur at the building. For example what happens if you’re a doorman and you’re the only person at the door, but you have to use the bathroom at 2 a.m.? There should be a procedure for that. The same for when you see someone hanging out in front of the building that looks suspicious.”

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 New Jersey Cooperator. Staff Writer Christy Smith-Sloman contributed to this article.

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