People who appreciate the flexibility of temporary employment are often drawn to working for a staffing agency. These people typically have nothing to hide and are honest on their application and resume. However, it can be a different story when someone is trying to hide a history of chronic job-hopping or has lost their job and is desperate to find a new one. That is why you can never take anyone's application materials at face value. There is simply too much to lose if you don't do a proper job screening a worker before sending him or her out on an assignment. Not only does your agency lose money, improper screening of employees can also permanently damage its reputation.
According to Hire Right, a trade organization for the Human Resources industry, the following lies and omissions appear with the most regularity on applications and resumes:
Unfortunately, the ease of finding out information on the Internet has not deterred applicants for temporary jobs from lying about their credentials. Based on a conservative industry estimate,the number of people who lie on their resume could be as high as 46 percent. When you consider that is almost half of all people who apply to your agency, you should have no qualms about spending time and resources making sure that you only hire honest workers.
When you are trying to weed out dishonest applicants, start by verifying the most obvious information first. Place a call to former employers to see if the dates of employment match what the applicant listed. While a minor discrepancy doesn't necessarily mean that the applicant was purposely dishonest, explain that the dates don't match and listen to his or her side of the story. It could be that the person meant to write one month or year and wrote another. You will have to make your own judgment call in this situation. Information that the applicant lists about college degrees or other formal credentials will also need to be verified.
Some business owners are so afraid of being sued that they forbid managers from giving out references on former employees. Others are only willing to offer simple yes or no questions. If you find a former employer who is willing to cooperate, be sure to thank the person for his or her time upfront. You also need to respect the former employer's time by having your questions ready when you call. The following are typical questions that staffing agency employees ask when determining if someone is suitable for the job:
If you have verified everything the applicant has listed so far, the next step is to screen him or her for past criminal activity and current drug use. Although this practice has become common among all types of employers, it is to your benefit to advertise that your staffing agency runs these checks. This will discourage unqualified people from even taking the time to apply. However, you need to be aware of any laws in your state that prohibit you from not hiring someone on the basis of past criminal activity. There may be a statute of limitations or the law may state that the person must have actually been convicted of the charges brought against him or her.
Although you can make passing a background check mandatory, you still need to obtain the applicant's written consent to proceed. You need to make sure that the person applying for work lists his or her full name, date of birth, current address, previous addresses for the past 10 years and social security number. You then have the option of choosing a private background search firm or a public one like the National Crime Information Center. Your offer can also be contingent on the applicant passing a drug test at a lab of your choosing. The applicant should complete the screening for illegal drugs within 48 hours of receiving a job offer.
While it is relatively easy to discover that an applicant has lied about dates of employment or earning a college degree, it can be more difficult to discern if he or she is being untruthful about possessing certain skills. You need to think strategically to beat lying applicants at their own game. For example, someone who claims to have management experience should be able to give you an example of how he or she achieved specific goals on a project. This person should also be able to describe in detail the qualities that make a good team member. If he or she gives what appears to be a rehearsed answer, don't be afraid to probe for more details. You will know the qualification was fabricated by how quickly it takes the applicant to get flustered.
If someone is applying for a technical job and you doubt the skills he or she lists, be certain to ask questions that only an industry expert would know. If you aren't fully clear on the technicalities yourself, seek input from someone you are certain is very experienced in the field. If possible, invite that person to help you interview the applicant and be the one to ask the technical questions.
When the job you are trying to fill calls for specific skills, it is important that the applicant is able to successfully demonstrate them. A candidate who is being fully honest should be able to discuss how he or she would transfer skills used in a previous job to the one he or she is hoping to get hired for now. This also gives you the opportunity to see the applicant's communication skills and leadership qualities at the same time you are evaluating his or her skills.