Stop the insanity!

By Mark Fadden

The old adage goes, “Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!” Well, in the new world of hiring, that same adage could be changed to, “Liars, cheaters, and fraudsters, oh my!” Ok, it’s not that bad, but making sure you hire the best person for the job - the person in the flesh who’s the same as the one on paper – has become a bit trickier over the years. “We see a lot of people claiming college degrees that they never received—sometimes they never even attended that college. Often, they claim fake degrees—or degrees from degree mills—even when the job doesn’t require a degree,” said Mike Coffey, President of Imperative, an employment background investigations firm based in Fort Worth, Texas. “People also lie about their employment history. Some go so far as to list well-known companies and list a friend as their supervisor. The telephone number they provide rings to the friend’s cell phone and he is glad to give the guy a great reference even though neither of them ever actually worked at that company.”

But it doesn’t stop there. People also lie about their criminal history. One memorable story that Coffey recalled is a perfect example of why all organizations need to do their due diligence when it comes to hiring people. “We see all kinds of applicant fraud,” Coffey said. “Last month, one of our clients was getting ready to hire a woman for a position that would give her access to thousands of people’s social security numbers and other information. The applicant claimed she had no criminal history. As we processed her background investigation, we determined that she had provided the employer with someone else’s SSN and the wrong date of birth. Once we figured that out, we found that she had been convicted of identity fraud in federal court just a few years ago.”

It’s a bit of a double edged sword, especially if you’re running a business you’ve built from the ground up. You want to make sure that you hire the best people, the people who exude your organization’s culture, your customer service ethos, and even your personal ethical beliefs. But how much can we really get to know someone in one sheet of paper (aka the resume) and, many times, an hour or two of face time (aka the job interview)? Time is money, and with all that’s going on, we simply can’t take the time (and cost) to draw out a job interview process to double and triple check the applicant. So, what’s the better way to skin that cat? What’s the better mousetrap to make our hiring decisions bulletproof?

The unseen costs

Before we tackle the ways we can bulletproof our hiring decision, let’s take a deeper look at why we need to do it in the first place. According to Leadership IQ, a research and leadership training provider, almost half of new hires fail within the first 18 months. “The number surprises people but I believe it. Many of those people leave or are fired, which is pretty expensive for employers,” said Coffey. Ad firing someone is expensive. A recent Center for American Progress (CAP) study stated that, “Sixteen percent of annual salary for high-turnover, low-paying jobs (earning under $30,000 a year). For example, the cost to replace a $10/hour retail employee would be $3,328. Twenty percent of annual salary for midrange positions (earning $30,000 to $50,000 a year). For example, the cost to replace a $40k manager would be $8,000. Up to 213 percent of annual salary for highly educated executive positions. For example, the cost to replace a $100k CEO is $213,000.”

Even though these are high costs to pay, Coffey suggests that there’s an even higher cost that many organizations need to consider by doing nothing. “The more expensive proposition, though, is those who don’t leave. You know, the ones who when they are out of the office, everyone breathes a sigh of relief. They do just enough to get by and aren’t ever quite horrible enough to fire. But their core behavior, decision-making ability, and attitudes toward compliance ensure that they are never the employees that the company wants. I call these folks office vampires; they’re slowly sucking the life out of the teams they are assigned to,” Coffey said.

What are the hiring manager, and the applicant, to do?

For Coffey, one of the biggest challenges in today’s hiring environment is to identify what they want in their employees. “Every job has different requirements. Certainly there are certain skill requirements for different positions but the behaviors are what make the big difference between high-performers and those who are just getting by or failing,” Coffey said. “Because every company has a different culture, the behavior that makes someone successful in one company may lead them to struggle in the same position at a different company. Understanding your company culture—the unwritten rules about how things get done—is key to identifying the kind of person you should hire.”

But being bulletproof isn’t all on the hiring manager’s shoulders. You can also be a bulletproof job applicant as well. “The truth is that the very best thing [an applicant] can do in the application and interview process is to be transparent. None of us are as amazing as our resumes suggest. Heck, the entire resume-writing industry is built around helping job seekers tell “polite lies.” Think about what may be challenging to a prospective employer: A jerk boss who didn’t evaluate you well; an involuntary termination; a bad choice that led to a criminal history in the past. Rather than trying to hide it or make excuses for it, how can you present the situation in a way that demonstrates that that particular situation in the past isn’t reflective of who you are today?” Coffey said. He also wants each of us to be a bit reflective before going after that next job. “I know this sounds hyper-idealistic, but think about the environments in which you’ve been most successful in the past. What did those look like? How did they contribute to your success? And then think about the jobs you hated. What did you hate about them? Take those positive and negative lessons with you into the job hunt. Pay attention to those things during the interview process. Is this a place where you’re going to excel or will this be just another job in a series of unfulfilling jobs?” said Coffey.

Coffey’s free e-book, Seven Steps to Making Confident Hiring Decisions: Preventing Loss, Liability, and Litigation While Keeping Criminals, Creeps, and Crazies Out of Your Company, can be downloaded at

Coffey will give his “7 Steps to Making Bulletproof Hiring Decisions” presentation at the Sept 28 Breakfast at the BAC event. For more information and to register for this free event, visit