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Compliance and Legal

Five Due Diligence Question Asked in Every Interview

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lesrosenThe employment interview can be much more then just an opportunity to find candidates who are a good fit for an employer. It is also an important part of the due diligence process in which employers try to identify candidates who may prove to be dangerous, unqualified, unfit or dishonest. This can be done through the use of six standard due diligence questions that can be adopted for every interview.

These six suggested interview questions seek to encourage candidate to be self-revealing about potential “red flags,” such as the truthfulness of past employment, or any job related criminal record. Since applicants should have already signed a consent for a background check, applicants have a powerful incentive to be truthful. These questions also take advantage of the natural human trait to want to have some control over what others say about you. If an applicant believes, for example, that a future employer may hear negative information from a past employer, the applicant may want to be able to set the record straight before the future employer has the chance to hear negative information from someone else.

Getting Started on the Right Foot
Of course, an employer would not want to start the interview off on the wrong foot with questions aimed at past criminal conduct or negative employment experiences. One of the goals of an interview is to help foster a talking environment where a potential employee understands and accepts the goals and direction of the organization. However, every interview does have a “housekeeping” portion where standard questions are asked. This would be a good time for the following six questions.

Six Key Due Diligence Questions

  1. 1.    Our firm has a standard policy of conducting background checks on all hires before an offer is made or finalized. You have already signed a release form. Do you have any concerns about that?  - This is a general question about screening. Since the applicant has signed a release form, there is a powerful incentive to be honest and reveal any issues.
    2.    We also check for criminal convictions for all finalists. Do you have any concerns about that? - This question goes from the general to the specific. Be sure to ask the question in a form that is legally permissible in your state. It is important NOT to ask a question that is so broadly worded that it may lead to an applicant revealing more information than allowed by law. Again, make sure the applicant understands that he or she has signed a release and this process is standard company policy. (One caveat — The 2012 EEOC Guidance suggested: “As a best practice, and consistent with applicable laws, the Commission recommends that employers not ask about convictions on job applications and that, if and when they make such inquiries, the inquiries be limited to convictions for which exclusion would be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.”)
    3.    When we talk to your past employers, what do you think they will say? - Note the questions begins: “When we contact your past employers…” Thus the applicant is given notice past employers will be contacted. This general question again provides a powerful incentive to be very accurate.
    4.    Will your past employers tell us that there were any issues with tardiness, meeting job requirements, etc.? - This question goes again to a specific area. Ask detailed questions about matters that are expressly relevant to the job opening.
    5.    Can you tell me about any unexplained gaps in your employment history? - If there are any unexplained employment gaps, it is imperative to ask about them.
    6.    Is everything in the application and everything you told us in the interview true, correct, and complete? - This is the critical final question. It sends a clear message to an applicant that the employer takes the process seriously and that the applicant needs to be completely open, honest, and truthful. An interview can add an advisement that if there is anything the applicant wants to change on the application, now is the time to do it.
Reading the Responses
Good applicants will simply shrug the questions off. However, an applicant with something to hide may reveal vital information. Such applicants may react in a number of different ways. Some applicants may tough it out during the first question. However, the questions are designed to go from the general to the specific and the follow-ups may shake lose some information. By the second question, an applicant may well begin to express concerns or react in some way that raises a red flag. An applicant with something to hide may object to the questions by asking if the questions invade their privacy rights. If an applicant raises such an objection, then simply indicate that these are standard job-related questions asked of all applicants and that need to be answered.

Keep Consistent
In order to help hiring managers have a better understanding of each candidate, and to weed out those who are unacceptable risks, it can be very effective to empower interviewers with these questions in a written format. Asking standard written questions in an interview has several advantages. It allows for a consistent process, so that all applicants are subjected to the same questions. Standard questions also create a more comfortable environment for the interviewers. The recruiter or interviewer does not have the pressure of having to remember every question they asked because the questions are written out. If the questions on safe hiring issues feel uncomfortable, then the interviewer can simply indicate that these questions are asked of everyone and they are required due to standard company policy.

For a free tool that allows a recruiter to design their own interview template, including these six questions, go to the online Interview Generator at:



Lester S. Rosen is an attorney at law and president of Employment Screening Resources (ESR) , a national background screening firm headquartered in Novato, CA. See;

He has authored two books on screening and hiring: “The Safe Hiring Manual: The complete guide to keeping criminals, terrorists, and imposters out of your workplace," and “The Safe Hiring Audit: The employer’s guide to implementing a safe hiring program."

He is considered an expert in employment screening background checks, and is a speaker frequently at nationwide human resources, fraud and security conferences. >>>

He has testified as an expert on employment screening background checks in negligent hiring cases in California, Florida and Arkansas.

He was the chairperson of the steering committee that founded the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and served as its first co-chair.

Mr. Rosen graduated UCLA with Phi Beta Kappa honors, and received a J.D. degree from the University of California at Davis School of Law, serving on the school Law Review. While practicing law, he specialized in criminal law and his practice has included federal crimes and death penalty cases. He holds the highest attorney rating of A.V. in Martindale-Hubbell. He has served as an adjunct professor of law teaching criminal law and procedure at Hastings College of the Law, and served as faculty member and program chairman of the Hastings College of Trial Advocacy in San Francisco.

He has also been active in working on legislation in California. In 2002, he worked with the California legislature to amend AB 655, a law that adversely affected employers in the area of reference checks and hiring in California. He continues to be involved in working on California legislation effecting employers.

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