Hiring the Right Chauffeur

Posted on November 1, 2002 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

Page 1 of 2

With the increased threats of terrorism and the desire for tighter security, many American businesses are doing what they can in order to provide a safer, more secure environment. This especially holds true for the chauffeured transportation industry. Your chauffeurs are responsible for the lives and the well-being of many individuals who range from corporate VIPs to teenagers. With this great responsibility, operators need to be even more aware of just whom they are hiring and whom they have assigned to transport their clients.

In addition, many state and local regulatory agencies are requiring thorough background checks and drug screening before they will allow a permit to be issued. As an operator, the safety and welfare of your clients is your responsibility.

One of the first things that companies did was look internally and find out where they could make their business more secure for both their clients and their employees. What they started to see is that they needed to ensure a safe and secure environment to both their clients and employees.

"More than anything else it's to protect the people that hire the cars," says George Compas, co-owner of the Brooklyn-based AAA-Allstate Investigative services. "You may have a VIP or a politician and you want to be able to protect that individual. With background checks at least you know that the person driving your client is a reasonably safe person and has not been arrested."

By now, you are well aware of the heightened security screening process that the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) requires for airline passengers. Long lines and tighter security processes are something that many of your clients have to deal with regularly. However, they for the most part have come to accept the need for security. When it comes down to hiring chauffeurs, so should you. Operators need to consider what is important to their clients.

"All that clients really care about is their chauffeur and their vehicle," says Cheryl Berkman, president of Music Express. "They make us have a better chauffeur."

As most of you know, on July 4, a limousine operator opened fire in an airline terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, killing two people. Federal investigators concluded that the one-car operator, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, was motivated by his own personal woes than by a political agenda. The question is, could this happen with a chauffeur? How well you screen your employees when they apply for a job can greatly reduce the risk of hiring the wrong person for the job.

It's Who You Know

There has been a greater emphasis on knowing exactly who your employees are. "There has definitely been an increase in pre-employment screening since September 11," says Timothy Dimoff, president of SACS Consulting and Investigative Services, Inc. "Since then, the big question is who is really walking into your business?"

Gone are the days that you got an application on Monday, interviewed on Tuesday and hired on Wednesday. This should have never been the case, but unfortunately sometimes it was. You can't afford to hire just anybody who wants to work for you.

"You might as well have put the applicants in a room, put a blindfold on yourself and pointed to an applicant and hired them," Dimoff says.

Recently, due in part to the nation's heightened state of security, there's been a bigger push for more thorough screening processes.

"People are realizing that thorough screening is one way to increase your security without too much difficulty," Dimoff added.

The ability for an employer to gain background information is becoming easier. Many services offer to research an applicant's information and produce a complete report. Most reports can come back within a day or two.

Operators need to get this information to get a clearer picture of just whom they are hiring. However, the information gathered (criminal record, driving record, credit report, etc.) should be relevant to the particular job. The federal government has guidelines to protect workers' privacy. The Fair Credit and Reporting Act of 1971 (amended in the 1990s) outlines what can and can't be attained by employers.

"The act was passed to protect individual applicants or employees from background investigation, or what is called consumer reports, says Wayne Hesch, an employment attorney at Berger, Kahn, Shafron, Moss, Fisher, Simon & Gladstone in Irvine, Calif. "It was to override all these guidelines regarding background investigations. It basically says that if you're going to do these investigations for purpose of employment, then it will have to be regulated by the federal government. Some states, like California, have their own requirements. But as long as they comply with the FCRA, there shouldn't be a problem."

With so much information available, operators need to research information that applies to the specific job.

"Someone who's detailing your cars may not need a credit report run," says Dean Suposs, general manager of ADP Screening and Selection Services. "However, I can tell you that there are a lot of companies that don't even check the applicable records."

Arm Yourself With Information Early

Operators who are hiring employees, and most importantly chauffeurs, should get background information early on in the process.

"Employers need to do a better check of an applicant before they even get to the interview process," Dimoff says.

Once an applicant fills out an application, you have all the information and tools that you need to check the person's background right there on the application. It's important for operators to use it.

Finding out information before an interview will allow an operator to ask more specific questions about an applicant. It will allow you to fill in any holes or questions that exist about a person's past. This will also help you to weed out people before devoting time for an interview.

"Doing background checks, you screen out approximately five to seven percent of applicants who are really bad fits due to background information," Suposs says. "Roughly, 93 percent of the time they have a clean record."

Also, arming yourself with as much background information about an applicant before an interview will help guard against the "halo affect." This is where an applicant has a great interview and the employer becomes so impressed with the individual that it doesn't matter what the background check says, they want to hire them. They can do no wrong, hence the "halo."

This can happen often. Just because someone interviews well doesn't guarantee they are right for the job. They may have felony convictions and a DUI on their record. It is best to have that information in front of you before the interview process.

Let Them Know You Will Check

Employers should be up front and honest about background checks. You should let applicants know that you hire safe, competent, professional people. One way that you ensure this, as well as the safety of your clientele, is by conducting thorough background checks.

You can have a separate release form that the applicant has to sign that states that you are going to check that person's background.

"If you put a separate piece of paper out there that's independent from anything else they've ever looked at, there will be a certain percentage of people who walk out of the office without signing it. It should be separate because nobody ever reads the fine print on the bottom of the application," Suposs says. "They don't want you to check their background. That's fine because you don't want them. It all helps you hire a better employee."

Most services that check an applicant's background can check either a particular state or federal, or both. Operators need to consider what information they want to know.

"The choice is theirs," Compass says. "However, the employer has to realize that if they just do a state check, a person's criminal record in another state won't come up on the search."

This may be an important fact for operators working in the New York City area to consider. While the Taxi and Limousine Commission conducts background checks before issuing a chauffeur's license to a driver, the check is limited to only the records in state of New York. If a person has a record in another state, it may not show up on the TLC's check. So an operator may want to have an applicant's background checked federally.

"The key thing for employers is to make sure that they get authorization for release of information from prior employers," Hesch explains. "If they don't get authorization, the past employers are going to give the standard name, job title, pay rate and dates employed information."

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