Everything You Need to Know About Background Investigations
Battalion Chief Paul Lepore
I was asked in a seminar recently if a candidate would be held liable for the parking tickets he was given while driving the company delivery vehicle. He tried to reason that they weren’t his fault because, as a delivery driver, his boss gave him permission to park in the red zone. I asked him who gave his boss the authority to tell him it was OK to ignore the law.
He continued to tell me that since his boss told him it was OK, and the company paid for the tickets, he felt he was off the hook. I told him that even if he were off the hook for the parking tickets, he would probably fail the background because he has a pattern of exercising poor judgment.
Another candidate asked if it would look badly if he was always the one to bail his friends out of jail. He rationalized that it showed he was a loyal and dedicated friend. He stated that he knew the fire service valued strong friendships and looking out for each other. I assured him that he was correct on both counts. We do value strong friendships, and we certainly take care of each other.
I would question why he is associating with people who are constantly being thrown in jail. I reminded him of the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” In other words, if your friends and associates are guilty, then so too are you. Whether this is the case or not is irrelevant; you define yourself by the company you keep.
Obviously, criminal records are important to the hiring agency. Firefighters routinely find themselves unsupervised in people’s homes and businesses. Imagine for a moment the headlines in the local newspaper: “Firefighter arrested for stealing from elderly lady’s bedroom while she was having a heart attack.” Of course, this would be picked up by the national media and would be a black eye for all firefighters.
Credit history is also important, as it too makes a statement of how an individual handles responsibilities. If a person is not able to live within his or her means, this person is a potential liability to the agency. A blemished credit history may indicate an inability to handle responsibility.
Bankruptcy is a big red flag to an agency. Simply because a credit card company considers an individual untouchable and relieved of financial responsibility once he or she declares bankruptcy, fire departments do not view this in the same way.
In reality, although an individual has declared financial bankruptcy, he or she is morally obligated to repay the money that was borrowed. In the eyes of the law the obligation has been “forgotten,” but somebody is still out money. Is it an automatic disqualification? No, not if there has been progress made toward repaying the debt after bankruptcy was declared.