Everything You Need to Know About Background Investigations
Battalion Chief Paul Lepore
According to a former background investigator for LAPD, “If an individual is making an honest effort to repay the money, we can look past a bankruptcy. We cannot overlook someone who does not attempt to right known wrongs.”
Candidates often wonder if they should report things that occurred when they were younger. They feel that if a record was sealed, they are not accountable for anything until they reached 18 years of age. Nothing is further from the truth. Remember the forms you signed when you sat down with the background investigator? These give permission to look into every aspect of your life.
There is no such thing as a sealed record to a background investigator. Even if there were, whatever a candidate did to get a police record sealed would be cause for alarm and would raise the issue of liability for the agency. For the record, there is no such thing as a sealed file, regardless of what your attorney tells you.
Many people believe that they can give the background investigator only the names of their responsible friends, the ones who will say positive things about them. They will make sure to brief their friends on what to say and what not to say. In effect, they will coach them on how to answer the questions.
Certainly, the investigator will interview the people listed by the candidate, but they will also ask the individual for the name of 5 friends. They will interview the five new people, and when completed, will ask for 5 more friends, and so on. It doesn’t take long for a trained investigator to get to someone who has not been coached.
The investigator will knock on the door of your neighbors and show them a Polaroid picture (the same one taken on the day of your initial background interview). If your neighbor tells the investigator that it looks like you, but the nose ring and bandanna that you always wear are missing, the cat is out of the bag.
In other words, the investigator has learned a lot about you. Will this disqualify you? Probably not, but it now gives the investigator cause to look deeper into your profile.
This scenario is the number one reason that when I speak to a group of fire science students, I encourage them to look the part. You don’t see many firefighters with nose rings and bandanas. The students constantly assure me that when they start testing, they will shave off the goatee and get a haircut.
It is important to note that we are not looking to hire the person who can do a complete makeover in 30 days or less. If you changed that quickly to get the job, it stands to reason that you will change back after you get it. We are looking to hire people who authentically live their lives in a positive fashion.