When a Former Employee Commits an Act of Violence

The man who allegedly perpetrated the attack in New York City was a former Uber driver. The Las Vegas shooter was once an internal auditor for a defense contractor. What if you had worked with one of these individuals? What if you had recruited and hired him?

Source: STUDIOGRANDQUEST / iStock / Getty

It’s not that much of a stretch. They worked with other people, and were hired by someone.

In Hindsight

As a recruiter or hiring manager, you’d like to think you would have noticed something was off about these individuals, that you would have been alerted to their future behavior, based on their responses to interview questions or the way they looked around the room.
But the truth is, sometimes there seem to be no signs. The brother of the Las Vegas shooter was stunned to learn of his sibling’s involvement; he likened the news to an asteroid hitting his family.
So where does this leave people who are in positions of assessing the behavior of others, people like, say, recruiters?

Screening and More

Indeed, behavioral assessment is part of what recruiting entails. Granted, it’s not at the level at which mental health professionals assess others, but it’s as close as many people may come to any type of analysis.
Pre-employment testing, behavioral interview questions, background checks, and reference checks provide a great deal of insight into an individual’s skills, capabilities, and tendencies.
There are many pre-employment tests on the market. These tests screen for everything from skills and knowledge to personality, emotional intelligence, and more. Behavioral interview questions aim to uncover specifics about a candidate’s work experience, habits, and traits in order to predict future behavior.
Background checks verify employment history and academic and professional credentials, provide credit history information, and search criminal records. Reference checks, meanwhile, rely on feedback from individuals who know the candidate personally.
Each of these pieces, individually, may not provide adequate information. But when used in combination, they present a fairly detailed overview of an individual.

Missing Pieces

Still, it’s important to realize that a person’s circumstances can change dramatically – mental health issues, physical health issues, financial pressures, outside influences, and more may affect behavior.
If the behavior and traits of the candidate you’re considering don’t seem consistent with his work history and what others have said about him, the person may have undergone a transformation, for want of a better word.
This isn’t necessarily negative. For example, a person who recently overcame a life-threatening illness may have an entirely new approach to life. However, unless a candidate is forthcoming about his circumstances, you wouldn’t know this.
While it’s necessary to give a candidate the benefit of the doubt, you must not lose sight of the responsibility that comes with recruiting. It involves selecting a stranger to work alongside your colleagues. Therefore, it’s important to know as much as possible about the individual, before making a hiring decision.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.