This is my second installment of a new series called “Tales from the trenches,” in which I share a particularly fascinating (and usually rife with stupidity) story I’ve heard.
I do not work in a large corporate environment, but many of my clients do. This means that although I am not involved in the day-to-day insanity of the workplace, I hear stories. Many stories. Today I share a story from the front lines. My client is a mid-level manager at a multibillion-dollar, publicly traded company. And yes, this actually happened. Here is what he told me. Read on:
Just a few weeks ago, we launched a new litigation workflow tool. We are not known for deep domain expertise in the legal field, and because of that, I’ve always thought this was a BAD idea. But my objections were overlooked. Anyway, the product lead is an attorney by training, who we hired about four years ago, so at least someone with some legal knowledge was on the team.
Last week, I was in a meeting about this new product launch, and just for kicks, I Googled the product lead. What I found was disturbing. It turns out that this employee was disbarred two years ago. As if that isn’t bad enough, he was disbarred for bilking money out of desperate homeowners whose mortgages were underwater. I alerted my boss, who shared the link with this guy’s boss. This was a huge problem—this guy was all over our social media and was scheduled to deliver a webinar next month. Anyone—journalist, analyst, layperson—could have found this information with a few clicks. What is truly unbelievable is that he had sanctions going back to 2012—a full two years before he was hired! This was all public information.
Three days after I reported my Google results, this person was let go, and our website and social media were scrubbed to eliminate any mention of him. But here is what still astounds me. It was reported that he was involved in shady practices going back to 2012. He was hired in 2014. Did no one ever think to Google him??? How did he get hired?
As unbelievable as this may seem, this stuff happens All The Time. This is the result of #LazyRecruiting and #IncompetentManagement. As my client suggests, a simple Google search, conducted as part of a pre-employment background check, could have averted this entire thing. What is particularly concerning is that this person was promoted as an ambassador of the company’s brand without this cursory, simple vetting! Again, as my client points out, any journalist or industry analyst could have Googled this person, and the result of that could have been devastating.
Management—if you’re promoting someone as an expert on anything or as a representative of your brand, it is 110% incumbent upon you to ensure that there is nothing objectionable in their professional background. HR—you need to up your game and conduct actual, rather than façade, background checks. The cost of a bad hire goes beyond the financial cost, as evidenced here. This is an egregious example of how failing to properly vet new hires can negatively impact your entire brand and its value proposition. Most people Google reviews to verify the reputation of, say, a hotel they are considering. A potential team member and brand ambassador should be evaluated with at least a comparable degree of detail.