did I make the right call in rejecting this job candidate?

A reader writes:

I am a training manager for an independent cell phone retailer. Basically, I make sure all new hires in my district have their new hire paperwork filled out so I can fax it to our home office, and train them on store operations and customer service at my store location before we shift them out to other stores to their home location. In the case of new store managers, I travel to their store and train them on managerial operations. It’s a good system, and works rather well as I’m assisted by our district manager (in terms of chain of command, the store managers report to the DM; I report to the DM also, but also have authority over store managers).

We have fairly high turnover, unfortunately, and it’s because it’s an hourly + commission position. Store managers also make a percentage of their store’s profit once it reaches a certain (obtainable) tier. But when sales go down, upper management (above the district level) really starts to pressure salespeople to sell more, and people quit because they aren’t making as much in some months as they do in others.

Recently, we started looking to hire a new store manager for a particular location with up and down sales. We received a resume from a young man who was presently employed by my former company, holding my former position (customer service manager for a mass retailer). I scheduled an interview (for store managers, I interview the first round and my DM interviews the second round). The DM ultimately makes the hiring decision. First interview went fairly well. He was a bit quiet and reserved, but I didn’t see any red flags.

I’m still on great terms with the people I worked with at my former company, so between interviews (his second interview was a different day), I went to talk to some people he works with. I didn’t give any indication it was “reference checking” and I didn’t indicate that he was looking for employment at my current company. What I found out was… interesting.

The young man had been fired the day before I went in there for slacking off, and going out to his car on breaks and drinking on the job. He apparently came back from lunch so drunk that the upper management could smell the alcohol on him. This was repeated by every person I asked,”Hey, Jim’s a customer service manager here, right?” (The reply back was usually, “He used to be; he got let go yesterday?” “Why?!” “Because —- “)

I called my DM and told him that I had found out our candidate had been fired for performance and misconduct (because he was drinking on the job). He immediately told me to call him back and thank him for his time, but that we will not be moving forward with his interviews.

Word got out in both companies that this incident was the sole reason we decided not to move forward. I had been told repeatedly by other coworkers and former coworkers that we “can’t do that,” to which I reply, “Why not?” It’s perfectly legal to not hire someone as long as it’s not because of an EEO protected class. I’ve been told we “can’t do that” because it was an “off-the-record” discussion therefore it can’t be used against him. Again, I remind them that we can totally do that, there’s nothing illegal about it, or unethical for that matter.

As a hiring manager, would you have made the same call?

I sure would have.

Assuming these are people you know to be credible, and that there wasn’t any chance that their comments to you were part of some kind of widespread ruse. (Unlikely, but the caveat is worth giving.) If there was any such chance, then I would have verified it more formally with his manager.

As you wrote, it’s perfectly legal to choose not to hire someone for any reason at all, as long as the reason is not their race, religion, sex, national origin, or other protected class. And you absolutely can use information in your decision-making that comes from off-the-record conversation; in fact, good hiring managers do it all the time — reaching out to mutual contacts for an off-the-record assessment of someone’s work. It’s part of good hiring; you’d be negligent not to talk to mutual contacts if you had them, and sometimes off-the-record conversations are what’s required to get candid information.

(Frankly, if anyone took on any risk here, it’s your former company, not your current one. If they misrepresented the facts and that misrepresentation was responsible for him being denied employment, that would be a potential problems for them. But if they told the truth, they didn’t do anything wrong.  And either way, there are no prohibitions on you using the information you heard.)

Are your colleagues really suggesting that you should have moved forward with this guy and ignored that you’d learned that he’d just been fired for drinking on the job? That’s insane, and you should suggest that they educate themselves on workplace law.

{ 78 comments… read them below }

  1. Cat*

    It is interesting what information people think is illegal to use in the hiring process. I had a co-worker recently wonder if it was discriminatory to ask an applicant questions to ascertain if working in the private-sector was her long-term goal (vs. going back to the government as soon as Sequester-related hiring freezes were implemented).

    1. Anna*

      For me it’s obviously legal for her to not move forward IF the information is true. That’s the problem I see. What if it’s all just rumors and these people don’t actually know why he was let go? That’s problematic.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Even if the information is not true, it’s not illegal for her to make a hiring decision based on it. The guy’s own company could potentially get in trouble for giving false information that harmed him, but the OP’s company couldn’t.

  2. Liz in a library*

    I wonder if the folks at the former place are worried about some kind of retaliation from the candidate. It seems odd that word got out so quickly about private conversations. You should definitely use the information that you got, but I can see how they might try to turn things around if suddenly everyone knows about their private conversations with you and what they told you. Was your old workplace one with a strong rumor mill?

  3. Mike C.*

    Why are your coworkers not supporting you in this decision? The guy was a bad performer, and a clear safety risk. I mean come on, coming back from lunch intoxicated?! For a customer facing position?

    Do your coworkers need a drug test? It would certainly explain their take on the issue.

  4. CatB*

    OP, I would have made the same call myself. Drinking on the job is the legal attribute of sommeliers and beer & whisky tasters. For the rest it usually is ground for immediate dismissal, even in a country where firing someone is almost a felony, compared to the US.

    Sleep in peace and let everybody else fret for fantasy illegalities. You did the right thing, in my opinion. I mean, I’m the kind a guy that gives the third chance usually; but I draw the line at alcohol. Not even rough patches in personal lives are motive enough to cut somebody any slack over drinking on the job.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Don’t the wine tasters spit it out? Presumably, Intoxicated Applicant wasn’t doing that.

      1. CatB*

        Wine tasters, yes. Beer and whisky, no, they have to take into account the aftertaste also. Sommeliers presumably know their wines, but every new purchase is tasted and assessed by good ones.

    2. Just a Reader*

      My husband is in the beer industry and it is a-ok to drink on the job. NOT to get drunk. But a drink with a customer anytime during the workday, yes.

      1. Natalie*

        Yep, when my bf managed a kitchen he and the liquor rep used to sample new products.

      2. Jessa*

        Yes, and there’s a huge difference though in doing that and getting drunk. Getting drunk is definitely out.

    3. Jesse*

      If your job is to sample liquor, beer or wine, you use tasting glasses. They’re typically two to four ounces in size. Enough to get a taste of the product, but not enough to get drunk.

  5. littlemoose*

    As Alison has addressed many times, there is little relationship between what’s legal in hiring and employment, and what people perceive to be fair. I can’t see that you acted inappropriately at all.

    OP, you mentioned that your coworkers raised concerns because this information was “off-the-record.” I wonder if this stems from a perception that everything in the hiring process must be rigorously documented? Or did they think you found out this information through some shady backdoor channel (rather than a formal reference check), and thus it couldn’t legitimately be used? I’m just wondering what the thought process is for their objections. I totally agree with what you did; drinking on the job is a serious offense that should be a huge red flag, and you obtained the information by talking to your already-established contacts. I hope this whole thing blows over soon, and that you can move on with your new hire.

  6. fposte*

    I think people sometimes believe the rules of evidence for trials are basic rules for everything we do. (Therefore all the people who think “innocent until proven guilty” governs hiring practice.) It sounds like the co-workers think this falls under inadmissible evidence, but there is no such thing in hiring–there’s just information that you have to use your judgment about. The OP’s using judgment correctly.

    1. A Bug!*

      Legal-wise as well, I kind of wonder if the OP might have opened the mobile retailer up to some liability of its own by not using that information.

      Let’s say the OP kept mum, the guy got hired, and he got sloshed at work and, say, drunkenly punched a customer in the face and knocked him into a display case and caused him a head injury.

      In many places an employer is liable for its employee’s actions if they’re taken in the course of carrying out that employee’s duties.

      And though actions taken on an employee’s own initiative unrelated to employment tends not to open up the employer to liability, that changes if the employer should reasonably have known that the employee was a risk for the actions that caused the injury – in this case, the getting drunk at work.

      The fact that the OP discovered the guy’s behavior could be enough to place the company in a position where they “knew” or “should have known” of the risk the guy posed.

      Of course, the chances of all of that are slim to none, but it’s just one more reason that the OP absolutely made the right call. “Coworker loyalty” doesn’t really apply anymore when one person gets fired for drinking on the job.

      1. littlemoose*

        Interesting scenario. Very general points here – in almost all cases, an employer is not liable for an employee’s criminal acts. There may be a case for negligent hiring if an employer hires an individual despite knowing about his past transgressions, or failing to take reasonable steps to ascertain that information. However, the applicability of this rule is pretty limited, and I think it is mainly used for health care providers/employers, child care providers, etc. Usually the transgressions have to be pretty serious, though, like a prior conviction for assault or abuse, etc. In the scenario you posited, to hold the employer liable, the victim of the drunken employee’s violence would have to show that the employer hired him despite knowing not only that he had previously engaged in workday drunkenness, but that he was prone to violence or had previously committed similar violent acts while drunk. And of course, it all varies by state anyway, so huge YMMV on this one.

      2. FormerManager*

        Wasn’t there a case where a bar hired a bouncer who actually killed a patron and was found liable because he was hired despite a history of assault? Then I guess there’s the case of Charles Cullen…

    2. Sascha*

      I was just thinking that as well. Many people seem to think hiring exists in a vacuum where the only information that is allowed to be considered is what both parties formally bring to the table. Just as it’s a good idea for the candidate to research the company’s culture, talk to current and former employees, etc., it’s a good idea for a hiring manager to do the same research on an employee.

    3. KarenT*

      Good analogy about trials.
      My mind actually went to journalism, the only place I can think of where “off the record” has real meaning.

  7. A Bug!*

    If I had to guess, I’d say that the people who are upset with the OP are really just upset with themselves for having told you something they now regret sharing. I can’t imagine that, if they really sat down and considered it, they would advocate you hiring somebody despite having such information about their on-the-job behavior.

    And if they would? I would seriously question their own integrity, if they think that the only workplace behavior that “counts” is the behavior that’s shared “on-the-record”.

    It seems to me that when it comes to off-base “is this legal” questions surrounding hiring, the underlying reason for it is the idea that people shouldn’t have to be accountable for their own behavior, or that they shouldn’t have to see consequences for it.

    1. fposte*

      I think sometimes that’s it (and I also think it’s possible the OP is telling more people about this decision than is appropriate), but I also think that people just have very strong feelings about rules, even if the rules are imagined.

    2. FiveNine*

      It’s pretty clear from the letter that OP didn’t tell any of these people she was asking about in the context of sussing him out as a possible hire. I think they’re panicking now because they’re probably feeling that they were being used as job references — and so often, organizations specifically tell employees that they must refer people seeking references to Human Resources, or that they can only give out start and end dates, etc.

      1. littlemoose*

        Very good point re the thinking that one needs to go through HR for job references, etc. – thanks.

    3. Kou*

      Even if it was for a perfectly legitimate reason, I would feel really bad if I found out I cost someone a job with what I said.

      Well I guess not for all reasons. Not if they, say, punched someone in the face. But just general bad behavior, for some reason.

  8. Anonymous*

    Are your colleagues really suggesting that you should have moved forward with this guy and ignored that you’d learned that he’d just been fired for drinking on the job?
    I think it’s more that most people don’t have a clue how much IS legal in the hiring process.

    It’s not that they want this guy to work there but they are probably thinking “Well if employers can just call up anyone you used to work with or anyone who might know you and ask about you — as opposed to only checking the references you provided – they might hear something bad about me…..that CAN’T be legal!” Also falls under “My company did something I don’t like, that CAN’T be legal”

    1. BCW*

      That, and as someone mentioned, if you don’t know you are being used as a reference or even character witness, you may not want that responsibility. I have worked with some people I wouldn’t particularly vouch for as employees, however if I just thought I was having a friendly conversation and it turned out that what I said was used as a determining factor in them not getting hired, I’d be mortified. I don’t think it was wrong to use that info, but I do think it was kind of sneaky (for lack of a better term) to use someone as a reference when they didn’t know that was the point of the conversation. I guess I don’t get why you wouldn’t just say “John applied here and we are thinking of hiring him, is there anything I should know?” At that point if they want to tell you about his drunken shenanigans, they are welcome to with full disclosure of how the information is being used. If not, they could just say “I’d prefer not to talk in that context”. You would probably still get the hint that there was something up, but you aren’t putting them in a bad position.

      1. Cathy*

        I think the reason for not saying “John applied here and we are thinking of hiring him, is there anything I should know?” was that as far as the OP knew, John was still employed at the place where she was asking her questions. Asking for references from current employers/co-workers is a little more sensitive than asking for the same info from former colleagues.

        1. Jamie*

          That was the motive, however pretty transparent and if he was a current employee could have hurt him.

          If someone who used to work with me came back to my workplace asking questions about someone they didn’t know and had never worked with it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out it wasn’t idle curiosity. People just don’t go around inquiring about the work habits of random strangers.

          Unless this was done in a carefully crafted and more subtle way than I can envision (and doubtful considering how quickly news spread) the OP could have really harmed him at his current job.

          I’m a big believer in references, but if pure going to talk to current co-workers when the applicant hasn’t told them he’s looking it needs to be done delicately.

          1. annie*

            I never understand how someone successfully does this either. Whenever I’ve checked with people at the former company that I happened to know, it’s always because the candidate is an intern or entry level, so they have either left that company or are expected to soon because it is a part time gig or fixed ending point internship. I can’t figure out how I’d ask about someone still working there without giving away their job search – I suppose you could pretend that your company was recruiting them and the candidate didn’t know anything about it, but that gets weird too.

          2. A Bug!*

            Well, I think the OP had an edge there because the guy was filling the OP’s old position. I know in some companies it’s pretty normal to keep in touch with your old coworkers, and to be curious about how your successor is doing.

            If OP asked casually and didn’t get all weird and probing, it would be perfectly reasonable to assume it’s just a curiosity about a job that OP used to hold and thus had a passing interest in.

          3. A*

            A really great point. If a company I was interviewing with outed me at my current job by reaching out to people they happen to know there, I’d be livid.

            In fact I doubt I would be interested in working for them if that happened.

      2. MaryTerry*

        But if OP thought that the applicant was still employed by old employer, then she probably didn’t want to let them know that he had applied for a new job.

      3. BCW*

        Ah, fair enough, I guess I didn’t think about that. Again, I think she did the right thing by not hiring him, I just think she put her former co-workers in a really awkward position that they may not have wanted to be in. I’m just saying I personally would want to know if what I said about someone was going to be used in their hiring decisions, and I think people have the right to that information, especially if its just coming at you as a “friend” asking about another person.

  9. EnnVeeEl*

    For those that question the practice, this is why you do reference checks for potential employees. I think the OP did the right thing. Hope she finds the right candidate.

    1. Mel (OP)*

      I told him “Thank you for your time, but we will not be moving forward with your application. Good luck on your job search.”

      All he said in reply was, “Oh… okay thanks.”

  10. Coelura*

    I would not have moved forward with this candidate. I have passed on candidates for far less serious issues than on the job drunkeness through this same method (contacting acquaintances in his current employer).

  11. Katie in Ed*

    I’m no expert, but is there any way this could be protected under the ADA? It was my understanding that substance abuse is a protected illness so long as someone was enrolled in a treatment program. I imagine this wouldn’t protect someone who was drinking on the job, but if anyone knows more details about this, I’m very curious to know.

    1. Cat*

      I’m dredging up a vague memory from law school, but I thought that was only true if the person had been sober for a period of time.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      They’re protected under the ADA as long as the alcoholism doesn’t affect job performance.

      Q. Are alcoholics covered by the ADA?

      A. Yes. While a current illegal user of drugs is not protected by the ADA if an employer acts on the basis of such use, a person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection. An alcoholic is a person with a disability and is protected by the ADA if s/he is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job. An employer may be required to provide an accommodation to an alcoholic. However, an employer can discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct. An employer also may prohibit the use of alcohol in the workplace and can require that employees not be under the influence of alcohol.

    3. Joey*

      Drinking on the job doesn’t necessarily equate to an alcohol related disability. It might, by it might not just as well.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Also you don’t get reasonable accommodations for any disability without asking. You can’t behave a certain way, then get fired, then be all “but I was suffering from PTSD and that’s illegal” if you never bothered to mention it to anyone.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          I also doubt reasonable accommodation includes getting drunk in your car at lunchtime.

          I could be mistaken, however.

    4. Ash*

      There is a big difference between an actual alcoholic and someone who went to lunch and came back to work drunk once. Also read Katie the Fed’s post.

      1. littlemoose*

        Yes to all of this, particularly the distinction between coming back from lunch drunk on one occasion and actual, diagnosed and treated alcoholism.

    5. Lindsay j*

      The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with protected disabilities. I can’t imagine any situation where allowing the employee to get drunk in the middle of the work day and work while reeking of alcohol would be considered a reasonable accommodation.

      In fact, I’m pretty sure most employers could make an effective argument that being sober while on the job is a bonified requirement of almost any position (and especially anytype of management position as they require the ability to ensure the safety and productivity of employees under them, and the ability to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company and impaired judgment would make these tasks impossible.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I think it’s more about not firing someone who struggles with alcohol off the job — not about being required to allow someone to come to work drunk!

  12. Katie the Fed*

    The only problem here I see is that people didn’t keep their mouths shut about the reason why he wasn’t hired. I don’t know if the district manager yapped or someone else, but there is absolutely no reason why “word got out at both companies” at all. Total lack of professionalism there. Personnel issues need to be kept confidential.

    1. Amy B.*

      I completely agree. I was reading the email and was thinking, “yea, that sounds like the right thing to do.” Then I got to the part where “word got out at both companies”. Whaaat?? Full on brakes there. I sure hope the OP did not go back to her contacts at the previous company and let this information be known.

      1. LoneContractor*

        I absolutely agree that the problem I see is that too many people were informed why this decision was made. The poster and the DM needed to know- nobody else needed that informaiton. I often say that “80% of my job is making sure the right person gets the right information at the right time.” Silently I say that the other 20% is making sure that the wrong person doesn’t get the wrong information at the wrong time!

    2. Jamie*

      This jumped out at me, too. OP said she wasn’t informing them she was checking references to not alert his current company, but asking a lot of people about someone you don’t know is sending not only red flags, but red flares. And then everyone knowing this?

      Either we’re missing a huge part of the puzzle here or there was some pretty unprofessional gossiping going on.

      1. V*

        I kind of wonder if “word got out” referred to the general conversations she had with the former coworkers, and then people just put two and two together. Her letter is kind of vague on how people found out, but it’s possible someone randomly asked “Oh, did he get rejected because of the drunk thing?” and the OP just couldn’t lie and say no.

    3. Mel (OP)*

      Both companies are like bad little neighborhoods, honestly. Another store manager’s father works at my former company (I knew him quite well – I was his manager), and the DM and that particular store manager are pretty close. I don’t disclose anything regarding hiring to anyone except the DM, but have announced that we ARE hiring for positions to coworkers, because we do have a referral program where if an employee refers a new hire, and they both stay at least 6 months after the new hire is hired, then they get like $100 or something.

      Is it possible my DM said something to other people in our company? Definitely. He’s a new DM (formerly a store manager in other district, so I didn’t know him before he was promoted) and he’s a young man also, fresh out of college. He’s social and bubbly with some coworkers, and if he told them “Yeah we had this guy who ended up getting fired from his job for drinking on the job while in the interview process here, Mel found out and so we just quit on him,” its possible and likely that it got spread around our company.

      The other company – people there knew where I worked. It wasn’t unusual for me to pop in while shopping and chat a few minutes with employees. I get told about new people in my position, new people in upper management, new drama going on (hours being cut, new people being hired, people being fired, etc). If I said someone’s name, my contacts are very… I wouldn’t say rumor-friendly, because it was ultimately true, but they love to tell everything they know.

      I gave no indication that he applied for a position at my company. I didn’t say I was interviewing him. It’s possible the guy made a fuss with his (former) employer thinking it came out in a reference check, but I would assume he told someone he was friends with (remember, mass retailer) that he didn’t get the job with us, that we called him and rejected him, and they’d be like, “Oh someone was asking about you the other day after you got fired…” and they put two and two together… and yeah.

      As far as why my coworkers and contacts think it was illegal, I’d assume it’s because they’d look at it as “insider secrets” or something similar that is illegal in the stock market.

      Personally, I think the guy thought he had this position in the bag and let the stress of his current position (trust me, a LOT of stress in that position) cloud his judgement. Then it got used against him, and he’s mad he doesn’t have a job at all.

  13. Joey*

    I hate hate hate when people say “off the record.” As a manager there’s no such thing. You have an obligation to use any and all legal information to make the decision that’s best for your company. Off the record implies that you won’t. And when it comes right down to it if there’s ever a chance that you have to testify you can’t magically claim that something was off the record.

    Now I get that its easier to draw reference info out of former managers by saying “off the record.” But, if you’re doing that you’d better understand that what you hear isn’t really “off the record.”

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t get why people use this phrase in so many situations where it is totally meaningless. In journalism when someone wants to point you in a direction without being quoted or held at all responsible for what they are saying, OK. The rest of the time? No.

      1. Just a Reader*

        Even journalists aren’t required to honor off the record commentary. It’s not binding in any way, even in that context.

        1. Henning Makholm*

          Anonymous’s point was not that journalists are required to honor it, simply that it is meaningful to speak about whether or not the journalist actually did honor it..

            1. T in Construction*

              Just a Reader’s point is good to add to the discussion because that’s a common misconception that by saying “off the record,” it’s like invoking a contract between the journalist and the source to ensure anonymity. Not at all, although many journalists do honor the request and try to confirm the source’s information elsewhere

  14. Ash*

    Ask the people who are upset if they would’ve fired the guy for doing that. Then ask them if they were a hiring manager, would they hire someone who not only did that, but also didn’t disclose it?

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t believe the former coworkers would dispute that they wouldn’t want to hire this guy. The point was that they might be in trouble with their employer for talking about the firing, which they wouldn’t have done if the OP had been honest about her intentions. No one should ever feel like they’re required to put their job in jeopardy in order to nobly save the world from some random former coworker.

  15. Ann O'Nemity*

    Illegal? No. Still…

    It does sound a bit disingenuous that the OP went to question former co-workers and deliberately hid that he was reference checking. Some of these folks may not ultimately care, but I could also see how others would be miffed.

    1. CatB*

      I read the “off-the-record” as protecting the candidate – OP only found out about the drinking when inquiring. Should the candidate have no problem at all, protecting them from a possible retribution was sensible.

    2. A Bug!*

      I disagree. The OP appears to have been more concerned about the guy’s confidentiality than the coworkers were. If the guy hadn’t just been fired, then it would be really indiscreet for the OP to be telling his current coworkers that the guy was being considered for a job elsewhere; it could harm his current job security at a time where his potential new job was nowhere near in the bag.

      Perhaps the OP could have shared the information after finding out he no longer worked there, but it would have been necessary to confirm that information with several people before it would really be “safe” to do so without risking the guy’s job. At which point it might feel awkward to reveal – the first folks might take offense that OP didn’t tell them but told others (because it sounds like the people at that office have weird expectations). It simply wasn’t any of these coworkers’ business.

      So I think that I’ll give OP a pass on the omission. The coworkers weren’t bullied or tricked into sharing the information and (I assume) the coworkers were not promised confidentiality. The OP simply asked after this guy and they offered information. You lose control of a secret the second you share it, and these folks shared it willingly.

    3. Joey*

      Why? When people ask me about former colleagues I rarely ask what they’re going to use it for. But I also won’t say things that I think would ever embarrass me.

      1. Anonymous*

        No one can possibly think about every single way their words could come back to bite them later while keeping up a normal pace of conversation.

        1. Joey*

          Its actually not that difficult. Here’s my test. Don’t say anything that:
          1. You wouldn’t testify to in court.
          2. You would be embarrassed if the other person ever found out.

          1. twentymilehike*

            Joey, I have a similar test … “How would I feel about saying this if the person was standing behind me?”

            It all started in high school: I was calling my arch nemesis a slut to my friends in the hall. Turns out she was standing behind me. Open mouth, insert foot.

  16. ChristineSW*

    OP – It was absolutely the right call. I’m very curious as to some of the questions other commenters have brought up, such as how “word got around”–in BOTH companies no less–and what the job applicant was told, if anything, about why they were rejected.

    It saddens me that so many actions that are absolutely right are sometimes seen as so wrong. People who follow good morals get eaten alive in many cases because they are seen as too nice.

  17. SaraRenee*

    I once worked with someone, a long time ago, who stole money from the company. It was a large retail chain and he was a manager and he basically stole the deposit and claimed to had been robbed. It was a huge scandal (He eventually confessed and the company pressed charges) and I was privy to the information because I worked closely with the HR manager. Fast forward years later, he applies for a job with my new employer, I quickly gave the hiring manager the information and we passed on the candidate. Maybe I was wrong and maybe this individual was completely changed and would never do such a thing again, however the reality is that we are judged by our actions and sometimes it is really hard to clean up a bad reputation. Not that people don’t deserve 2nd chances because I am sure that a lot of people do, but as a hiring manager who you choose to hire is going to reflect on you. So if you hire someone who you know was let go for slacking off and drinking on the job, and he does something similar with your organization, someone higher up may question your ability to choose good candidates.

  18. Brett*

    While this was not a formal background check, this was essentially a background investigation. The techniques were similar: informal conversation with people acquainted with the candidate.

    If the background check agency or company had uncovered the exact same information through the similar methods and channels, the candidate would absolutely be rejected.

  19. A teacher*

    Years ago, there was a guy applying for a PE Position at my mom’s school. He was known in our town as someone that had drinking issues and had been picked up but not convicted of any major drinking crimes. He also got fired in our town for drinking on the town. Mom went to her then principal with concerns about the drinking. He was hired despite being warned. Less than 2 years later, he was taken out of the school in handcuffs for public intoxication and fired for gross misconduct. The principal came to my mom and said “why didn’t you tell me how bad he actually was?” All my mom could do was shake her head and remind he principal that she tried to warn him.

  20. AB*

    I apologize for going on a tangent here, but,

    “We have fairly high turnover, unfortunately, and it’s because it’s an hourly + commission position.”

    This type of comment always makes me question the competence of the company’s executive team. If this is a chronic problem, I bet it would be cheaper and more profitable to raise the employees hourly rate, or stipulate a minimum compensation for workers when their commissions went below a certain level. Employees would still have an incentive to sell (to earn above their minimum compensation), and turnover should be significantly lower. Even with higher salary-related expenses, costs could go significantly down when you consider the costs of new hire recruiting/interviewing/paperwork/OP’s time and travel to train the new manager /new employee time spent in training/etc.

    OP, I bet your time would be much better spent training existing employees in customer service and finding “bright spots” (employees who are top performers, so their strategies can be shared with others). I’m sure you are not in a position to change company’s policies, but your current process seem like such a waste of resources that I felt compelled to comment.

    As for your actual question, I’m with AAM and the others, also wondering what your colleagues are thinking by questioning your decision. Pretty weird reaction from them!

  21. CoffeeLover*

    Canadian tangent here. Addiction and alcoholism is considered a disability in Canada and it is considered discrimination if you fire someone for drinking on the job if they’re an alcoholic. You also can’t base your decision not to hire them on their alcoholism (officially anyways). You have a duty to accommodation them which means paying for counseling and waiting it out.

    I feel bad for the guy. This honestly sounds like he has a serious problem. Casual drinkers don’t go to their car over lunch to drink their sorrows away…

  22. Anonymous*

    I would have mined my own business and stayed out of peoples lives. The job of a hiring manager is to check references at that’s it. Not to snoop and lurk around like a snake trying to dig up dirt on someone. Just think if you encounter a problem with one of your current direct supervisors now and next this you know, you’re fired. Now your looking for a jobs and your old co-workers spills some un true information on you. Just remember Karma is something, so be careful of the little backhanded things you do!

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