Prevention is still better than a cure 

In September 2016, Charles Tham was employed by Hertz Australia as a Vehicles Services Attendant, based on a CV that portrayed the applicant as a stable and reliable employee. By early 2017 however, Tham had lodged a worker’s compensation claim to Worksafe for an injury allegedly suffered at work, plus a string of complaints regarding how this claim was being handled by the company. He also made additional complaints to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and lodged an application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, claiming he’d been discriminated against by the company.

Concerned with the validity of Tham’s workers’ compensation claim, and the frivolous nature of his additional complaints, Hertz began to have serious doubts about his character. Launching its own investigation into Tham’s employment history, the company discovered he’d lied on both his job application and resumé – not only did he have a history of short-lived employment, but he’d also brought various claims against ex-employers.

Hertz dismissed Tham after just nine months of employment and in response, Tham lodged an unfair dismissal claim to the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

The verdict 

The FWC found that Tham had intentionally misled Hertz and the errors in his resumé were not inadvertent mistakes. While this finding is a win for common sense, the object lesson for employers is not the legal precedent.

Despite the win by Hertz in this case, the outcome is not truly a successful result for the employer. The best-case scenario for Hertz would have been that they successfully hired a valued employee who was an asset to their business in the first place.

Shutting the gate too late 

Winning this case at the FWC would have involved many hours of administration, management time, legal costs and emotional heartache and stress for all of the parties concerned. Instead, Hertz could have directed their efforts towards running their core business and serving their staff and customers.

A reality of such legal action is that many smaller employers, without the same resources as Hertz, may not have been able to afford the time or the expense of contesting such a case.  Employers with limited budgets could be forced to settle the dispute before a hearing so that they could get back to operating their business.

The cost of hoping for the best 

While we don’t know the particulars around the hiring of Mr Tham by Hertz, many employers make the mistake that Hertz apparently made in this instance – they take the resume or job application at face value.

Detecting a lie in person or on paper is hard to do using intuition alone and employers can’t afford to leave themselves vulnerable to the small percentage of job applicants who misrepresent themselves during the application process. Making a poor hiring choice is a double loss for businesses – employers are left to manage a problem employee who shouldn’t have been there in the first place, while the organisation misses out on the valuable contribution of another, more suitable candidate who was not hired.

Risk-based hiring management 

At CVCheck, we promote a risk-based approach to hiring. We recommend that hiring managers assess:

  • The positive qualities and values they expect candidates to demonstrate such as honesty and integrity;
  • The skills and experience required of the role, such as formal qualifications, on the job experience, and licenses;
  • The various risk factors that the role, or that employee could pose for the company, such as legal liability, financial mismanagement, malpractice and other damages claims arising out of professional services.

The benefit of a thorough hiring process

The purpose of pre-employment screening is for the employee to verify and positively validate that the candidate meets the character and skills requirements, and mitigate any future risks.

When hiring Mr Tham, for example, Hertz could have requested a police check, verified his employment history against his resume, and obtained employment references.

For around $100, the company would have been alerted to the significant problems in their candidate’s application, and they would have completely avoided the cost, time, stress and disruption to their business. Hertz is clearly the injured party here, but there’s a very good chance that they would have preferred to make a small investment up front to avoid the cost and disruption they had to endure to win this case.

What this case taught hiring managers

The most important lesson is not the legal precedent or the reasoning that was applied by the Fair Work Commission, as sensible as that may have been. The point is that prudent, preventative measures are available, inexpensive and simple to apply.

Bad hiring decisions are costly, stressful and easy to avoid using a simple, risk-based approach. Eliminating unsuitable candidates is also fairer for honest applicants who compete squarely on their merits.

Everybody wins.

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