Towing Equipment Search:

Now Hiring — Anyone Who Can Fog a Mirror

Mar 23rd, 2012 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Recruitment and hiring have to be one of the most arduous tasks we face in this industry. Unfortunately, it seems to be a daily task at times as we try to find and keep good employees. In my time managing a tow company, I vacillated between hiring drivers with towing experience so they could be trained quickly, and hiring drivers without towing experience so we didn’t have to un-train their bad habits.

Many, many times I regretted the choices I made, usually the choice to find a warm body, but when you’ve covered extra shifts yourself and begged others to do so for weeks at a time, it is a very attractive option to hire anyone who can fog a mirror. This is a conundrum that cannot be solved in a newsletter, or a year of newsletters for that matter, but now that I no longer face the problem, I can ponder it without a rise in my blood pressure.

I’ve worked with some shady individuals in this business, to be sure. I’m all about forgiveness and fresh starts (ask my wife), but in business sometimes you have to go by the numbers. If someone has displayed a serious lack of judgment at some point in one’s life, the chances are better that they will do so again. If they’ve done so enough times that the law actually caught up with them, there’s a distinct possibility that it’s become a habit.

I think I’ve written before about the most interesting of these examples, a driver who walked in one day claiming he’d been driving tow trucks in Australia for ten years and impressed my boss so much that he hired him immediately. He was a crafty one — got in the truck and starting towing cars like he’d been doing it for 20 years. Thing is, he hadn’t ever driven a tow truck and he was using the name and identity of a deceased person to elude warrants for Workers’ Compensation fraud and writing bad checks. They nailed him when he applied for a Social Security card.

Sometime after 9/11, the county sheriff’s office started running background checks on our new and prospective employees, and this turned out to be a very valuable recruitment tool for us. One of the deputies would give me a call if there was anything unusual, and it kept us from hiring people who’d done time for drug offenses, sexual crimes and armed robbery. Some of these people interviewed quite well. Some were related or married to other employees we already had.

One disturbing thing about this new policy was when it was first instituted and they ran the background checks on our current employees. A few of them, it turned out, had quite interesting records, including a dispatcher with multiple drunk-driving convictions and a bookkeeper who’d been convicted of stealing money from his former employer. This was kind of tricky to deal with, but it was certainly valuable information.

I suppose we’re not far away from the day when we do an eye scan or wave our hand over something and up will pop our criminal background, family history, credit rating, life expectancy and favorite drink. I’m ready. I have nothing to hide. It will be interesting for me as well, since I don’t remember a lot of things I’ve done.

One of the most interesting episodes from the county sheriff background check program was one they didn’t give us the heads-up on. After an employee passed the background check and was hired by us, within 30 days the employee had to go to the county facility and get a special photo ID, which they had to carry with them while working and present to any county employee upon request. One driver I hired passed the background check, and started dragging his heels about getting the ID. After a few weeks, the deputy in charge of the program called and asked about this driver. I assured him that it was simply a matter of convenience and reminded the driver that his employment hinged on this issue. He kept coming up with excuses. After the 30 days had passed, I gave him one last chance and restricted him from running any county calls. A few days later, the deputy called me and admitted that he had misled us. The employee was wanted on open warrants in another state, for a variety of fraud-related activities. They asked when his next scheduled shift started, and they were waiting for him when he arrived. They had apparently wanted him to simply stroll into their facility to get his photo ID, where they would slap the cuffs on him (Why are cuffs always “slapped”?). My question: when the employee became aware that the county really wanted to see him in person and kept calling me to ask when he would be in, wouldn’t you get the idea that the jig was up? My other question: didn’t the deputy care about the possibility of this wanted felon victimizing our business or our employees? Talk about a liability issue. I hate to say it, but I think it came down to an issue of territory — our main office was in downtown Portland, so the bust had to be carried out by the Portland PD, but if the employee went to the county facility, the county sheriff would get to make the nab.

Of course, I made sure I was at work when the bust went down, just in case I needed to engage in the mayhem, and the employee cursed me up and down for my betrayal, claiming that the charges were trumped-up. Someone had stolen his identity, he claimed, and had gone on a crime spree, and he had been on-the-lam for months trying to clear his name, not unlike Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, or Sir Charles Litton in Return of the Pink Panther.

It’s these kinds of dramas that add a little spice to the workday, don’t you think?

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper