The Federal Drive, a show on Federal News Radio recently offered the following advice to job seekers: Background check in your future? Don’t lie! One of the things that I got out of the material is the difference between the federal government and other employers.

The show included comments from Debra Roth. She’s a partner in the firm of Shaw, Bransford and Roth, that specializes in Federal employment law. Here’s just one comment. “Lying to the federal government almost always, in current times, will get you criminal charges.”

That’s probably not true for your company. The biggest stick you’ve got is that lying on an application is cause for termination. But there is something that the feds do can make your hiring and background check process more effective.

The government uses questionnaires to gather information. That’s a good process for two reasons.

First, it assures that you ask the same questions in the same way every time. And the answers will be in the applicants own handwriting, so there’s no chance of “misquoting” as can happen when you ask the questions in an interview and write down the response.

Here’s another idea you can use. The feds use two different questionnaires.

There’s form SF 86 (Questionnaire for National Security Positions) and form SF 85 (Questionnaire for Non-sensitive Positions). You can do something similar.

Obviously, you don’t have any “national security positions” at your organization. But you do have positions with access to money or to confidential records.

Creating separate forms and process for sensitive (access to money or to confidential records) and non-sensitive positions allows you to ask different questions and run different checks based on the position. That should make your process more effective and consistent, which is a good thing in today’s lawsuit-happy world.

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