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  • Is This Becoming a Trend?

    During the background process for my last agency I turned in a Personal History Statement (PHS) directly to a background investigator (BI). I was able to work with him and check to see what he wanted and how much he wanted to know. What does this question mean? etc.

    Lately, for some of my recent attempts at getting hired, the agency has requested a PHS very early on in the process and sometimes it's part of the actual application process itself.

    These PHSs have gone to nobody in particular or have even gone to non-sworn personnel rather than an actual BI. There is no particular BI to ask questions of or seek clarification something. If you have a question, you might get a BI to answer, but he/she may tell you something different than another BI might tell you a different day.

    Of the agencies that have discontinued the process after receiving my PHS, one sent it back to me. I like this since that way I know it's not just floating around who knows where. I'm actually no sure what to do with it, since it had very specific questions other agencies don't ask and subjects I'd rather not get into.

    Other agencies have kept the PHS with no indication of what they did with it, like filed it, destroyed it, or whatever.

    It seems like some of these are simply reading the responses in the PHS and making a decision rather than actually conducting a background or asking for clarification on anything they don't like. I don't have any known "disqualifiers" in my background.

    I've even had an oral board ask if they would find anything of concern IF they were to do a background. I felt like answering, "Well, pass me on this oral board, offer me employment and we'll both find out."

    Is this all a new trend? Or has it been going on awhile since I have been out of the game?

    Is anyone else uncomfortable with submitting very personal information to someone like a secretary or clerk (no offense), rather than to an actual BI?

    What about PHSs from a decade ago from agencies where I wasn't hired? Do agencies keep these things around that long?

    Anyway, just some thoughts for discussion. Sorry if any of this sounds rambling.
    Those who are successful at what they do don't give a rip about what others think about them.

    We don't rent pigs.

  • #2
    Administrative procedures vary from department to department. The PHS is a very critical document, and I can understand your reluctance to submit it to "just anybody". There is no iron clad guarantee your information won't fall into unauthorized hands, but the chances are pretty rare that it will. Basically, when you apply to a given agency, you're pretty much bound by the rules and procedures they follow. I'm not going to tell you they're always all that well thought out, and make sense. Some do, some don't. In a hiring process, it's only neccessary the procedures make sense to that particular department. Hope things work out for you.

    Comment


    • #3
      I guess the frustrating part is I go through heck trying to get a PHS done on time, just to have the agency take a cursory glance at it and make some quick judgment that they do not want to bother with it any further.

      My inkling is that they are seeing not automatic disqualifications (DQs), but maybe things they don't want to deal with. Examples might include having too many jobs. Or having applied at too many other agencies. Or having been released from probation.

      They tell me they want complete honesty and assure me they will fully examine the circumstances of what I tell them, but it never gets to the point I have the opportunity to explain something in detail because I never get to speak to a BI personally.

      I then get letters that say, "You do not meet our criteria", or "We do not have a suitable position for you at this time" or "You were not among the most qualified applicants".

      I don't know that I have ever been told that I specifically FAILED a background check. It's always excuses like, "We've decided not to continue the hiring process at this time."

      When I complete a PHS for another agency, I have to indicate whether another agency has conducted a background. Because I never know for sure that a background was conducted or not (because all I did was send in a PHS), I have to call the previous agencies. Sometimes they conducted one (meaning a clerk called a few places and asked about me) or they did not do one at all.

      Over 10 years ago when I went through this process before, it seemed like the agencies followed a basic procedure that included an application, written test, physical agility, oral board, and conditional offer, which was based on a background, and medical and psychological tests. The agency had some level of investment in you at that point and it was worth their while to objectively look at the circumstances surrounding your background.

      Since I am not getting to speak to a BI while completing my PHS, should I be more specific on some of the questions? Should I explain IN EXPLICIT DETAIL any facts surrounding potential negatives in my background?
      Those who are successful at what they do don't give a rip about what others think about them.

      We don't rent pigs.

      Comment


      • #4
        It seems like a lot of agencies, particularly the smaller ones are trying to streamline their process. They are taking possible factors that might cut you out of the process later and they are saving them time and money by cutting you out early on (at least this seems to be the thinking). Money is tight right now for most everyone and they are trying to save all that they can by lightening their load early on.

        I still think most of the bigger departments are sticking to the full process, if they are hiring at all.

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        • #5
          That makes sense, but they may jump the gun and pass over otherwise good candidates just because their background may appear questionable on paper.

          I guess what I am saying is that agencies seem to be making snap judgments without looking closely at the issues.

          Agencies complain about a lack of qualified candidates who don't have DQs in their background and then pass over people who don't have DQs (drug use, domestics, felonies, etc.), but may have situations that require some explanation.

          For instance, if a candidate was released from a probationary period without cause from their previous agency, that would LOOK bad on paper, if that's all you knew.

          If you were to do some checking and found that the release came just shy of the 18 month probationary period, was done by the third department head in that time period, all his evaluations were satisfactory, and the candidate had been with a similar-sized agency before this for the long-term with no issues, wouldn't that change things for you?

          What if another candidate had numerous jobs in a short period of time. That might LOOK bad on paper.

          If you were to do some checking, you found that the candidate was pursuing a degree and made that the priority. When his school, schedule changed, he quit the job and found another. Would that change things?

          In guess if an agency is going to do this to save time, they should save potential candidates time, too, and let them know what will and won't fly beyond the typical DQs. Make sense?
          Those who are successful at what they do don't give a rip about what others think about them.

          We don't rent pigs.

          Comment


          • #6
            Are they excluding you before the testing process (written/oral) or after?
            Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

            Comment


            • #7
              One requested a PHS after the application, but before any interview. I did take an on-line test on which I scored well.

              Another requested the PHS along with the application, so no testing there.

              Yet another one requested a pre-background questionnaire immediately following the oral board but before I even found out whether I actually passed the oral board.

              I have one that has requested the PHS at the time of the oral board. I passed both a written and physical agility beforehand. Potentially I could hand them the PHS and find out a few days later I didn't even pass the oral board.

              Another has requested the PHS after an oral board in which I did very well. It sounds like they are actually going to conduct a background but I haven;t been given the name of a BI.
              Those who are successful at what they do don't give a rip about what others think about them.

              We don't rent pigs.

              Comment


              • #8
                You're seeing first hand the variance in procedures between departments. As I noted in my original reply, don't look for logic/common sense to apply across the board. Essentially, agencies employ policies which they feel work well for them. When you're the person out there having to jump through all the hoops, those policies can seem to be pretty weird. Nothing I can say is going to change that, and I really hope things work out well for you: frustrations and all. Keep at it, especially if LE is what you really want to do.

                Comment


                • #9
                  First, I'm assuming you are applying with civil service agencies rather than an at will department where you serve solely at the pleasure of the appointing power. The hiring procedures for civil service agencies are usually spelled out in city ordinances or rules and any deviation from them opens up the agency to EEO complaints and potential civil liability. While those rules are written liberally enough to allow them to game the system to a limited degree later on in the process, it's hard to deviate from them in the initial stages.

                  Each job has minimum requirements (MQs). They are usually basic things like 21 years of age, HS diploma or GED, US citizen, valid DL, etc. The whole point of the initial application is to determine whether you possess the MQs. If you do, it is an automatic admission to the exam because at this point, they is no legal basis for denying you an equal opportunity to compete against all other similarly qualified applicants. If your initial application establishes that you possess the minimum MQs and you are denied the ability to even test, then something is very wrong.

                  Now, if you get DQed after the written or the oral, their excuse can be that you simply didn't score high enough to continue. If you passed the written and oral but still didn't get hired, you either didn't score high enough to be reachable (which is easily verifiable by you - the eligible list should be public record), or they played the rule of three with you (their prerogative), or you met their criteria for DQ on the background (whatever that may be). If it is a background issue, don't be afraid to ask to see your package. JOHNSON v. WINTER (1982) 127 CA3d 435, which is discussed at http://online.ceb.com/CalCases/CA3/127CA3d435.htm gives you access to a considerable amount of information from your background investigation in California. The agency may balk at first and it may take a letter from your attorney to the city attorney threatening a lawsuit, but you should be able to get a good idea as to what the problem is.

                  The whole point is, if you want to find out what the problem is, you're going to have to dig.
                  Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by L-1 View Post
                    First, I'm assuming you are applying with civil service agencies rather than an at will department where you serve solely at the pleasure of the appointing power. The hiring procedures for civil service agencies are usually spelled out in city ordinances or rules and any deviation from them opens up the agency to EEO complaints and potential civil liability. While those rules are written liberally enough to allow them to game the system to a limited degree later on in the process, it's hard to deviate from them in the initial stages.

                    Each job has minimum requirements (MQs). They are usually basic things like 21 years of age, HS diploma or GED, US citizen, valid DL, etc. The whole point of the initial application is to determine whether you possess the MQs. If you do, it is an automatic admission to the exam because at this point, they is no legal basis for denying you an equal opportunity to compete against all other similarly qualified applicants. If your initial application establishes that you possess the minimum MQs and you are denied the ability to even test, then something is very wrong.

                    Now, if you get DQed after the written or the oral, their excuse can be that you simply didn't score high enough to continue. If you passed the written and oral but still didn't get hired, you either didn't score high enough to be reachable (which is easily verifiable by you - the eligible list should be public record), or they played the rule of three with you (their prerogative), or you met their criteria for DQ on the background (whatever that may be). If it is a background issue, don't be afraid to ask to see your package. JOHNSON v. WINTER (1982) 127 CA3d 435, which is discussed at http://online.ceb.com/CalCases/CA3/127CA3d435.htm gives you access to a considerable amount of information from your background investigation in California. The agency may balk at first and it may take a letter from your attorney to the city attorney threatening a lawsuit, but you should be able to get a good idea as to what the problem is.

                    The whole point is, if you want to find out what the problem is, you're going to have to dig.
                    Thanks; that's very useful information. I was always under the impression that they are not required to disclose why you failed a background. I might just do that if I continue to be "rejected" after submitting a PHS.
                    Those who are successful at what they do don't give a rip about what others think about them.

                    We don't rent pigs.

                    Comment

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