Stock advises that when doing these personality checks, the company should ask applicants not only for positive references, but also for references from people the applicant admits to having had difficulty with at some point in the past. “Now somebody says to you, ‘well, I’ve never had any difficulty,’ well, that already would raise my index of suspicion.”
Some of the questions that a company would want to ask a reference about the job applicant are “How does the person handle decisions? Are they flexible? Do they seem to dig their heels in and not listen to opposing points of view? Have they done anything that’s disturbing to you?” says Stock.
A common characteristic shared by those who pose an insider threat is dishonesty, says McGarvey, so prospective employers should be on the lookout for any type of deception in the hiring process. “So if a person comes in and they give you a bogus, not necessarily an incomplete résumé but a bogus résumé, not only are they being dishonest but they’re trying to manipulate the situation into making you think they’re someone they’re not,” McGarvey says. He adds that it’s not necessarily that the applicant makes errors, but why there are errors and if they are intentional.
John McGonagle, managing partner of The Helicon Group, recommends asking job candidates about their job history and any issues with prior employers. Too many job changes could be a red flag. “Some high achievers are constantly changing jobs,” he says, but it might be worth looking into.
“Maybe they’re trying to get ahead or maybe they’re going from company to company stealing products and moving to the next company…. Until you associate that as part of the group of inappropriate behaviors, you don’t necessarily see it as an insider threat issue, you just see it as somebody who’s trying to get ahead,” McGarvey says.
McGonagle also recommends asking whether applicants have been involved in lawsuits with prior employers. They “may have been perfectly legitimate…but it’s a legitimate question to ask,” McGonagle says.
One way to avoid individuals who could go either way is to hire someone with characteristics that tend to mitigate insider threat risk. For example, working well with others, showing compassion to and for others, responding well to criticism, and communicating frustrations effectively—these are all qualities to look for in job candidates, says the Deloitte report Building a Secure Workforce. Prospective employers can seek to determine whether a person has these characteristics by talking with a person’s references and asking the right questions during written and oral interviews.