After years of using services to hire personal care attendants — and having to work with whomever shows up — I’ve developed a system to vet potential PCA hires, help avoid toxic hires and find the best employees. It takes about 10 minutes and screens out anyone with a criminal or otherwise unsavory background.

When I find someone, I conduct an initial phone interview prior to a meet-and-greet in my home. During this call, I get their last name so I can do a preliminary background check before we meet, and then I follow that up by going through my PCA service, which will do a state background check.

With their first and last names, I head to my state’s online courts system and check civil, family and probate court records, then criminal, traffic and petty case records. After years of vetting, I draw the line if there are several recent civil suits against a person for non-payment of rent or store credit; shoplifting convictions; DWIs within four years; and more than a fair share of speeding or other moving violations. If I know or can find the applicant’s partner — if they have one — and that person has a questionable record, I cross them off my list.

After that quick check, I head over to Google and enter their first and last name in quotes plus the state of residence. Here, I search through a few pages of listings to find an address, spouse/partner or any social network with which they may be involved and, again, use my own criteria of what I deem unemployable. Full disclosure: If my potential employee is brandishing a gun in their selfie, we wouldn’t be a good fit.

Using this system, I have dodged a bullet four times within the last nine months. In one case, I found newspaper articles about a prospective employee who lived in a high-income area. Yet, I found that she and her husband have been sued by several credit companies, have numerous parking violations, that their home is a known meth house in foreclosure, and that she harbored a man who’d recently killed a police officer. I found that another woman I was going to meet and greet was convicted of sexting 15-year-old boys at our local high school, and another woman’s fiancé had a rap sheet a mile long with several assaults, armed robberies and stolen vehicle convictions.

I’ve learned the hard way that my system is only good if I follow it. Recently, I found a woman who already was hired by my service. I did my online search and found she had a shoplifting conviction four years prior but let it go thinking she’d passed the company background check through the state. She worked one 4.5-hour shift then doctored her timesheet to 24.75 hours. That’s when I flashed back to her huge duffle bag of a purse flat out on my dining room table in the morning and her lugging it out plump and full when she left. We are missing our $140 fireplace remote control and who knows what else.

No system is perfect, and it is important to follow our own judgment, but this method has worked more often than it hasn’t. Hopefully it will help you avoid problem employees.

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