We have addressed the general overview of employee retail theft prevention in one of our previous blog posts. The focus of this article is the important area of theft prevention related to the seasonal, or capacity increase related, hiring of temporary help. There are work cycles during the year where temporary help often has to be hired. At the retail level this is greatest during the winter holiday season, but also holds true in some industries for vacation months, and times of the year when certain seasonal sports and activities are in full swing. Companies will need to bring in a number of temp hires quickly, and sometimes that happens along with the ill-advised overview unique to bringing folks on board for short term employment. Unfortunately, the diligent hiring practices followed for full time employees can become lax and simplified within the temp help hiring process.

This can lead to situations in retail where a new part time or temporary employee - who is destined to earn their normal hourly wage over a four week period – makes off with double that amount in their theft of items from the establishment. The temporary help needed in the retail sector is generally the front line individuals in the store, and they are the ones that are actually handling the merchandise. Theft can occur in any type of retail store, but for example, in the electronics departments, small items that can fit in a coat pocket can sometimes have extremely high monetary price tags. Once a person who has tendencies to steal is inside as an official employee, they can size up any weaknesses in the security area, and immediately start scheming to exploit any identified preventative measures.

Retail theft prevention starts with the interview process

Every organization has its own hiring processes in place and can differ based on their industry. In the retail area, it is not uncommon for an entry level employee to conduct candidate interviews. They often have not received the proper and necessary training for this important task. Additionally, their own workload and responsibilities would be positively impacted upon the hiring of temporary assistance, and thus their judgment and vetting of applicants might not be as critical as it would be normally. Their work day would be easier with more new employees doing some of the needed tasks, and so their motivation could be focused in this area and not with the concern of potential theft at the company they work for.

The retail theft prevention component that is most crucial and cannot be stressed enough is a comprehensive background check of job applicants. The Human Resources Department should have the ability to thoroughly screen each candidate and verify their identity – and find out if they are who they actually say they are. It is recommended that a criminal records search be done – there are databases and court records – all which will hopefully return a clean record for the potential hire. Retail theft statistics show that almost 10% of accomplishments listed on a resume are expanded and exaggerated, and almost 20% of stated job histories are bogus. This is another area of an applicant’s background that can be verified, and followed up with some pin pointed questions during the face-to-face interview. Employment dates is another area that can raise a red flag. Gaps should be scrutinized and explored – some companies may have concerns about hiring someone who happened to be incarcerated during that 16 month vague employment gap. Pertinent information such as previous salaries, job titles and education are other job resume entries that applicants often take liberty with in an effort to impress at the next job opportunity.

Vet temporary and permanent retail help the same

The best thing to do is to remain consistent in your hiring process and always stay true to your standards even for temporary or short term employees. This also applies to sub and independent contractors – they too will most likely have access to merchandise, credit card information, cash and business records. On a per case basis, dishonest employees steal over 5% more in dollar amounts than the typical shoplifters do. Stores during the holiday season, vacation spots, theme parks, and sporting events all create potential temporary retail opportunities for many people. Act wisely to decrease your risk and vulnerabilities, and consult professional help when you need to increase your knowledge and bandwidth in this area.

Published November 21, 2014