One of the theories of conventional wisdom about anti-corruption compliance is that you will never be able to reach 5% of your workforce with compliance training because they are predisposed to lie, cheat and steal anyway. Whether they are simply sociopaths, scumbags or just bad people; it really does not matter. No amount of training is going to convince them to follow the rules, as they do not think such laws apply to them. They will lie, cheat and steal no matter what industry they are in and what training you provide to them. But knowing such people exist and they may be able to lie, con or otherwise dissimilate their way into your organization does not protect your company from FCPA liability when they inevitably violate the law by engaging in bribery and corruption. It is still the responsibility of your company to prevent and detect such conduct and then remediate if it occurs.

This is where your HR function has a dual role. They can work to help weed out such miscreants and to communication your corporate values of doing business ethically, in compliance and aligned with your corporate values of integrity. Today, I want to consider several techniques which might be used to both help in the hiring process and begin the ongoing communications with prospective employees about your values at the pre-employment process in the employment relationship lifecycle.

Through a structured series of questions, a properly trained HR professional can begin to assess whether an employee might have a propensity to engage in bribery and corruption. By adding information about your company’s values towards doing business ethically and in compliance, you can introduce this topic at either the interview evaluating process or in the promotion process. While true sociopaths will most certainly lie to you, perhaps even convincingly, by introducing the topic at such a pre-employment stage, they may be encouraged to take their skills elsewhere.

In a Corner Office column of the New York Times (NYT), entitled “Three Keys to Hiring: Skill, Will and Fit”, Adam Bryant interviewed Marla Malcolm Beck, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bluemercury. She had several lessons that are helpful when trying to have your company avoid bringing in the five per-center mentioned above.

Avoiding the hiring or promotion of the sociopaths, is a key tool that HR brings to the table. Beck’s approach is to take a short interview technique in which she attempts to assess, Skill, Will and Fit. She said, “I’ll ask, “What’s the biggest impact you had at your past organization?” It’s important that someone takes ownership of a project that they did, and you can tell based on how they talk about it whether they did it or whether it was just something that was going on at the organization. Will is about hunger, so I’ll ask, “What do you want to do in five or 10 years?” That tells you a lot about their aspirations and creativity. If you’re hungry to get somewhere, that means you want to learn. And if you want to learn, you can do any job. In terms of fit, I’m looking for people who have some sort of experience with a smaller company. At big companies, your job is really one little piece of the pie. I need someone who can make things happen and is comfortable with ambiguity.”

Another approach was suggested by Russell Goldsmith, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of City National Bank in Los Angeles, CA. He was interviewed by Adam Bryant for the Corner Office column entitled, “What’s Your Story” Tell It, and You May Win a Prize”. Goldsmith focuses on character by directly asking the prospective hires what their expectations are in coming to work at City National because if the person is not a good match for the company, both parties will be better off if he or she does not go to work there in the first place. Goldsmith also asks if a prospective hire has any questions for him. Goldsmith believes it is important for a candidate to not only have questions but to ask them as well. He stated, “Not because I want them to kind of butter me up or something. It tells me several things. Sometimes people don’t have a single question. And if you have any curiosity, here is your window. I mean, you are thinking of changing your entire career and you have 40 to 60 minutes with the C.E.O., and you don’t have a single question about the company?”

An interesting example came from an interview of Brian Ching, the General Manager of the Houston Dash, the city’s professional women’s soccer team. The Dash are quite active in the local community, not only sent its players out into the community to meet fans but also encouraged its players to adopt local charities and become involved to create greater community involvement. The Dash left it up to the individual player as to which charity they might want to be involved with.

I asked him how the team could work to draft or sign players or prospects who are willing to engage in that type of community development. He said that in addition to the metrics and traditional scouting it involved having a frank discussion with any prospective signing about what would be expected of her as a Dash member. If getting out, meeting and interacting with the fans was not something that the prospective player was interested in doing that was considered in the evaluation process. This last point is assessed during face-to-face interviews with any prospect.

Something that may not seem important for professional athletes is the ability to get out and engage with the community, however this was viewed as not only an important part of the job description with the team but a key job skill which was required. For prospective Dash players, this meant that there had to be some direct conversations about not only the team’s expectations but also the prospects ability to engage in those activities.

Ching’s discussion about how they communicate their expectations was also an important point that the compliance practitioner should also consider in the interview process and compliance. Just as the Dash use the interview process to convey expectations, they also use the interview to directly inquire from candidates whether they would be willing to go out into the public and represent the franchise. This is important when interviewing for compliance positions and for senior management positions in companies as well.

Another approach was suggested by Mike Tuchen, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the software vendor Talend, in an interview by Adam Bryant for the NYT Corner Office Column entitled “Watch the Road, Not the Wipers. I thought Tuchen’s thoughts on hiring from the compliance perspective were pertinent. When he interviews, “The first questions are always going to be about management and leadership style. And I’ll ask a number of open-ended questions about what’s important to get right as a leader. Some people will talk about the people on the team and the best way to motivate them. The answers that kind of scare me are from candidates who talk about people as if they’re something on a spreadsheet. Leadership and management are all about people.” Clearly for Tuchen, leadership is about people and this should be so for any CCO who is interviewing as well.

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Use the interview process to determine who will be an ethical and compliance fit for your organization.
  2. Consider the skill, will and fit
  3. Ask open-ended questions.


This month’s series is sponsored by Advanced Compliance Solutions and its new service offering the “Compliance Alliance” which is a three-step program that will provide you and your team a background into compliance and the FCPA so you can consider how your product or service fits into the needs of a compliance officer. It includes a FCPA and compliance boot camp, sponsorship of a one-month podcast series, and in-person training. Each section builds on the other and provides your customer service and sales teams with the knowledge they need to have intelligent conversations with compliance officers and decision makers. When the program is complete, your teams will be armed with the knowledge they need to sell and service every new client. Interested parties should contact Tom Fox.