FBI Background Check on Steve Jobs Provides Interesting Reveal

Nick Fishman

ap steve jobs apple wy 120209 wblog Steve Jobs FBI File: Bomb Threat, Drug Use Noted in Background Check

In 1991, Apple’s Steve Jobs was asked to submit to a background check in order to secure his appointment by President George H.W. Bush (not Dubbya).  I found two of the finding interesting.

  • There were many allegations of drug use
  • A common theme among those interviewed cited an integrity issue.

Now, let’s just say that this wasn’t Steve Jobs.  How would this affect your average Joe’s ability to secure a job?

Check out this excerpt from ABC News concerning Jobs’ alleged drug use:

“[Name redacted] also advised that he was aware that Mr. Jobs used illegal drugs, including marijuana and LSD while they were attending college.”

While mere allegations of drug use are probably not reason enough to deny employment, an employer would be well within its rights to perform a drug test.  Plus, another thing to bear in mind is that the person was referring to drug use when Jobs was in college, not even in the recent past.

The second item is very interesting to me; the issue of trustworthyness and integrity.  On that the ABC News Story offers the following:

It [the background check] reveals no felony convictions and dryly lists lawsuits in which Jobs was involved, but also cites unnamed associates who mentioned Jobs’ drug use and questioned his “honesty.”

Wow!  This is indeed interesting.  We’ve heard a lot of negative stories about Jobs’ behavior and general demeanor in the office.  Now, we’re also learning that his colleagues didn’t trust him.

So I ask, if you were to receive such information while conducting a reference interview and you didn’t know anything about the applicant, would you have hired the person?

In this case, not hiring him would have been one of the most monumental hiring mistakes of all time.

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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  • Name

    Hindsite is always an interesting animal…It can reveal some flaws in the system but in this story there is no mention of the 1000’s of stories of the dangerous and damaging people who have not been hired becuase of thier behavior. Also it doesn’t take into account those who have done less than a thorough background check and someone has died because of those poor decisions. For instance…If you look at http://www.sueweaver.org website you will see how the in adequate background check and poor work led to the death of Cathy Weaver. I agree with you to pass on Steve Jobs would have been a huge mistake there was nothing but suppostion and rumor in this story…I would have hired him and so would have thinking HR professionals. More substantiated information may have changed a persons mind…

  • Name

    I think this is a really interesting point. Most people would probably do one of two things: 1) dig a little deeper or 2) dismiss them outright. Due to time constraints most (perhaps myself included, or at least it was my automatic response) would probably dismiss them outright. Which brings up a fascinating moral dilemma. Now I can’t say I have really investigated rumours of Jobs’ behaviour at work but no matter what they are it does nothing to change the fact that bringing Jobs back to Apple saved the company and led to the revolutionising of the technology industry. I’m not saying that someone else might not have gotten there if Apple hadn’t but in this version of reality Apple definitely led the way.

    So the moral dilemma – this person would not generally be considered suitable for employment, however, they could have the potential for greatness – do we hold peoples pasts against them? and where is the line? At what point do we consider actions to be ‘acceptable for employment’ or not? How forgiving are we of the mistakes that people have made and are we willing to accept the possibility that they might have learnt from them? And ultimately, in the business world as it stands today, do we have the time (or the inclination) to entertain these types of questions? That’s not a criticism just an observation of the global economy.