Also I have a bit of a background on the subject IRL, so here we go.
Before we start
So how do you make sure your potential new corp member isn't a spy, a corp thief, a conniver or anything else you would not want in your serious spaceship business?
The short answer is, you can never be 100% sure.
The nature of interaction online means that you inherently can not know enough about a person to be confident, even less so than IRL where this is already a difficult issue. Also, in EVE Online, pre-mediated betrayal is not only possible, it is a playstyle for some, and there are people who are really good at it too.
There are ways however to get reasonably close. So how do we get there?
I hope to illustrate the process as good as I can. I handle this based on hunches and intuition a lot, so some things might be difficult for me to put into words, but I will do my best to make myself clear.
If you are already a successful corp recruiter or if you are working with a corp that usually only admits friends and family, this wont help you much.
If you have looked for a way to get some tips on how to handle recruitment better, then this might help you.
The whole thing may seem long and tedious sometimes. You might think "I will never manage all that".
It all reads more difficult than it is in the end. If you practice, I can tell you, you will become really efficient and fast in this. As with many things, you will need to put some effort it in and you will make mistakes you'll have to learn from.
Look at it as a piece of metagame to learn, and you will be doing fine.
The first thing you will see from an applicant is a mail or a conversation in your recruitment channel.
Read that carefully.
What is the attitude of that person?
Is that person talking about making ISK while you are a PVP corp who only want as much ISK as it takes to buy ships? Are they really gung-ho about fighting while you are industrialists? There are many subjective exclusion criteria.
Some people will very obviously just not fit with your corp and it will become clear in the first few sentences of interaction. Try to get as much of a picture about someone during those initial communications. It will save you a lot of work later.
There is one thing that should always make you pay attention: Does someone ask a lot of questions or does that person mainly try to pre-empt yours and anwser them?
Take special care about people who try to milk you for too much information.
Do not answer questions right away about your main active timezone, how many ships of which kind you can field, how far your jump-bridge network extends etc.
Rather steer them towards telling you about themselves. If people avoid that, take note of it. Someone who will not answer a simple question like "At which time are you most active." likely have a hidden agenda. Ask them about which ships they like to fly rather than telling them about yours. Ask them about what they are looking for in a corp rather than talking about what you offer. Be informal and casual and don't go too much into depth. Especially not about insider information.
At this stage you want to put them at ease but play it close to the chest at the same time. Don't sound too paranoid though. Stay friendly and helpful and attentive. The best way to do so is to listen rather than to talk.
Most people like to talk about themselves. Try to get them to do so and listen/read as much as possible.
The starting point for any background check is the very useful site EveWho.
You can look up the pilot there and get a few pieces of information immediately: Their sec status, the corp and Alliance they are currently with and their corp history.
Let's start with that.
Sec StatusThe importance of that will vary a lot from corp to corp. But quite objectively it tells you a few things.
A high sec status can be deceptive.
Initially one could conclude that this is a mainly PVE oriented player with little inclination to PVP. Negative sec status can - however - be raised rather quickly if you rat in lowsec or nullsec. You can have years of fighting experience in nullsec fleets and still have a 5.0 sec status. So don't draw too many conclusions based on that.
A low positive sec status indicates a PVE character more reliably. It is pretty difficult to raise sec status quickly by running missions. Particularly a 5.0 sec status is hard to get just by highsec carebearing. Miners usually don't accrue much at all. Somebody who is a miner mostly will have a low positive sec status between 1 or 2 more likely than 5.
Still, people with positive sec status are not necessarily "harmless". You can check that by looking at their killboard stats, but that is for later.
A negative sec status tells a clearer story. It tells you that this player has attacked people in lowsec or highsec who are neutrals and non-criminals. More importantly, it tells you they either did it so much, or care so little to improve it, that their sec status stays low.
They would most likely be pirates or highsec gankers.
At this point you should ask yourself if that playstyle fits with your corp or not. Take a decision whether to add a positive or negative flag to that player based on that.
Again killboards will be a valuable source of information here. This will be a whole heading of it's own in Part 2.
Corp and Alliance HistoryThat not only tells you how old a player is, but also how long they stay in their respective corps.
Of course it also tells you which corps that person has been with, but I will get to that in a moment.
Initially you will get an impression of that person's behaviour.
Are they corp-jumping every few weeks? If so, they might just not be the most committed people. It could also mean they join different corps to rip them off. On the other hand they might have jumped between corps in the same alliance a lot.
This is where you want to start looking into the corps they have been with.
People who repeatedly spend extended amounts of time in NPC corps should raise a flag.
The question is why they would do that.
Is it because they need to hide from prosecution? Is it because they are not really group-minded individuals who want to stay on their own a lot? Is it because that character is an alt that is mostly parked out-of-corp or out-of-alliance.
These are questions raised by that information and they should be taken down for later.
Go through their corp history and look at each corp they stay with for a significant amount of time.
See whether that corp (and it's alliance if applicable) has a webpage, a forum and a killboard. Look those up and try to get a picture about them ... you can also do a lot there by using EVEWho which also offers corp and alliance information. More on that in a moment.
Maybe there is information at this stage that will immediately tell you that a person is not suitable for you.
Maybe you find out they were lying about parts of their in-game history or "forgot" to mention it. Maybe they were part of a corp or alliance you would immediately flag as undesirable. Of course there can be positive indicators there too. If someone tells you they have been with mission running corps for years and they're fed up with it, you might see it matched here. If someone told you they wanted to leave a large powerbloc and rather take it easy with casual FW PVP, it should show too.
Remember how I said to read their application mail carefully and pay attention to what they say in your recruitment chat. This is where you begin to match their words with the facts.
If someone jumps a lot between different corps within one alliance, that is generally not a reason to be wary about them. If they jump between several different small corps doing more-or-less the same thing, that's not much to worry about either. Chances are they were just looking for the right place that suits their playstyle and ended up choosing wrong, but that should be noted for a later question.
It becomes dodgy - and should raise flags - if people jump between different corps of different playstyles way too often. That might indicate someone who is either a spy, a thief, a conniving or inactive person or any other kind of problematic individual who can not or does not want to fit in.
It is a good idea to contact a few CEOs of those former corps and ask why that player is no longer a member.
People who stay with only a few corps for a long time are usually quite faithful and committed, especially if you can find out that their older corps and/or alliances have folded.
At this point, you should also look into any alliance histories of the corps they were with.
I already mentioned checking whether corps they were with are all members of the same alliance. It is also valuable to know which alliances those corps have been with in the past. That information is something you can find by looking up the corp in EVEGate or in-game. If they have been in an alliance that is red to yours, you should take note and wonder why they are not with them anymore. Do they collectively hate their former masters and are they maybe looking to change sides? Or have they left and stayed away from an alliance they are still loyal to and are looking to seed their members into opposition corps?
Constantly back reference information you gather at this stage with things you know already. See whether everything matches and creates a conclusive profile of the player so far.
If the answer is no, you can stop here and say no to that person.
... and next?
In the second part of this series I will go into details about killboard examination, the meaning of the presence and lack of a person's forum posts, more on cross referencing of information and on how to formulate questions to ask an applicant during the final interview.
I hope so far the information was helpful for you and you will stay tuned.
I promise it wont be long.