5 Ways to Keep From Hiring The Wrong Person

Have you ever seen the wrong person in a job?  Maybe it was an idiot manager who knew the right people, but couldn’t manage breakfast–much less a department.  Maybe it was an evil co-worker who found ways to steal credit and cheat the system to get promotions.  Maybe it was an employee who found creative new ways to steal from the company. Whatever the case, you’re probably familiar with what it looks like when the wrong person is hired.  

Now, you’re the one who gets to do the hiring.  It is on your shoulders to make sure you get someone who is competent, honest, fits well into your culture, and works hard.  This is a daunting task .   Below are 5 things you can do to make the task easier.

  1. Describe exactly what you want–and then add credentials that are 30% better than what you need.   The key here is knowing what you really want in an employee and writing a job description that fits what you need. Try to assign weights to each qualification–make them measurable.  Then, when you add the credentials, make them 30% higher than what you’re actually looking for.  This will help discourage applicants who are absolutely not qualified.   For example, if you’re looking for 5 years of experience, ask for 6 or 7.  If you want a credential that isn’t as easy to mark-up, try to make an estimate.  For example a high school diploma plus experience may actually out-weigh a bachelors degree and no experience–but make sure you know where the two are actually equal for the position.
  2. Require all employees to take drug screens.  While small employers are often quick to turn a blind eye to drug use in the workplace, screening applicants for drug use often means removing candidates from the running that will cause you problems down the road.  Employees that use drugs pose workplace risks like,  “lost productivity, absenteeism, injuries, fatalities, theft and low employee morale, an increase in health care, legal liabilities and workers’ compensation costs” (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Defense Inc).  A simple way to preempt this is by drug-screening prior to hire.  Of course, it’s fairly easy for employees to provide a fake screening.  So, having a random testing in place is another must for ongoing drug-free work environments.
  3. Make sure the employee has the skills that they say they do.  When an employee says they are an “Expert Excel User” or “Great with People.” They may sincerely think they have a skill that is “great” and turns out to be sub-par–or even terrible.  The way to validate this is through careful scrutiny.  If the employee claims to have a vital skill to the job, administer a test to make sure they can perform the tasks needed.  If the skill is a softer, but still vital skill, such as sales skills, ask to see their past numbers or follow-up with their prior supervisors to make sure that the employee is the person that they claim to be.  Never underestimate the power of asking a prior supervisor, “Would you recommend X for hire?”
  4. Complete thorough background checks.  If you want an honest and responsible employee, you need to do more than just call their prior employers and speak with the HR department.  Here’s a little secret: HR rarely knows how an employee performed when they were with the company–unless there were a lot of disciplinary write-ups.  And, in that circumstance, HR probably won’t disclose that to you because it can get them in trouble if they share the wrong thing and word gets back to the employee.  So, check with your local court records, run candidates through a free background database, and if you need special security for a position, send them for a BCI/FBI background check at a qualified location.
  5. Check for a cultural fit. You may find an employee who is skilled, has great references, and seems awesome.  However, there’s also a cultural component that you must consider.  This usually gets left out of hiring for small businesses, but it is important.  If you hire the world’s most skilled employee, but they only work for an hour a day before frittering away their time, then you’re going to be very unhappy with your hiring decision. It its important to communicate the type of culture and expectations that you have of your employee.  You want them to work for x hours, you expect them to show up at x-time, you do or don’t allow a lunch break, most employees wear jeans on Friday…etc.   These and also some of the unwritten norms are important to communicate.  From there, screen candidates for traits that make for a good cultural fit.

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