How to Hire Good Employees

8/13/2008 -

Tales from O’Shea’s Fables . . .

Will O’Shaughnessy needed to hire a customer service representative for his bank. He collected resumes from several sources and was ready to conduct interviews. After interviewing five candidates, he selected one person and made her a job offer. She accepted, came to work . . . and turned out to be one of the worst employees he had ever had because she did poor work, couldn’t get along with anyone and created havoc among the other employees. He dismissed her within three months.

Riley MacGuinness had the same issue and needed to hire a department supervisor for his company. He had been interviewing and hiring employees for many years and was confident he had the experience and innate instincts to make a good choice. So, he collected resumes, conducted interviews, selected a candidate and offered him a job which the candidate accepted. That night, MacGuinness went home and picked up the evening paper, only to find the new employee’s name and picture on the front page, indicted for grand larceny.

Nellie O’Brien needed to hire an LPN for her medical practice. Like Will and Riley, she had several years of experience and had hired many employees during this time. Some worked out, some didn’t. In this case, Nellie hired an LPN that made a good impression in the interview, possessed the right credentials and produced good references. Nellie hired her and she became a satisfactory employee of many years.

And then there is Seymour McWilliams. Seymour had an opening for an administrative assistant. He interviewed several candidates and didn’t really like any of them but he needed an administrative assistant really badly. So, he settled on one applicant and reluctantly offered her the job, thinking to himself, “This is probably not going to work out at all.” It turned out that she was the best employee he had ever had. She came to work on time, was dependable and accurate, and fit in happily with all the rest of the employees.

And the moral of the story is . . . with apologies to Mr. Gump . . . hiring employees is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.

While we know that there is only one true way to determine if a candidate will be a good employee -- that is to hire the person and see what happens -- at the same time, we know there are specific employment practices that we can bring to bear on the employment process that will significantly increase our odds of hiring a good employee. These are GAPHRM (Generally Accepted Principles of Human Resources Management). Plato tells us that the most important part of any work is the beginning. If we want to have good employees, the beginning steps of that process include interviewing and screening applicants so as to identify the best possible candidates for the position.

• The Personal Interview.

After collecting a sufficient number of applications and screening out those who are not qualified, we are left with a group of candidates with whom to conduct personal interviews. The personal interview is an important part of the employment process because it provides you with an opportunity to meet the candidate in person and observe behavior, appearance and general demeanor. There are several important points to remember about the personal interview.

1. In a personal interview, the candidate is on his or her best behavior. This is the best the candidate will ever be and if, for whatever reason, you don’t like the candidate now, you will like him less later. Whatever reservations you have now – in terms of appearance, demeanor, skills, qualifications -- will be magnified if you hire the person.

2. Someone once said, “The closest a person ever comes to perfection is when he completes an employment application.” Be sure that each candidate fully completes the application form prior to the job interview. If an applicant is reluctant to furnish information, this is a red flag.

3. In the interview, you can discuss the candidate’s experience and qualifications and can inform the candidate about job requirements and rules and regulations, to make sure there is no issue, such as appearance, working hours, that would create a problem.

• Background Checks.

Prior to extending an employment offer, it is critical to conduct a series of background checks that include (a) previous employers and, if applicable, (b) credit record, (c) criminal record, (d) driving record and (e) credentials.

1. Previous Employers.

You should contact at least 3 previous employers and ask for a reference check that includes dates of employment, job performed, pay received and work performance. The two reasons for conducting these reference checks are (a) you may get key information that will help you make a good employment decision and, (b) even if you don’t, you will have done your “due diligence,” providing an essential measure of protection in the event of a “negligent employment” claim.

2. Driver’s Record.

You should check the driving records for all employees who drive or who might have the opportunity to drive on the job. However, do not conduct this check on employees who do not drive at work. A poor or dangerous driving record can be a reason for not hiring a person into jobs where driving is a responsibility.

3. Credit Background Check.

Conduct this check for all employees who handle money or items of value at work. You should not conduct this check for employees who do not handle money or items of value. A poor credit record can be a reason for not hiring an employee where money or items of value are at issue.

4. Criminal Record.

We recommend that you check the criminal records of all applicants to whom you are giving serious consideration – local, state and federal. A conviction for serious crime is usually job related and can be a reason not to hire an applicant – theft, molestation, assault are some examples. An arrest with no conviction should not be a reason not to hire. “Adjudication Withheld” or “Nolo Contendere” are problematic and you should talk to your Seay Management Consultant prior to making a hire/no hire decision.

5. Professional Credentials.

Some jobs require an applicant to possess professional credentials, such as certifications or degrees. Teachers, Registered Nurses and Professional Engineers are examples. A local newspaper recently carried the story of a person who was practicing medicine, seeing patients and prescribing medication, when someone discovered that the person was not a medical doctor and had no medical training. It is important to verify that an applicant has the requisite professional credentials, where this is job related.

• Working Style – Looking Behind the Veil.

So, at this point, we have the application form, the personal interview and the background and reference checks, and we have some general idea whether the candidate has the skills and qualifications for the job and has a driving, credit or criminal record that is acceptable. The next question is, “Is this person a good fit for the job?” That is, the job and the person should be a good “fit,” in terms of skill set, culture, working style and job satisfaction. At our firm, one way we accomplish this objective is through the use of the DISC profile. The DISC measures (1) how a person see himself or herself (2) how a person reacts to the normal pressures of work, and (3) a person’s natural or preferred working style. The profile measures the above three traits according to four working styles, represented by the initials DISC. Each of us is characterized by being primarily one style and secondarily another. Our behavior at work stands in relation to these styles and they tend not to change throughout one’s life.

The High D is the Type A, hard charging, take control, driving kind of style that is motivated and energized by accomplishment and achievement. We find many managers, supervisors and executives in this category. High D’s have a strong sense of time and urgency, are often impatient and want to do it “my way.” A High D needs direct answers, tends to respect other High D’s and becomes agitated when he feels someone is taking unfair advantage.

The High I is the person who is motivated and energized by interpersonal relationships and by being around other people. High I’s rely on the force of their personality at work and enjoy telling stories and anecdotes to illustrate their positions. They are usually very optimistic, though often a bit disorganized, and fear the loss of social approval. We often find these patterns in sales, customer service, child care and health care.

The High S is characterized by the strong desire to get along with others and avoid conflict. This pattern is extremely dependable, has a will of iron and can persevere with a job until it is complete, no matter how long it may take. A High S will focus in on one job until it is completed, while a Low S prefers working on a variety of tasks concurrently. A High S greatly values job security and we often find them as small department managers or supervisors or in secretarial positions.

The High C is the Perfectionistic pattern that is energized and motivated by “getting it right,” and there is only one way to get it right. A High C does not like criticism of his or her work, is often very skeptical and frequently asks “Why?”. This is an extremely detailed pattern that is often found in accounting, finance and data processing or information technology.

The purposes of examining the results of the DISC profile are twofold. First, it helps us make sure we have a good “fit.” For example, a High I might be a good fit for a receptionist, but not for accounting. A High C might be good in a technical position but not as a sales employee. Second, it promotes understanding at a very high level. If we know a person’s working style (or personality temperament), we are likely to be more effective in working with that person.

We strongly recommend that you administer the DISC profile or a similar tool to every candidate you seriously consider, particularly in critical positions, such as supervision, management, sales, administration and professional positions. The DISC allows you to “look beyond the vale,” past the skills and qualifications, and into the working style of the applicant, helping make sure that you have a good fit. Without the DISC profile or something similar, there is a sense in which we are “shooting in the dark.” However, if you add the DISC profile to the other background and reference checks you have completed, and you measure this against your personal interview with the applicant, you will dramatically increase your odds of hiring a good employee who will remain with you and be productive for the long term.

Sandy’s one-half day workshop, “How to Hire and Retain Good Employees,” covers the employment process from A to Z, using Generally Accepted Principles of Human Resources Management to help you save time and money in employment. If you are interested in this educational and entertaining workshop, contact Sandy at, and we will provide you with the information promptly. In the meantime, please let us know if you have any question about employment, or about other Human Resources Management issues, and we will be delighted to talk with you. And please visit us at our website at We want you to know that we appreciate having you as a valued and important client of our firm.

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