Avoiding the Bad Employee

July 26, 2008 Updated: October 16, 2008
Employees' productivity, motivation, and happiness can make or break a small business, and why it's imperative to hire the right people. (Photos.com)
Employees' productivity, motivation, and happiness can make or break a small business, and why it's imperative to hire the right people. (Photos.com)

Hiring Tips for Small Businesses

Let me get the catchphrase out of the way: Your employees, also known as “people,” are really important to your business.

They’ll handle your money, your customers (who give you money), your product (which you sell for money) and more often that not, you’ll spend more time with them than with your family.

So why do so many businesses get stuck with bad employees? Typically, it’s because we fail to search, prepare and interview candidates thoroughly, and are hasty to hire someone hoping they’ll work out. These bad hiring habits result in a weak workforce, which will leave your life miserable and your business in bad shape.

My first suggestion is to ensure that a heavy workload doesn’t cloud your judgment. If you are desperate for an employee because your team is overworked, or you just lost an employee, you’ll inadvertently drop your standards just so that you’re not stuck working 12 hours a day. This compromise will usually lead to hiring someone who may be under qualified, lazy or dishonest.

So where can you find good candidates?

Clearly, the position and degree of experience will require different search methodologies, but for entry to mid-level white-collar employees, we have used Monster.com. This site can usually produce 15-20 relatively qualified résumés that have led to multiple successful hires for our firm.

Other sites to consider are CareerBuilder.com and HotJobs.com. These postings are not cheap, so start by posting one career opportunity on the site of your choice and see if it meets your expectations. Career fairs are also a great way to meet hundreds of people immediately and get a good sense of a candidate’s “presence” and professionalism. “Grading” the résumés you receive and setting up interviews on the spot is a great way to maximize your investment in the fair. For whatever reason, many of the candidates won’t show up for their interview or even give the courtesy of calling.

Sometimes, the best way to find a good employee is by referrals. These referrals are cost effective, and people usually won’t recommend someone who would embarrass them.

The next phase is interview preparation. It’s not just the candidate that has to get ready. Make sure you and your staff dress properly, and make your candidate feel comfortable when they arrive so they are more forthcoming with their answers.

Ensure that you have researched and developed a thorough list of questions prior to meeting candidates—and that you ask each person the same questions. Questions should relate to the candidates’ experiences and what they will bring to the position, their character and personal interests. Pay attention to the prospect’s dress, handshake, eye contact and level of confidence. If the position requires certain technical skills, always test their knowledge.

I always look to see if the candidate is involved in some form of community service. This is a clear indication of responsibility, kindness, teamwork and selflessness, which usually makes for an excellent employee. Don’t overlook interview blunders such as spelling errors (or not even having a résumé during an interview), tardiness or inappropriate dress.

Be sure to have two separate interviews with the candidates and get at least one other staff to meet with the candidate. It’s impossible to get to know someone in one hour, but over the course of 3 or 4 hours on multiple days, you’ll get a better sense of their personality and character.  

So how do you choose? A simple rule to remember is hire people you like and who seem to have good character. If you get along with them well, and they have the right requirements, chances are it will be a good fit.

Joe Witte is a partner at Logo Design Guru (http://www.logodesignguru.com/), and has successfully started 3 small businesses including CentricSource and Travel Ad Network.

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