My friend and client, Bill, was having problems with his employee, Dave. Bill’s biggest frustration was that Dave was one of the LUZIRS (Lazy, Undisciplined, Zero-Interest, Irresponsible, Rude, Slackers, remember) but Bill couldn’t get rid of him right away because management had failed to conduct accurate performance reviews of Dave and there was nothing in his file to merit immediate termination.
Well, Bill finally got rid of Dave after documenting periodic reviews and continuing poor performance. Bill wasn’t happy about the time and money he spent getting rid of Dave, but Bill recognized that he was better off in the end. He raised a really good question last week: “How could I have avoided that whole mess?” My answer: “Don’t hire LUZIRS.” Not good enough for Bill, who said: “Well, tell me what we should do to avoid hiring LUZIRS in the future.” Fair enough, I said.
Look at your current work force. Then ask, “Who are my really good workers?” and “Who sucks?” Then, ask yourself the more important question: “Where did I find them?” The answers will tell you where to look for workers; in other words, where should you devote your recruiting resources.
Use a good employment application. Always. Every time. Without exception. A good application will ask the questions and get the answers you really need, e.g., education, experience, basic background information, references, etc. It will also have important legal information that you want the applicant to know: this is “at-will” employment; there will be a background check, drug test, credit check, and/or motor vehicle record check; lying on the application or hiding material information will result in termination; an arbitration agreement or jury waiver provision applies to any disputes; as well as required legal disclaimers such as “Equal Employment Opportunity” Employer.
Don’t ever accept a resume in lieu of a complete employment application. Don’t accept entries on the application stating “See resume.” Why?? Well, consider who decided what questions to answer on a resume. In contrast to a well-drafted employment application, a resume is the applicant’s “spin” on his/her background and qualifications. Statistics show that nearly a third of all resumes contain some material misrepresentation or outright lie. Because LUZIRS are generally lazy, they frequently put “See resume” on their employment application. Don’t fall victim to their trap!
Analyze the application carefully. Look for gaps in employment. Look for a progression of diminishing responsibilities or pay. Look for vague, unspecified reasons for leaving a job. Be wary of these classic reasons: “Disagreed with policy.” [= fired for rules violation] “Personality conflict” [= couldn’t get along with co-workers, supervisor, or customers] “Poor working conditions.” [= fired for poor performance] “Mutual agreement.” [= found out s/he was one of the LUZIRS] You should also look for incomplete or blank responses. If you application asks about criminal convictions [it should], and the applicant doesn’t answer, then guess what that means?? There probably is a gap in employment in there, too. If the applicant’s answer is “No” to each request to contact a prior employer, odds are the applicant is hiding something. While it might be appropriate for an applicant to not want you to contact a current employer, previous employers should be fair game for reference checking.
Interview the applicant pool carefully. Do this in private where you won’t be interrupted. Prepare for the interview—don’t review the application while the candidate is sitting in front of you. Ask open-ended questions that get the applicant to talk, and follow the 80 – 20 rule: let the applicant talk 80% of the time. Ask about likes and dislikes with respect to current or former job duties, supervisors/managers, companies, customers, etc. Do spend your 20% of the time “selling” your company and the job. You want the candidates you don’t select to say good things about your company too.
Check references. Always do this. It is often a good idea to talk to personal references too. Try not to get stone-walled by a response limited to job title and dates of employment. At least ask if the candidate is eligible for re-hire.
Give the new hire a proper welcome and orientation. This is a wonderful opportunity to impress upon the new hire the importance of key company values and principles. Let the new hire meet the “boss” early in the orientation process and make all levels of management part of the orientation process. This helps the new hire feel truly welcome and sets the stage for good communication later.
If you follow these steps carefully, you’ll be doing everything you can to avoid the LUZIRS. Oh, every now and then, one will slip through the process, but you will have screened out most of them long before they get on your payroll.
David Whitlock is a partner at Elarbee Thompson, a labor and employment law firm in Atlanta, GA. He has nearly 25 years’ experience in business immigration, compliance, employment counseling and training, and is a frequent lecturer and presenter on best practices in employment-related topics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.