The following actually happened:
I was at the car wash when the worker waving me in told me if I wanted to, I could run him over. That way, he said, he could get workers compensation and disability for life.
“That would be so awesome,” he added.
What a loser, right? But who’s really the biggest loser? It’s actually the employer, who probably doesn’t even know the ticking time bomb they have working for them. How does an employer avoid making a hire like this to begin with?
Many employers rely on whatever applicants walk in the door as their hiring pool. This is a very limited perspective and relies a lot on luck. Instead, an employer should think of the best workers they currently have. Considering what skill attributes or experience they have in common allows a company to target those items instead of simply casting the net into the local neighborhood. For example, I worked with a client who needed to hire assemblers who were required to do fine manual dexterity work. For obvious reasons, they discovered that their top workers all had something in common. They had hobbies which reflected their dexterity: sewing, knitting, carving wood, basically handcrafting-type activities. Some flyers were posted at the local craft and hobby stores and voila – we had a ready pool of applicants with a propensity towards the required skills.
Screening candidates based on desired attributes or skills is always a smart strategy. For example, a drug-free workplace is a good concept for many reasons. It helps maintain safety standards and overall attracts a better quality worker by keeping away those workers who tend to make poor decisions. Requiring a pre-employment drug test can go a long way, as can other types of pre-screening: requiring specific skill sets, providing work-related verifiable references and screening-out applicants with unexplained gaps in employment.
Sitting down with someone even for five minutes and asking the right kinds of questions can reveal a lot of information an employer might otherwise only learn once the person is on the job.
“Tell me about a time you were terminated from a job?” is a great and revealing question. “How have you resolved conflicts with co-workers in the past?” tells a lot about decision-making and may reveal a tendency towards violent behavior. “How many times is it acceptable to miss work during a typical month?” also sets great expectations for attendance.
Using a Staffing Agency
Staffing agencies provide benefits in a variety of ways. One of the primary methods is the pre-screening, interviewing and targeted recruiting that they will do on behalf of an employer. Most people report that it is very difficult to make time for recruiting and interviewing; this is what staffing agencies do all day long. Another benefit is that they can provide workers on a temporary or contingent basis. In this case, in the event an employee does turn out to be a bad fit, a simple phone call to the agency is all it takes to make that worker go away. They’re not your employee. You simply ask for another and you try it again.
Preventing a poor hire in the first place is the best way to avoid being stuck with a terrible employee who in this example, begs customers to injure them. Of course, you may be wondering what can be done about this car wash employee. Can he be fired? I shared this story with an employment and labor attorney and before I could even finish what I was saying he was blurting out, “fire him!” He reminded me most states are “at-will,” meaning anyone can be terminated for any reason, at any time. Most importantly, he said this type of behavior simply didn’t reflect a good customer experience for me or anyone else the worker may be having this type of conversation with. He said I could do the car wash a favor and put into writing what I witnessed, but that the employee would have little recourse if he was simply terminated without explanation.
Hopefully the manager will learn about this behavior before it’s too late, and maybe next time use these tactics to save himself the future aggravation.