Life would be a lot easier if we could keep idiots out of the workplace.

The hiring and selection process for any employer is one of the most critical functions they must perform. After all, as a business, we are only as good as the biggest idiot we employ, so it stands to reason that an effective screening process is essential to minimize the potential of dealing with morons on our payroll down the road.

Still, no process is perfect, and we find ourselves, as employers, endlessly struggling with the unforeseen results of our hiring decisions. Try as we might, employers have a constant battle in trying to make the right selection for their needs, and as we all too often learn, things are not always as they appear. (I am very happy with my current associates here at The references in this article are generalized or from my past experiences. I only mention that lest they actually read my blog and inadvertently begin to clear out their desks)

I read an article yesterday about a rather insistent job applicant, who requested an application at a Virginia McDonalds. When told by a manager that all applications were now handled online, he brandished a gun and again requested a paper application. Not surprisingly, the manager complied. The manager also phoned the police, who arrested the prospective future employee of the month while he was completing said application in the restaurant.

Here is a clue. This particular applicant may not work and play well with others. The use of weaponry was far too premature in this specific relationship. Normally one should wait until they have been in position several weeks before they decide to bust a cap in someone’s ass.

And speaking of busting a cap in someone’s ass, last week we learned of a Walmart employee who was angered when another employee in his store was selected as “Employee of the Month”. He did not believe his co-worker was worthy of such a noble and honorable distinction, and instead had insisted he should be “Employee of the Month”. He demonstrated his commitment to this principle and his company by shooting the windows out on the car of his rival, which was conveniently parked near the front of the store in the spot designated for the “Employee of the Month”. It should be noted that the Walmart “Employee of the Month” does not get any additional remuneration for the honor; they merely get their name on a plaque and a special parking spot that makes it easy for jealous co-workers to find and damage their car.

As a manager I have hired many people over the years. I have also had to fire a few of them. To be fair, many of the people I have had to fire were hired by people I replaced – primarily to clean up the mess they had made by hiring the people I had to fire. Capiche? However, I have certainly made hiring mistakes, and I recognized early on that if I could get better at hiring, I would not have as much practice in firing. In fact, any manager who excels in firing likely got that way because they suck at hiring. It is a critical pivot point in the process.

Years ago I was a District Manager for a multi-concept restaurant chain in Ohio. I was interviewing management applicants, and had scheduled an interview with a particular man despite initial reservations from his resume. He had solid restaurant management experience, but he changed jobs often. In fact, he appeared to change jobs every year, almost without fail. However, his references were good, and I set the interview up. He blew me away. He was clean cut, professional, energetic, and interviewed extremely well. He was to this day one of the best interviews I have ever had. While his answers concerning his job changes were professional and seemed reasonable, today, in retrospect, I could boil them down to this: “My boss was an idiot and couldn’t see my way was better”. I should have heeded the warning signs, but he was an outstanding interviewee. I actually got excited by this interview, and that allowed me to override my previous (and accurate) reservations.

Needless to say, I hired him as a General Manager of one of my restaurants. His tenure with us was not remarkable, and at times was fractious, as he had trouble adhering to certain company principles and standards. And to no one's surprise, almost a year to the day after starting, he tendered his notice and took another position, and I had become just another in a long line of idiot bosses who failed to acknowledge his genius. The only saving grace for me was 1 year later I got a reference call from yet another prospective employer. It seems the boss who replaced me was also a blithering idiot.

So, we see that proper selection is crucial if we are to be able to skate through work with as minimal effort as possible. You should always strive to hire people who are smarter and better than yourself. You would think for me that would not be much of a challenge at all, but I've managed to miss that mark on more than one occasion. And to be clear, people may do things during interviews that may be idiotic, but it doesn't make them idiots. Still, it's a clue for the hiring manager.

I recall an interview I once conducted, where the applicant, in telling me why she could not work nights, said “Well, two years ago I was attacked and brutally raped. But I fought back. I scratched his face and dug his eyeballs out with my thumbs. I made sure I hurt the bastard”. While I do not question the traumatic nature of what she experienced, I internally questioned her wisdom in sharing such detail during a job interview. After all, I have no idea what a proper follow up question to that response would be. They did not teach me that in college.

Another interview left me feeling like the idiot. We were interviewing a young woman who worked for our company but was looking to move into management. During the initial questions as the interview started, I looked at her application and realized she did not know the proper abbreviation for “Assistant Manager”. She had written, in the box asking for position desired, “Ass Manager”. Now, those of you who have read my blog know that I possess, or am victimized by, a rather active imagination. All manner of imagery began pouring through my mind at that point. My initial thought was, “Well, she's come to the right place”. Internally it went downhill from there.

And then I got the giggles.

She proceeded to answer another managers questions, and they continued a serious dialogue, while I sputtered and spurted, desperately (and unsuccessfully) trying to stifle my laughter. Adding to this imagery was the fact that this woman always worked to maintain a somewhat haughty air about her, and she had never seemed particularly fond of me. I am afraid our interview did not improve that opinion.

So the end result is, when looking for new employees, don't hire an idiot and don't be an idiot. If you can master those simple rules, life will glide by much more smoothly, and employees will be far less likely to bust a cap in your ass.

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