How to Avoid Hiring a Nightmare Employee


Have you heard the one about how human behavior relates to results of Pavlov’s study on salivation in dogs? A physiologist, Pavlov realized that he could train dogs to salivate whenever he entered a room, regardless of whether he came bearing food. Likewise, in an organization, managers condition employee behavior, and impact culture, by what they do – not what they say. If you want to maintain your organization’s culture, you need to close the gap between what you say and what your actions show you value.

In a post on Medium, Dr. Cameron Sepah takes on this topic as he discusses his performance-​values matrix. Leadership and managers can preserve an organization’s culture by implementing interview questions and procedures designed to prevent the hiring of bad candidates. Specifically, you want to hire candidates who will fit into the organization and who produce.

Sepah uses an interview “template” to help him get to a candidate’s grit and ability to be a team player, among other things. Some hiring experts use extensive reference checks to ferret out an individual’s value set. Other organizations believe there’s no substitute for experiencing a potential new hire up close and in person. There may be extended lunches to see how candidates conduct themselves in public. You could also choose to have a candidate put together and present a proposal in front of a group of employees, and, perhaps, trusted customers.

As an alternative, you can also ask candidates to take a test designed to profile their basic personalities and behavioral tendencies. TeamTrait, for example, provides this type of tool.

If you spend enough time and effort on understanding your top candidates, their true colors will begin to show through. Narcissists, for example, will sooner or later start bragging about themselves. And jerks will begin reveal their know-​it-​all sides or their tendencies to belittle and berate others. A good interview process will also help you identify the stars you want to add to your team.

As the old saying goes, you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool everyone all of the time. Keep Sepah’s suggestions in mind as you put together your hiring practices for the New Year.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.