6 tips for hiring employees without falling into a trap

October 06, 2020

6 tips for hiring employees

Anthony Babbitt, PhD(c), MS, a seasoned Change Management Consultant, Business Strategist and Executive Mentor, shares his best tips for hiring employees.

Very few people are fortunate enough to learn how to identify and hire employees from a trusted mentor. The school of hard knocks taught most of us. Today, I hope to share some of the most expensive and essential lessons, and tips for hiring employees that I have discovered while hiring in my businesses and advising other organizations.

How to hire employees for startup or organisations of any size?

The truth about how to hire employees for startup or even big corporations is that there’s not a list of set rules to guarantee you success. However, there are certain factors to consider when recruiting employees, whether they are Millennials or come from your inner family circle. We’ll discuss them below.

Do not hire people like you

Like attracts like, and the first small business hires tend to be a lot like the owner. Hiring “mini-me’s” is a mistake because you end up with group-think problems and a lack of new ideas. When everyone in the business has the same solution and viewpoint, you lose the benefit of unique vantage points and experiences within your team. 

I recommend hiring a mix of people who share similar attitudes towards work-ethics, honesty, and teamwork but have diverse backgrounds, education, and expertise. This diversity will bring innovative solutions to business problems and lead to greater success in the short and long-term.

Vet all employees, doubly so for executives

There is a wealth of data available about people online. Some of this information can save employers a lot of time and hassle. 

An employee at a past client discovered a co-worker’s felony conviction and started blackmailing the person. After the blackmail was uncovered, both employees lost their jobs, and the blackmailer earned his own felony record. 

At another client, who had a very diverse staff, an executive from a southern state was hired before adequately checking his references. This oversight was revealed once he began firing or re-assigning every person of color in an attempt to whitewash his department. The resulting legal bills have been considerable since the problem was unrecognized until a pattern of conduct had been established. Their litigation is ongoing.

Require and adhere to specific educational qualifications.

Another client developed sets of recommended education guidelines, but nothing was set in stone. As a result, one manager filled her department with underqualified people. This strategy created a sense of loyalty to this manager since she pulled some strings to get them jobs they otherwise would not have been qualified to hold. Unfortunately, this was in an IT department that operated amongst all the other departments. 

After a ransomware attack against the company ground operations to a halt, the entire department’s ineptitude was laid bare. The board of directors later learned that the IT department director possessed nothing more than a high school diploma and various industry certifications, despite his position requiring a master’s degree.

Dig past the resume and references

Most problems clients encounter from executives may be easily uncovered by probing beyond the resume and references. By the time a person reaches the managerial level or higher, they have figured out how to present their best face to potential employers. This fact requires that employers take extra steps to screen applicants. Checking references is a non-starter since few people offer problematic character references. 

However, instead of contacting past supervisors, one should reach out to past subordinates and same-level colleagues within a former employer (if legal within your jurisdiction). Reaching out to co-workers and former subordinates is an excellent method for ascertaining the real, day-to-day worker under hiring consideration. Other department heads give a good idea of how well the person works with people at their level. Along the same vein of “never date someone who is rude to waiters,” subordinates will apprise you of how an applicant leads a team. Even if no one talks to you, what is not said can often tell you just as much as what is said.

Watch out for “crazy” people

While not clinically crazy, many emotionally disturbed people have spent a good portion of their lives that way. This unfortunate reality means they have become adept at hiding socially unacceptable behaviors, especially during the hiring process. The more you can get someone talking outside the norm of a hiring process (within the limits of legality), the better chances you have at detecting people who may be emotionally disturbed. 

Asking uncommon questions for which they are unlikely to be prepared or even offering personal information about yourself will create an opening for the real applicant to shine through their pre-packaged, polished facade.

Remember, if it looks like a nut, rolls like a nut, and cracks like a nut, it’s probably a nut.

Vet for emotional intelligence

Most employers devote enormous efforts figuring out how to hire better employees and identify whether the requisite skills and experience are present in a potential employee. Unfortunately, little time is devoted to determining how well a person will communicate and function within a team. Even the most skillful person requires people skills and emotional maturity to succeed as part of an organization. The absence of emotional maturity at any level always decreases productivity while increasing costs. Emotional intelligence is often one of the easiest things to screen for, while often the most overlooked.

One of the most straightforward ways to vet for emotional intelligence is to test for emotional permanence. Object permanence is a test administered to children and small animals. Smarter children will tend to realize at an earlier age that an object concealed from view still exists. A lack of object permanence is the concept behind peek-a-boo, wherein small children see a parent repeatedly blink in-and-out of existence. Another example may be witnessed in dogs by hiding a ball under a napkin. To most young dogs, and even small children, the concealed ball has disappeared from existence.

Similar to object permanence, emotional permanence is a sign of emotional intelligence. When a person possesses emotional permanence, it means that they still recognize an emotion exists even if the person with the sentiment is not around or is not currently exhibiting the emotion. For instance, young lovers lacking emotional permanence must continuously remind each other of their love. Emotional permanence is essential to good relationships because it allows people to argue or disagree while still understanding that the relationship’s foundational emotions (e.g., love, respect, loyalty) still exist even though they are not presently displayed.

Managers and executives without emotional permanence will tend to need constant reassurance that their team still respects, admires, and will be loyal. On the television series “The Office,” Michael Scott is an example of a leader without emotional permanence. However, Mr. Scott does develop emotional permanence as the series progresses. 

Managers with emotional permanence are not threatened by an employee or client blowing up from frustration, failing to laugh at their jokes, or hold a door open. Emotional permanence is one of the most recognizable signs of a good manager. Those lacking emotional permanence can develop it through conscientious practice, yet many adults fail to acquire this most valuable facility. One should hire employees, managers, and executives without emotional permanence at their own peril.


Finding the right hire is a challenging but worthwhile process, akin to dating someone much more interested in you than you are in them. Building a solid company is always the result of selecting the proper people. The tips for hiring employees above will support you as you endeavor to create a company filled with more than just human resources; you will form a cohesive team of high-functioning adults. Organizations with this capability possess one of the most valuable and least discussed competitive advantages in the market today. They just know how to hire better employees.

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