Hire Properly; Avoid LUZIRS

My client, Bill, was having problems with his employee, Dave. Bill’s frustration was Dave was one of the LUZIRS (lazy, undisciplined, zero-interest, irresponsible, rude, slackers), but Bill couldn’t get rid of Dave right away because management had failed to conduct accurate performance reviews of Dave and there was nothing in his file to merit immediate termination.

After documenting periodic reviews and continuing poor performance, Dave was let go, but Bill wasn’t happy about the time and money he spent getting rid of Dave. Bill raised a really good question: “How could I have avoided that whole mess?” My answer was, “Don’t hire LUZIRS.” Here is how:

  • First, look at your current workforce and recent history and ask, “Who are my really good workers?” and “Who sucks?” Then, ask yourself, “Where did I find them?” The answers will tell you where you should devote your recruiting resources.
  • Second, use a good employment application without exception. A good application will get the answers you really need, such as education, experience, background, references, etc.

It also will have important legal information for the applicant: 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; your firm is an “equal employment opportunity” employer.

Don’t accept a resumé in lieu of a complete employment application, and don’t accept entries on the application stating, “See resumé.” In contrast to a well-drafted employment application, a resumé is the applicant’s “spin” on his/her background and qualifications.

Statistics show nearly one-third of all resumés contain some material misrepresentation or outright lie. Because LUZIRS are generally lazy, they frequently put “See resumé” on their employment application. Don’t fall victim to their trap!

  • Third, analyze the application carefully. Look for gaps in employment and 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,” meaning the applicant was fired for rules violation.
  • “Personality conflict,” signifying he couldn’t get along with co-workers, the supervisor or customers.
  • “Poor working conditions,” translating to fired for poor performance.
  • “Mutual agreement,” meaning the employer discovered he or she was one of the LUZIRS.

Also look for incomplete or blank responses. Your application should ask about criminal convictions. If the applicant doesn’t answer, you know what that means. There probably is a gap in employment in there, too.

If the applicant does not want you to contact a prior employer, odds are he or she is hiding something. Although it may be appropriate for an applicant to not want you to contact a current employer, previous employers should be fair game for reference checking.

  • Fourth, once you have narrowed the applicant pool to a handful of candidates, interview them carefully and privately. Review the application before the interview. Ask open-ended questions that get the applicant to talk, and let him or her talk 80 percent of the time. Ask about likes and dislikes with respect to current or former job duties, supervisors/managers, companies, customers, etc.

Spend 20 percent 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.

Before you make an offer, always check the candidate’s references. You may want 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 whether the candidate is eligible for re-hire.

Finally, end the hiring process by giving the new hire a proper welcome and orientation. This is a wonderful opportunity to impress upon him or her the importance of key company values and principles. Let the new hire meet the boss early 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. Every now and then one will slip through the process, but you will have screened out most of them long before they are on your payroll.

David C. Whitlock is of counsel with Miller & Martin PLLC, Atlanta. He has more than 25 years’ experience advising and counseling employers about various areas of labor and employment law.