How To Identify Problem Employees Before You Hire Them

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Author David Towler
Date Published December 08, 2006

What to look for in a job candidate before you offer them a job.

Do you know how much your employees may be costing you in lost sales or internal theft? It’s probably a lot more than you think!

Recent statistics from the Retail Council of Canada's Retail Security Report shows that shrinkage or internal theft costs Canadian retailers nearly $3 billion (Canadian) a year. That figure translates into $8 million of lost revenue per day! These results are consistent with past years and show that theft is not being reduced, despite large investments in preventative training and anti-theft technology.

How can you protect your business and reduce loss as much as possible? Obviously, video cameras, theft-prevention systems and well-trained employees will help, but what if it’s your own employees who are stealing from you? The answer is simple. Identify applicants who are dishonest before you hire them.

How can you do this? It’s easier than you think. Employers are constantly faced with the problem of finding applicants who have the skills, aptitudes and attitudes that will make them good employees. To help them, many reliable and accurate assessment tools have been developed to help employers identify the winners from the losers. Best of all, these tests really work!

An employer we know almost had a catastrophe with two people she wanted to hire. Her business manages several thousand apartments and she needs superintendents for each one of their buildings. Naturally, she needs honest, trustworthy people that she can rely upon.

She recently interviewed a young couple who seemed perfect. They were personable, keen and seemed to have all of the right qualifications and she decided to hire them – but not before requiring them to complete a pre-employment screening assessment. The test measured their honesty and several other critical attributes. The results indicated that they were both dishonest, had lied on the assessment and were unsuitable for hire. Further investigation revealed that the man had just been released from prison where he had served time for armed robbery and his wife was due to appear in court on shoplifting charges! Imagine the potential for disaster and the legal liability if they had been hired and given master keys for a hundred apartments!

Today, it is more important than ever that employers be able to accurately evaluate applicants. The task of hiring good people is harder than ever. Many employers will only confirm dates of employment and competitive markets have made many applicants skilled at being interviewed. Resumes can be doctored and interviews are subjective, leaving a wide margin for human error. On the other hand, pre-employment tests are standardized, legal, reliable and accurate. They can help you identify potential problems and substantially augment your ability to identify high-quality applicants before you make a hiring decision.

People often ask us how a test can prove that someone is dishonest. It’s really all about understanding basic human psychology. We all tend to believe that we are “normal” and that everyone else thinks in more or less the same way that we do. Therefore, when people who are dishonest by nature are questioned about their attitudes, they are often very forthright in admitting how dishonest they actually are! They believe, incorrectly, that because everyone else also steals or cheats a little (or a lot) that there’s nothing wrong with admitting to it. Tests that measure these types of attitudes often have built-in controls to identify people who attempt to provide only socially-acceptable responses and skew the results in their favour.

Employers who need to ensure that they are hiring only the best applicants can take advantage of a wide range of assessment tools to help assess things like customer service ability, sales ability, retail readiness, management ability and much more. Assessment tools are affordable, easy to use, reliable and legal. There are also many that are now available on-line. Using these instruments to evaluate an applicant’s skills can save employers from making costly mistakes by helping them to avoid hiring applicants who will become liabilities afterwards.

If you are not currently testing your applicants before hiring them, you may be helping your own employees to rob you blind.

David Towler is President of Creative Organizational Design, a management consulting firm based in Kitchener, Ontario. They specialize in assessment products and customized surveys. Please send comments to dtowler@creativeorgdesign.com.

Re-printable with permission.