Are They Willing to Go the Distance?

In an ideal world, your employees are willing to work super hard to get every detail of their work duties done to the very utmost of their capabilities.

In an ideal world.

In the real world, not every employee has a very high work ethic or a keen sense of loyalty to the company.

Some employees have a watchful eye on the clock come closing time. And when that time comes, they’re out the door as fast as possible.

Others may stay a bit longer and tidy up a bit, maybe take care of a few loose ends, but they’re not going to go that extra distance.

What “extra distance” are we talking about here?

We’re talking about the employee who wants the company to succeed and is willing to put a lot on the line to make that happen. I’m not talking about unpaid overtime here or unreasonable demands of your staff.

I’m talking about an employee who sees eye-to-eye with the purpose of the company and believes his success is, to a healthy degree, tied to the overall success of the company.

Now this person’s pay may not be directly connected to this overall success (or it may be) but the person just feels it’s appropriate to be a real player, a real contributor. This person sees that even the smallest details of his job need to get done so that his performance can have a significant impact on the company’s well being.

What does all of this have to do with hiring?

Good question!

During the hiring interview, you could ask the applicant a very simple, yet very direct question:

“What would it take for you to go the extra distance here?”

The applicant may ask you to clarify “extra distance” and you can use the information given in this hiring tip to provide more understanding of what you’re looking for.

This could be an extraordinary question to ask and get answered. You may find some applicants will have a hard time with this, others more than eager to answer up.

Either way, it could provide you with additional insight into your applicant’s world.

Should You Hire a Friend of Yours?

The answer is of course: Yes!

And the answer is of course: No!

If a major reason for hiring a friend or family member is their relationship with you, then this could cause problems for you up the line.

What if you find out this person doesn’t have the skills to do the job? What if you knew going in, they didn’t really have the proper skills for the job?

What if you discover this person doesn’t get along with your staff or worse, mistreats them because they “know” the boss?

What if you need to fire this person? Will this cause a rift between the two of you?

What if you need to fire this person and you don’t fire them because of your relationship? How will that affect other staff, who, by the way, are not dummies and can tell when someone is getting special treatment.

If you use the same hiring criteria with every new prospect and hire them based on their skills, experience and attitude, then you’ll get off on the right footing.

I realize there could be times when you “have to” hire a friend or family member, perhaps because of pressure from a family member or some personal need on your part to do so. If this does occur, and you know the person is NOT as qualified as someone else who competed for the job, then a little talk such as the following might help:

“Jason, you’re my wife’s brother and she is insistent I hire you and give you a shot. I love my wife and I think you’re a good guy. But I want to tell you upfront that you are not as qualified as others who have applied for this job, so I will hire you as long as you understand two things: 1) I will not be treating you any different than any other employee and 2) if things don’t work out, I will fire you just as I would any other employee. Please let me know you understand these points.”

Having that kind of conversation can be helpful if things don’t work out.

Oh, and I’d also tell the wife that you had the very same conversation.

Hiring and the Law – Hiring People With Disabilities

Devora L. Lindeman, Esq., Partner at Greenwald Doherty LLP, is providing us with insight and information regarding the hiring process. Ms. Lindeman is a management-side employment lawyer and has exclusively represented managers and companies in federal and state agencies and courts with regard to their labor and employment needs for many years.

Questions addressed to Ms. Lindeman may be addressed in this column.

Hiring and the Law
By Devora L. Lindeman, Esq.*

Question: I’m hiring customer service reps (“CSRs”) for our call center.  We hire pretty much anyone who reads and speaks English.  They need to read the necessary scripts and communicate with our customers.  A quadriplegic answered our ad and came to our office to fill out an application in his wheelchair.  He had a nice speaking voice, but we didn’t see how he could do the job, let alone fill out the application, so we thanked him and sent him on his way.  A colleague told me we should have interviewed him.  What should we have done?

Answer: Your colleague is correct.  When someone has a disability, you need to treat that applicant like any other.  You determine if the applicant has the skills, background and requirements you are looking for and whether he or she can perform all of the essential functions of the job.  You pre-screen for basic skills, background, education etc., by looking at a resume or job application for example, test where appropriate, and interview those with the basic requirements to see if they can do the job and are a cultural fit for your business.  You also may pre-screen out people for other reasons, such as they’ve indicated they want more money than you are paying for the position.  If it is an administrative position and their cover letter has typos, that application may also hit the circular file.

In this case, it seems like the only pre-screening is whether the applicant reads and speaks English.  If the quadriplegic applicant passed that preliminary requirement, he should have been moved to whatever your next application stage would be.

The disability discrimination laws generally preclude employers from making employment decisions because of an applicant or employee’s age, race, gender, religion etc.  However, employers can fail to hire a disabled applicant if the disability precludes the applicant from performing what are called the “essential functions of the job.”  Those are the functions the job exists to perform:  typists type; graphic artists design; project managers manage projects etc.  For example, the company can fail to hire the blind applicant for a truck driver position because of the applicant’s disability.  The essential function is driving and blind applicants can’t drive.  But, that same blind applicant may be perfectly competent to handle other positions.  A company would be discriminating against the applicant by presuming the applicant couldn’t perform another position where the relationship to the disability is not as obvious.  You need to look at each job and each applicant individually.

Companies are also required to provide “reasonable accommodations” if such would help the person perform the essential functions of the job.  The accommodation that is provided needs to be something that actually assists the person to do the job, and that is reasonable for the company to do.  For example, if a person with dwarfism applies to stock shelves, but can’t reach them, the company needs to provide a ladder. With the ladder (the “reasonable accommodation”) the shelves can be reached and the job can be done.  Even if the company has to buy a ladder or step-stool, this is reasonable to do and the company would be required to do so.

Reasonable accommodations need to be provided in the application process as well. For example, the quadriplegic applicant may have needed help filling out the job application.  That help needs to be provided.  Accommodations provided in the application process need not be the same provided if the person is hired.

With the quadriplegic applicant, the company should not have presumed that the applicant was unable to do the job.  Rather, he should have been asked.  You describe the job functions and ask how he would perform them in a tone of voice that is not antagonistic to the applicant.  For example, if your computers automatically dial phone numbers, so the rep doesn’t have to dial, and your CSRs plug headsets into that automated system, then a CSR doesn’t need to be able to physically dial the phone.  He may, however, need some help putting on the headset—and that help would need to be provided.

Maybe you’ll find he can’t do the job—but maybe you’ll find that he’s done this type of thing before and that he’ll turn out to be your best CSR.

*Ms. Lindeman is a Partner at Greenwald Doherty LLP, a law firm that exclusively represents businesses in all aspects of labor and employment law.  These columns are intended to be general information regarding the topic discussed and are not to be considered legal advice regarding a specific situation. Contact a management-side employment attorney familiar with the law of your jurisdiction for specific advice.  Ms. Lindeman is admitted to practice law in NY and NJ and may be contacted at  She is under no obligation to respond to reader inquiries personally, but may answer general employment law questions through this column.

© 2011 Greenwald Doherty.  May not be reprinted without permission.


Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep

Sometimes we like a particular candidate so much, we want to promise them the moon. We’re worried if they don’t commit to working with us, they’ll head down the road and work for another company, possibly a competitor.

Examples of promises could be:

“You’ll have a steady progression of raises.”

“There’s no way we would fire you. As a matter of fact, we rarely fire anyone here.”

“You’ll always make more money than the industry norm for your position.”

“You’ll always have these perks.”

Are you 100% sure of any of those promises?

Your new recruit might do fantastic but if the company hits very hard times, you may not be able to keep that progression of raises intact.

You always want to keep the door open to be able to dismiss ANYONE. Even with the best pre-employment screening,  a new employee may not pan out and may need to be let go at some point up the line. Something could happen in their personal life that adversely affects their work. You may need to downsize. A number of things could happen whereby you’d need to end someone’s employ with you. Do not promise that away.

As far as always paying someone more than the industry norm, well who knows what that industry norm will be six months or two years down the road. Don’t box yourself in.

Promising the person they’ll “always have these perks” is, well, just foolish. Frankly, all of the promises above are foolish. You’ve limited your company’s ability to act with any flexibility up the line.

If you believe the person will be a tremendous asset and you want them to come aboard, there are finite offers you can make that do not restrict your ability to act later on.

Do They Have a Sense of Humor?

And does it even matter?

Personally, I like to work with people who are light-hearted and can easily see the humor in things. Life in the workplace can sometimes be tough. A sense of humor can make these times more livable.

Running a company is serious business, but one doesn’t have to be super serious to be successful. In fact, I believe the more cheerful and light-hearted one is, the more they get accomplished.

Look around at some of the top producers in your field. Look at the top producers in virtually every field of life. When you see them being interviewed, do you notice that most of them have a very strong sense of humor?

I do.

There are some very productive people out there. Many of them can easily get others to laugh. Is there a correlation between this ability and their level of productivity?

I believe so.

Is a sense of humor a deal-breaker when it comes to making a hiring decision? Well, let me put it this way: If I have two candidates with very similar résumés and test scores and one candidate has a sense of humor and the other doesn’t—well, I’m hiring the one who is capable of injecting humor into the workplace.

I’m not talking about hiring a comedian or a clown who will avoid work and distract your staff with silly jokes. We’ve seen this person “at work” and he reduces the overall production level.

I think you know the difference between the clown and the person who employs humor that makes it easier to get things done.

This hiring tip, as you can see, is a very subjective one. In my opinion, a sense of humor is a valuable asset to have in the workplace.

Interview, Interview, Interview

Then, when you’re done interviewing, interview some more.

Now I realize that I may have rubbed some of you the wrong way.

You may be a small business owner who happens also to be the Human Resource department. The entire Human Resource Deparment.

I understand that.

And you may be wearing a ton of hats, including sales, marketing and some delivery. Or maybe all of the delivery.

And I understand that.

You and I both know the more you interview, the more likely you’ll run into THAT person you’re looking for. And we both know that your time is precious and that you just can’t be sitting in front of one prospect after another while your business isn’t running itself in your absence. If you had an HR person working for you, you’d certainly keep them busy.

Okay, I’ll make a deal with you: Push yourself to interview a bit more each time. Go at it with the full intention that your desired employee IS out there. If you do that, I’ll keep writing more hiring tips.

And here’s something else to chew on. I recommend you do interviews EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT HIRING. Did I just say that? Yes, even if you have no need for someone at a particular time, get some applicants to come in and interview them.

You just may find THE person you’re looking for at a time when you don’t need them. Well, that’s a very interesting problem. Maybe you do a bit of personnel re-arranging to make room for this person. If that’s not possible, then keep good notes on your find. A few months down the road, he or she may still be available when you DO need them.


Hiring and the Law – Do I Pay For a "Working Interview"?

Devora L. Lindeman, Esq., Partner at Greenwald Doherty LLP, is providing us with insight and information regarding the hiring process. Ms. Lindeman is a management-side employment lawyer and has exclusively represented managers and companies in federal and state agencies and courts with regard to their labor and employment needs for many years.

Questions addressed to Ms. Lindeman may be addressed in this column.

Hiring and the Law
By Devora L. Lindeman, Esq.*

Question: I’m looking to hire a receptionist and have selected a likely candidate. A colleague suggested I do a “working interview” with him.  That sounded like a good idea. Do I have to pay him for “working”?

Answer: The short answer is “yes.”  But there’s more you need to know.

Working interviews can be helpful parts of the application process. During such an “interview” the applicant is given real work to do. You can see how the candidate performs actual tasks and get an idea of how he or she interrelates with your staff.

However, unless the “work” performed is de minimus (that means “really minimum”), which would defeat the purpose of the working interview, you need to compensate the applicant for his or her working time. State and federal laws require compensation at no less than minimum wage when someone provides services for your company (except in a very few situations) (which is why unpaid interns are tricky).  You do not have to pay what the “hourly” rate would be for the job, but the minimum wage rate is the base hourly rate you must pay for each hour worked during the interview.

You can (and probably should) write the person a check at the end of the interview, and likely do not have to withhold taxes.  Check with your accountant on that and also confirm that if the person is not hired, the amount you paid for the working interview time would likely be insufficient to require the provision of a 1099.  Pay all applicants as above, even the successful candidate. Check with you accountant to determine if you need to report the amount paid to the candidate you hire along with other payroll they eventually earn.

Even if you think the person is excellent, don’t hire them on the spot and have them work out the rest of the day. Keep distinct lines between the application process, and when the person is hired.

If you want to “try out” an applicant for more than a partial day, the process is likely getting beyond a working interview.

Make sure that applicants being put through a working interview understand that they have not been hired; they are not guaranteed a job; but this is part of the application process. They also need to understand that, although you may have advised that you expect the working interview to last some number of hours (3? 4?), it is not guaranteed that the interview will last that long. If after the person has been “on the job” for 1 hour, it is clear that you would never hire that candidate, thank them for their time and send them on their way, check in hand.  There is no reason to waste their time and yours.

Working interviews can be helpful when making hiring decisions, especially with lower level employees who can demonstrate competence with simple tasks relatively quickly.  This tool may not be appropriate for more senior executives and employees where reason, judgment, and other intangible skills are needed.

*Ms. Lindeman is a Partner at Greenwald Doherty LLP, a law firm that exclusively represents businesses in all aspects of labor and employment law.  These columns are intended to be general information regarding the topic discussed and are not to be considered legal advice regarding a specific situation. Contact a management-side employment attorney familiar with the law of your jurisdiction for specific advice.  Ms. Lindeman is admitted to practice law in NY and NJ and may be contacted at  She is under no obligation to respond to reader inquiries personally, but may answer general employment law questions through this column.

© 2011 Greenwald Doherty.  May not be reprinted without permission.

Be Inclusive Right From the Start

I read an article in Inc. Magazine that discussed how some companies are helping new staff when they first come on board.

One involved a moving company in Massachusetts. This company started a program for new recruits where they raced up and down a thousand steps at Harvard University’s stadium. Afterwards the owner gave an orientation speech over a hearty breakfast.

In my high school days, a few years ago or so, I recall doing that particular exercise. At first it seemed like a piece of cake. You go up the stairs. You come down the stairs. Well, I very quickly realized this was much tougher than I thought.

Eventually even some of the current staff at the moving company came out to challenge the thousand steps. The owner wanted this unusual rite-of-passage to communicate a sense of belonging and that working hard was a very positive quality at his company.

The article pointed out that recruits started coming in from other moving companies because they heard this company didn’t tolerate laziness amongst its staff and they wanted to be a part of that kind of environment.

Another example from Inc. Magazine involved a company putting together a big “Welcome Card” signed by all of the staff. This card was given to the new staff member at a welcoming party complete with food and balloons! In other words, they just made it special for the new person to be there.

You may not find the race up a thousand steps to be remotely doable for your company, and the welcome card and balloons may not fit with your company’s culture. But I’ll bet there are a number of things you could do to make someone new to the company feel welcome.

How many times does a new staff member head off to his specific area, get a bit of training, meet a few of the people in the near vicinity and months later he or she is still wondering who most of the folks are?

If you have a fairly large company, perhaps you get the department together to create a special way to welcome the new recruit.

Do something right from the start that includes and welcomes the new person. You may be pleasantly surprised how much of a positive effect this has.

What Do They Read?

I like the idea of discussing a wide range of subjects with prospective employees. With that in mind, one question you could ask is simply:

“What do you read?”

Be prepared for all kinds of answers to this question. A few may even ask, “What do you mean?”

“Well, Bob, I’m curious what you read. Do you read books? If so, what subjects interest you?”

Now I realize just asking if they read books might rub a few people the wrong way, but how people get their information and what kind of information they seek can be an eye-opener.

If they do read books, are they reading thrillers, romance novels, mysteries?

There’s nothing wrong with reading thrillers or romance novels, but let’s say they’re very inquisitive and they read a ton of how-to books. That could be a good sign.

Now your applicant may say, “well, I don’t read books, but I do read a lot on the Internet.”

“That’s great. What kind of information do you read on the net?”

Some may use the net to check out their favorite sports teams; others may be interested in what celebrities are up to; some may be politically inclined and will take a few minutes (or hours) checking on the political scene. Obviously there’s just about everything on the net to check out.

With this tip, you’re basically interested in finding out three things:

  • How curious, how inquisitive is your applicant?
  • What methods do they use to acquire information?
  • What is their purpose for acquiring new information? Is it simply for entertainment or is your applicant interested in becoming more skilled in some way?

The answers to these questions can give you additional insights.


Blame It On the Economy and Watch Your Profits Sink

When we launched the Hiring Tips Blog, I mentioned that I’d provide some other types of tips from time-to-time. This particular business tip has received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, so I’d like to make it available to you here.

It makes good sense to pay attention to economic indicators. But a weakening economy should not give you a reason for your sinking bottom line. If it does, then you may have just found the real cause for your bottom line: blaming it on the economy.

Too often people believe the “reason” they are having a particular problem is due to something that is happening elsewhere (and usually outside of their control). This is especially true in the business world. Here is an example:

Shoe Store A is doing very well until Shoe Store B opens up across the street. Revenues decline at Shoe Store A as Shoe Store B gets up and going. But, and this is a very important but, to the degree that the owner (and staff) at Shoe Store A attribute their decline in revenue to the existence of Shoe Store B, TO THAT DEGREE they will be unable to deal  with it.

Shoe Store A simply needs to step back and realize they have new competition and take concrete steps to retain their current customers and create new ones. Perhaps they need to streamline their marketing and advertising effort. Maybe they actually need to do some marketing for the first time!

The reason sales are down at Shoe Store A is not Shoe Store B. Sales are down because Shoe Store A did not effectively shift their own gears to keep their business afloat and prosperous.

That may sound simplistic, but when an executive or business owner places the blame elsewhere, this very act of “placing blame elsewhere” reduces his ability to devise effective solutions. It actually reduces his ability to think straight, because s/he is so embroiled in what is happening somewhere else.

“Elsewhere” is not a place that you can easily control. But you do have complete control over what happens internally within your business. You do have control over how efficient your staff are. You do have control over how well surveyed your marketing messages are. And you can control the level of care shown to your customers.

There are countless aspects of your business that you have control over. Those are the items that should occupy your time and focus. Complete focus. To the degree that you assign the source of a problem to “elsewhere”, to that degree you will be incapable of handling your own scene.

Let’s look at one more example of this. A dental practice considers it has “slow periods of the year.” One such period is the end of the year. Numerous professionals believe the end of the year simply is not as productive as other parts of the year. And of course they have statistics to back up this belief. Every year, December is just very slow.

Then there is the dentist who decided he wasn’t going to have a slow December again. So, back in October and November, this dentist figured out a few things to do for December. He reminded his patients that most insurance companies do not allow you to carry over unused insurance from year to year. He offered his patients incentives to come in during the holiday season. He just plain worked on it so that his December was not a “slow period.” The result? He now no longer believes in “slow periods” and of course he has the statistics to back up this new belief.

You can always find statistics to match a belief. If you believe you are going to have slow periods, you’ll have them. Why generate the insight, focus and hard work to fix something that you know and believe is not fixable?

The same is true on a broader scale with “the economy”. If you believe “the economy” is the basis for your declining revenues, you’re in more trouble than you need to be. Anything that is outside of your immediate control is just that: outside of your immediate control. Put your total focus on your internal scene and get yourself busy improving things there.

Leave “elsewhere” alone.


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