Don’t Hire "Bad Apples"

[audio:|titles=Don’t Hire “Bad Apples”]Every day, thousands of business owners interview people looking for a job. Some of these prospective staff look and sound great but a month or so down the road quit unexpectedly or compel the owner to fire them.

A good percentage of these ex-employees didn’t have the skills (or desire) to do the job asked of them. But some of them were “bad apples” and should have been avoided at all costs.

Before we go any further, we should define what a “bad apple” is. Here are some of the characteristics:

  1. They are skilled complainers. They complain often about work conditions. They may complain about their pay. They may complain about customers who require more care and attention than the average customer. Complaining comes easy.
  2. They may use gestures to complain. For example: The boss issues an order and, after the boss turns his back, they frown while making sure everyone sees that they’re unhappy with the boss.
  3. They create upsets amongst the staff. They will tell Mary that Sarah did such-and-such wrong. Often they will then go tell Sarah that Mary doesn’t really know how to do her job. They are very good at causing employees to be upset with each other AND they are able to pull off this feat without others knowing they did so. The word “covert” may have been coined with this “bad apple” in mind.
  4. They find reasons NOT to get something done. This is an area of high creativity.
  5. When criticizing others, they are quick to tell you how important it is to be honest. They may have invented the phrase: “constructive criticism”. But there is nothing constructive about this person’s motives. He smiles while holding a very sharp knife behind his back.
  6. They are also very skilled in getting employees to think less of the boss. They will usually avoid those employees who absolutely love the boss. They’ll go after the employees who are not yet really happy about being a part of the team. The image that comes to mind here is a lion attacking the weakest members of the herd. These “bad apples” can be quite skilled, yes, but if they can score a workplace upset quickly and easily, they’ll go for it. Courage is not one of their attributes.
  7. They will give you the impression they care about your business and that they are going the extra distance for you. They will appear happy when your business does well. Almost always, these are false impressions. They don’t really want others to succeed.

A business with even just one “bad apple” can be at a real disadvantage. The skilled ones cause a variety of problems, some of them obvious, some of them hidden. But the end result is always the same: lost revenue and a workplace that is increasingly unpleasant to be in.

So, how do you make sure you don’t hire a bad apple?

My best advice is to find out more about the people you hire BEFORE you hire them. Go to and watch a 3-minute video that explains how testing people first can make a huge difference in the quality of your staff. Below the video is a link to a free test being offered to business owners. There are NO strings attached to this offer. You take the test for free. If you’re impressed, we’ll tell you more about our testing service.

Hiring and the Law – What Questions Can You Ask?

We’re pleased to introduce a new feature to our readers.

Devora L. Lindeman, Esq., Partner at Greenwald Doherty LLP, will be 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: Why can’t I ask certain questions in a hiring interview if I want to know all I can about my prospective employee?

Answer: Of course employers want to ask many questions, and use other evaluation tools, to find out all they can about their prospective employees.  Having sufficient information enables employers to make sound hiring choices.  However, employers are legally obligated to make hiring decisions based on business reasons:  work history, education, experience, work-related skills, special training, etc.  In those areas—ask away.  Gather as much information as you need about your candidate’s experience and job history.

A problem arises when interview questions ask about, or infringe upon, an applicant’s “protected characteristics.”  Questions that ask about these characteristics, which are covered by the non-discrimination laws, should not be asked.

On a national level, these categories include:  age, race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, pregnancy, citizenship, and genetic information.  States, however (and even some localities) protect broader categories, for example, sexual orientation, arrest record, familial status, political affiliations, etc.  Know the categories that apply to your area.  Without regard to the categories that apply, however, it is good business practice to base your hiring decisions on business-related reasons.

The reason I generally recommend to our clients that they not ask questions related to any protected category, even if they do not plan to use that information in the hiring process, is for the client’s protection.  In theory, if the business does not know, for example, the applicant’s national origin, it cannot discriminate on that basis.

If an applicant claims he or she was not hired because of a particular category, but the people making the hiring decisions did not know that the employee fell into that category, that creates a hurdle for the applicant to overcome in a litigation.  The applicant will need to prove that the company knew.

Additionally, interviewers who ask even apparently innocent interview questions can run afoul of the non-discrimination laws and get the business involved in an unnecessary lawsuit.

Here’s an example:  An Hispanic interviewer asks an applicant with an Hispanic surname what country her family comes from, perhaps, looking for something in common.  However, national origin and ancestry are protected categories that cannot play a part in hiring decisions.  If this applicant does not get hired, she could claim it was because of her national origin, based only on the fact that the interviewer asked.  That doesn’t mean that such a claim would be successful, but likely the company would rather not spend the time and money defending against such a suit. For that reason, it is best not to ask about these areas.

If it is not business related, and deals with a protected category, don’t ask it.  In some states, asking questions that address these “protected categories” is illegal. In others, it is merely ill advised. Rule of thumb?  Keep interview questions focused on business related issues to determine whether this particular applicant is qualified to do the job.

*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.

Bringing New Hires ‘Into the Fold’

Hiring Tips

[audio:|titles=Bringing New Hires Into the Fold]Let’s say you have a pressing need to fill a position. You put the word out, interview some applicants, and you hire the person most suited for the job. You then give this new hire an explanation of what’s needed and wanted and send them off to their work area.

What are your expectations of this person? Do you expect them to fit right in and become productive right away? I think most business owners and HR personnel know it takes a bit for a new person to be fully functional.

But sometimes that’s not the case. Some business owners will want this new person to take on every aspect of the post and do it well from Day One. And for all of you capable of pulling that off, my hat’s off to you.

Welcome To The Hiring Tips!

Hello and thank you for stopping by. I’m Stan Dubin, the Executive Director of The Employee Testing Center.

Our employee testing service has been helping companies make better hiring decisions for over ten years now. Whether you use our service or not, I decided a running collection of “Hiring Tips” would be helpful.

If you’d like one Hiring Tip sent to you each week, click here.

These tips address the full scope of hiring: employee motivation, skills, pay, testing, and evaluation. There are tips on what to ask, what not to ask and how to avoid dangerous hiring mistakes. There are 20 plus tips on hiring and the law that our readers have found very helpful. Click here and we’ll send you one helpful tip every week.

Most of the tips now also include a podcast version. If you’d prefer to listen on your smart phone, iPod, etc., subscribe via iTunes.

All in all, we want you hiring better staff.


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