How to Hire Employees Safely

2009 | Feb 4 in Guest Contributor , Home Page News , Management

By Erin Duckhorn,

InterviewingMuch of your business growth depends on finding the right people to staff your expanding organization, but in most companies much more time and money is devoted to choosing and purchasing equipment than to preparing for the hiring process. Something about the price and mass of a turbine engine or a computer terminal makes the results and the risks of your decision-making seem more important. But you will make no more important expenditure than the time and money you spend recruiting the right people. If the growth of your business depends on innovation, and it's your people who are its source, the hiring of new staff is about the most important "purchase" you can make.

So take the time to first develop a hiring strategy. Which position do you want to hire next? Why that one? Do you have the cash flow to handle the additional load on your finances? What attitudes and skills would be the right matches with your needs for the position? There are a lot of factors to consider in choosing the right players for your "team," and Nina's article discusses a few of them.

How to Hire Employees Safely

By Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

For many business owners, the thought of hiring employees is scarier than the latest Halloween horror flick. And yet — think of the alternative (the boon to your business!). Can your company afford to stay where it is?

Chances are, you recognize it can't . . . which is why you're connected to the E-Myth. Hiring employees can create a paradigm shift for your company, if done carefully and with advance planning. Here are a handful of areas that you'll want to address in your hiring process:

  • Job descriptions. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, your job description needs to tread a fine line. You want them narrow enough so that not "just anyone" can apply. For many positions, you need a certain level of talent and expertise. However, they need to be flexible enough so that you don't pigeon-hole your workforce too tightly. A clear job description can also help you steer clear of various discrimination laws. If a position requires heavy physical work, or absolutely requires an employee's office presence on the Sabbath (for example, in the wedding planning business), you can avoid claims that you discriminated in hiring under the American with Disabilities Act or other discrimination statutes.
  • Interview manners. Interviewing employees is part science and part art - all of which can be learned, but virtually little of which comes naturally. For example, interviewing a noticeably pregnant woman and asking her due date/how many children she hopes to have might arise out of innate curiosity, but is a minefield for a sex discrimination claim. "How old are you?" and "Are you married?' can also get you into hot water. It helps to have coaching through this process, or hiring a firm to handle it for you. In addition, employers get into trouble when they talk too much. It's tough. We like to talk about ourselves — it's human nature. The point of the interview is for the employee to sell you on him/her — not for you to sell the employee on the company.
  • Background checks. What do you really know about the candidate sitting in the chair across the table from you? In many situations, only what she tells you. As a business owner, that's not enough. "Trust, but verify," as Ronald Reagan was quoted as saying. You want to check all references. Background checks are crucial. For example, you'll definitely want to do a credit check if you're a financial services firm; a criminal convictions check if you're in the security business. Make sure you're up front with the candidates that these checks are required as a matter of course. Also, all employees need to fill out Form I-9 — required by the Department of Homeland Security. Do not hire undocumented workers.
  • Employee handbooks. Small companies may want to provide a "kinder, gentler" culture, with abundant vacation and personal days, but that can really cost you in the long run. Even costlier is being generous with Employee #1, recognizing the costs, and then being less generous with Employee #2. Especially if Employee #1 is a 20-something white male and Employee #2 is a 43-year-old African-American female. With an employee handbook, you have an opportunity to determine the policies and procedures that apply objectively to all employees. When you're consistent, you can deflect many claims of unfair treatment.

Employees can be a skyrocket — or a torpedo — for your business. Before you step into this thorny area, engage good employment attorneys to help you navigate it safely. They can guide you on the right way to hire that both streamlines the process and ensures you comply with federal and state law.

Want more information on employee behavior guidelines? Visit our website, www.GreatBusinessLawResources.com/employeesbehavingbadly.htm to get your free copy of our special report, Top 10 Reasons Employees Get Fired.

© 2009 Nina L. Kaufman, Esq. Nina L. Kaufman, Esq. is an award-winning attorney, edutainer, and Entrepreneur Magazine online columnist and blogger. Under her Ask The Business LawyerSM umbrella, she reaches thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners with her legal services, professional speaking, information products, and LexAppeal weekly ezine. For more information, visit www.AskTheBusinessLawyer.com.


  1. .CHARLES M. says:

    I agree that hiring an employee can be a daunting task. Having hired and fired employees in the past and having been hired and fired myself I can not stress the simple yet true performance rule. Keep the interview simple and to the point. I was responsible for hiring 45 seasonal workers for a landscaping company. Tasked with doing the same thing again this year I will change the criteria and the process. Yes there will be a brief office interview but the change will be a more involved physical task oriented process. It is pointless to hire a landscape worker if they can't wield a shovel, swing a pick, lay a roll of sod, prune a bush or pick up and carry a 50 lb object 30'. Male or Female, have to be able to pass this endurance test or they will not be hired. I'll hire a 45 year old person in good physical shape over a 16 year old x-box junkie! 

    Submitted Feb 5, 2009 3:42 PM

  2. .Rocky C. says:

    Over the years, as the owner of a creative marketing services firm. I have had the opportunity to interview and hire graphic designer/computer artists. Many times their resume claims talent for certain capabilities and credit for awards and major projects. However, before we permanently hire someone, we give them a means test to perform. It usually involves the basic skill we are looking for in the position and an appropriate time frame to complete. It's amazing how much some people pad their resume with skills and talents they just don't possess or how slow they work. This process has saved from hiring people that are personable and interview very well, but could not perform at the basis job requirements, saving my firm from many a hiring mistake.

    Rocky Cipriano
    InSight Marketing

    Submitted Feb 6, 2009 5:50 AM

  3. .sanjeet86 k. says:

    The labour hire relationship differs from the traditional master/servant relationship between employer and employee. In a typical labour hire scenario, a labour hire company employs workers who it then contracts out to perform work for a host company, either at the host company's premises or a third party premises.

    Section 8(1) of the Act imposes a duty on employers to provide a safe workplace, whilst s10(1) provides that "A person who has control of premises used by people as a place of work must ensure that the premises are safe and without risks to health". These duties, as expressed in the Act, are unequivocal, however, in practice, an issue arises concerning control of the workplace.
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    Submitted Feb 7, 2009 9:09 AM

  4. .mark R. says:

    I would even  go one or two steps farther. Check to see if the employee candidate is a fit for the organization. Take a minute to browse Facebook, linkedin or other social media sites. Do not use these as a qualifier or disqualifier, but to make sure the candidate will be a good fit with the organization. Remember, that employees represent you, your company and your brand. Actions by emloyees can reflect badly on the brand and the organization.

    Make sure that you are making the right decision, it can cost you in productivity, exposure and stature if you don't.

    POWER ON--Mark


    Submitted Feb 8, 2009 4:04 PM

  5. .Vivien H. says:

    Very well said Mark. Watching your hard-built brand and reputation destroyed by the reckless behavior of an employee (who wasn't around from the start) is no fu at all, I am speakig from experience. Check, check and check again.

    Thanks for the article.

    Submitted Feb 20, 2009 6:57 AM

  6. .David G. says:

    While professional legal advise is important, common sense is necessary considering the hiring process. If you do not have a clear position document then you are not fully ready to begin the hiring process. How do you even correctly write the advertising piece unless you fully know what is to be done, along with why and how.

    Submitted Mar 5, 2009 11:52 AM

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