How Do I Make Sure I Don't Hire a Loser?

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Last week, we talked about the importance of making sure there aren't any debilitating character flaws in the volunteers and staff leaders that we've brought on our team to help others take steps. Prioritizing a team that won't cause others to stumble doesn't mean only perfect people are allowed. What it does mean is integrity must be held in high regard. You don’t want to worry about whether money will go missing, customers will get mistreated, or a sexual harassment accusation will divert your focus.

So how do you make sure you don’t hire someone with character flaws?

You can’t.

Even if you ask all the right questions and call all the references in advance, it doesn’t mean someone won’t fall. You are not responsible for someone else’s personal choices, so don’t beat yourself up if you have a member of your team who makes a bad choice.

If someone has fallen more than once to the same issue (such as an extramarital affair or embezzlement), it is much more likely that person will fall to it again. But there are some things you can do during the interview process to minimize the risk for yourself and your organization:

  • Ask lots of questions up front of the candidates, their spouses, their references, and other close friends. You aren’t looking for dirt, but if you find out about chinks in their armor, then you want to ask more questions.
  • Be very concerned when you hear about character flaws from others that the candidate didn’t tell you about first. In my mind, that almost always disqualifies the person.
  • Be less concerned when a candidate comes out and tells you right away, “This is what happened, and here is what I’ve done since then, and I encourage you to talk to anyone you want to ask more questions.” That shows a strengthening character and authenticity, and that is attractive.
  • When staff members do fall, do everything you can to restore them. They may not be able to stay on staff, but that does not relieve you of the responsibility to care for them (in the church world we call that “pastoring”) through their recovery. Many times that means you are pressing through your own feelings of betrayal and abandonment, but it is something you must do. It gets even more difficult if they reject your help in favor of hiding and covering instead of coming clean.

Nobody's perfect. But let’s do everything we can to have men and women of integrity leading our organizations.

Read more in Fairness is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace