How Not to Hire Jerks

In his provocative article Nasty People, Robert Sutton says ” Managers who belittle and oppress one victim after another shouldn’t be hired.” Amen! If you’re not sure how to avoid hiring nasty people, try these techniques:

  • You can try to ask the candidate about the last time he or she lost his or her temper or apologized for inappropriate behavior. Unfortunately, those are the “when did you stop beating your wife” kinds of questions, and may not be helpful.
  • Especially for managers, ask the candidate to provide references of peers and employees, not just managers.
  • Use an audition to see the candidate is some action. For more senior managers, you’ll want to see more than 20 minutes worth of audition.
  • Ask the candidate specific questions about his or challenges or frustrations at work. “In the last month, what were your major frustrations? How did you deal with them?” “What are your personnel/employee frustrations? What actions are you taking with those problems?” The more you can get the candidate to talk about what the frustrations were, the more likely you’ll be able to see how the candidate deals with them. These are also excellent questions to follow up with references, to be sure the candidate acts the way the candidate says he or she acts.
  • Don’t forget the dirt-bag phone screen.

It’s not easy to discover the jerks, especially when we all say and do jerk-y things every so often. But the more you ask about a person’s behavior, the more likely you are to discover the real jerks.

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