How to hire the right people

The Supremes famously recounted a mother’s sage advice in the song “You can’t hurry love.”

“You can’t hurry hiring,” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but it’s equally true. Just as a whirlwind romance can end in heartache, a rushed hiring process can lead to major problems down the road.

With unemployment low, finding the right employees has become especially challenging for many employers, heightening the risk that a new hire could become a problem employee.

“There’s definitely a shortage of good applicants for many employers,” said SFM Loss Prevention Specialist Luke Sammon. “That’s exactly how some employers end up hiring the wrong person.”

Hiring the wrong person can lead to safety risks (to themselves and coworkers), morale problems, productivity decreases and other challenges. An employee hired quickly to help carry some of the weight for existing staff can suddenly become a burden, costing time and causing stress.

“It’s a lot easier to learn if there’s an issue before hiring than afterward.”

~ SFM Vice President and General Counsel Kathy Bray

With these risks, it’s more important than ever to use thorough hiring practices, even if it means jobs remain open longer.

While running understaffed can be tough on current employees, they’ll usually understand and even appreciate that leaders are doing due diligence to be sure the new hire is a good fit, Sammon said.

“If you’re open with employees and tell them you appreciate their patience, that’s usually the best way to handle it,” he said.

If the shortage is too much for current employees to handle, using temporary workers to fill the vacancy can also be a good option, he said.

Ask the right questions of job candidates

State and federal laws prohibit asking about certain topics during interviews, such as disabilities or past work injuries.

Knowing this, some employers avoid these topics altogether, even though there are certain questions they can legally ask about them.

For example, while you cannot ask an applicant about past workers’ compensation claims, you can ask what types of safety training applicants have had in the past, and how they feel about workplace safety.

Similarly, while you can’t ask about disabilities, you can show applicants their prospective job descriptions and ask whether they are able to perform the job duties with or without accommodations.

“A lot of employers don’t leverage the job description,” said SFM Vice President and General Counsel Kathy Bray. “It’s a lot easier to learn if there’s an issue before hiring than afterward.”

You may want to have prospective employees sign the job descriptions, indicating they are able to perform the tasks listed. This documentation may be relevant if a work injury does occur.

Keep new employees safe

Once you’ve taken all the steps and hired a great employee, the last thing you’d want is to see that employee get injured.

Claims statistics show that new employees are especially susceptible to injury.

Your onboarding program likely already includes safety training, but often new employees are hit with so much information all at once that much of it gets forgotten.

That’s why Sammon recommends a follow-up process, for example, checking in at three, six and nine weeks after hire to reinforce that training.

Companies that implement this practice can see a significant reduction in new employee injuries, he said.

You can also help new employees work safely with a formal mentoring program, where supervisors and other experienced employees look out for new hires and make them feel comfortable asking questions.

Work backward from bad hires

Hiring processes aren’t one size fits all. Every organization has a unique set of challenges and opportunities.

To think about whether your hiring process is meeting your organization’s needs, Bray recommends working backward.

Think through your recent hires, and ask yourself, “Would you have hired this person again? If not, why? Is there anything you can do in your hiring process to avoid similar issues?”

Choosing the right employees will always be a challenge. While there’s no perfect hiring process, there are numerous strategies employers can use to choose the right employees for their organizations.

Follow these best practices in hiring

If you follow these best practices, you will have a much better chance of making good hires every time.


  • Have a formal application process that include a form that conforms to local, state and federal laws.
  • Have a current job description.
    Check with supervisors to ensure the job description is up to date and includes all of the physical requirements of the job.


  • Have multiple people interview each candidate, and conduct multiple interviews.
    This provides a more holistic view of the candidates.
  • Provide an opportunity for observation.
    For some jobs, a tour or time to observe might be needed for the applicant to truly understand the job role.
  • Include safety-related questions.
    Ask about past safety training and attitudes on safety. Also, provide a job description and ask if the applicant can physically perform the essential functions of the job.

Background checks

(IMPORTANT: Some of these items may not be permissible until a conditional offer of employment has been made. Be sure to consult your employment law attorney.)

  • Call references.
  • Conduct a nationwide criminal background check.
    Be sure to check state and local laws for any “Ban the Box” type regulations and compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • Require a pre-employment physical examination for physically demanding jobs in accordance with state and federal laws.
  • Verify their educational credentials.
  • Verify legal eligibility to work in the U.S.
    Use E-Verify as a tool.
  • For jobs that require driving, check motor vehicle records.
  • For safety-sensitive jobs, conduct drug and alcohol testing in accordance with state laws.


  • Provide safety training on day one, and then continue to follow up.
  • Keep all documentation.
    Application forms, job descriptions, payroll and attendance records may all become relevant following an injury. Maintain safety training records and acknowledgment forms relating to important safety policies and practices.

This is not intended to serve as legal advice for individual fact-specific legal cases or as a legal basis for your employment practices.

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