Thursday, August 6th, 2020

P Publisher’s Point by Jean Loxley-Barnard
Hiring Employees with Character


There is nothing more important to sustaining a business than hiring the right people. Even when we know this, we can make big mistakes.  At least I can – or did! I don’t allow myself to do the hiring anymore.

I have veto power, and have used it a few times. But the cold, hard truth is that I have made some big mistakes. This does not mean I always hired bad people, but rather often just hired the wrong person for the position. Just because I like someone doesn’t mean they can sell, or cypher, or find the front door. (I’m joking with this last example.)

Fortunately, 31 years ago I hired Nikki Young, who became our COO years ago. She’s the best at almost everything, including reading people. Finally, in the last year or two I decided to stay away from participating in the hiring process until she includes me.

I liked too many bad fits and was fooled by a few really bad picks. Not too many for 37 years in business, but even one really bad fit can cause chaos. All told, we are blessed with a solid core of good team members - honest, hard working, dedicated, and loyal!

With character.

I will share a few things I learned the hard way.  
Sometimes the simplest rules are not obvious to everyone.  
Rules like: Thou shalt not covet and Thou shalt not steal.

The Chairman of our Board told me years ago that people are hired on the basis of TEC. T is technical ability. (Translators have to speak at least two languages.) E is for education and experience. (Employees must know about your line of work and have done it.)

C is for character. John May, our Chairman, has a masters degrees in computer science from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and has wonderful success in business. His best quality, however, is his character, hands down.

John explained that employers look for the T and E when what really matters is C – character. T and E can be taught, but there is no substitute for character. Integrity cannot be taught; honesty comes naturally or it isn’t there. Of all the excellent guidance John May offered me over many years, his telling me this – and living it every single day – is by far the most helpful.

I will share a few things I learned the hard way. Sometimes the simplest rules are not obvious to everyone.  Rules like: Thou shalt not covet and Thou shalt not steal.

To hire on the basis of character, there are signs to pay attention to even after hiring.

1. A really excellent person does not continually toot their own horn. Excellence shines through on its own. I have actually found the humblest people to be the best at their jobs.

2. If someone says they left great paying jobs – serially – check that out.

3. Did they love or hate past positions?

4. Are they appreciative? Or do they act as if they automatically deserve everything and then some?

5. Do they honor agreements, or are they constantly trying to renegotiate?

Sometimes my gut tells me what I don’t want to hear, but having honorable team members is worth every minute of paying attention.

Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.