Back To The Future: Screening, Hiring And Avoiding Thieves, Slugs And Employees From Hell!

by Mark Manney
Posted On: 1/14/2019

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The background: Before stumbling into the vending/foodservice/micromarket industry as an independent loss-prevention consultant, for seven years prior I managed three divisions in a 5,000-employee regional retail company.
Over the years, the staffs I was responsible for flexed up and down but averaged about 150 employees.
Retail turnover is constant and extremely high, but after a few years using the program I am explaining here, part of the turnover issues became many young managers who had come up through the ranks were leaving, but for the right reasons. They were obviously stars and were ready for promotions to higher regional or corporate positions that we were simply not large enough to offer many of them.
The most impactful reason for this excess of talent was our entry-level employee hires and management promotions from that pool were of such a high caliber, we ended up with too many stars to promote within. But, as many of the stars moved out and up with other retailers, we still had plenty more young and hungry two-step promotable employees in our pipeline. All of this was because of the screening, hiring and promoting program I will explain in detail in this blog. But here is the icing on the cake, the program was free! I am a big fan of free.
The past would not be prologue: By the time I reached the corporate level I had personally hired countless employees at the store, district and regional level and I had made many, many mistakes. I also believed in fish or cut bait when it came to employees under their 90 days.
When any new hire's work ethic/productivity, attitude or attendance was below what was expected or they were causing conflict or soap operas or legitimate customer complaints they were let go with extreme prejudice. I terminated a high percentage of new hires before their 90 days (always with documentation and with good reason) as I knew the quality of my staff would make or break my career. It was pure self-interest and to me business common sense.
Then I was exposed to the scored program I am explaining in this blog that I adapted for the vending industry. I stopped the crap-shoot hiring process I had been conducting with the traditional approach and with this program I found instant and consistent success with high-quality new hires. My entry-level hiring dramatically improved. With this program, I found the answer to the challenge of cherry picking the real candidate diamonds out of the many fake cubic zirconia's we were interviewing.  Here is the overview.
A Four-Page Scored Employee Interview Program
A four-page, three-part interview program with six open-ended questions scored from 1 to 5 that never fails to provide revealing multi-level detailed answers from the candidates:
1.  Job experience: Has the experience level and maturity to deal effectively with operational and merchandise issues that affect the profitability of an operating unit
2.  Adaptability: The willingness and ability to move from one task to another, even those outside the exact job profile or work schedule and to accomplish goals as prescribed by upper management.
3.  Integrity: Personal honesty in all actions and duties. Dependability to commitments. Has no issues with monitoring through cameras, audits, GPS.
4.  Judgment and decision making: The ability to make decisions that are of quality balance.
5.  Conflict management: The ability to handle conflict up, across and down.
6.  Personality and customer service and selling themselves: The ability to transmit a positive visual image through proper grooming and dress. Will project the company image we want projected. Understands customer service. Has a positive personality. Can sell him/herself.
Two manager interviews: Two heads really are better than one. When the candidate is interviewed one manager asks the questions and does all the talking and one manager take copious notes of the candidate's specific answers to specific questions.
After the candidate leaves the two managers score each individual answer from 1 to 5. This can be a debate as sometimes one manager sees a 4 and another one a 3. Then the candidate's answer is reviewed from the notes and a number is agreed upon by both.
I have found this process extremely accurate in gauging and coming to a quantifiable score in the six areas above on potentially your greatest asset or your greatest deficit -- your staff.
Most interviewers talk too much during the interview and do not draw out the real person's good, bad or ugly! The talk ratio should be 80/20 with the candidate doing the 80%. This program ensures that. It also ensures good interconnected follow-up questions.
This program also provides consistency. Every candidate is asked the same questions exactly and scored the same way.
This program also will allow candidates to tell you who they really are!
Picking the best, highest-scoring candidate out of the pack interviewed becomes obvious and all of this is done for free before drug testing or background screening.
Integrity: As a loss-prevention aficionado, here is my favorite question out of the six and the follow-ups for an entry-level vending position.
•  Tell me about a situation where you saw another employee doing something outside the rules or was dishonest.
•  What action did you take?
•  How did you feel about it?
•  How do you feel about integrity in the workplace?
•  We use covert cameras in our operation; they are in vending machines, bill changers, trucks. We have cameras throughout our buildings. We continuously audit all our employees' cash handling and use covert GPS on all vehicles. How do you feel about a cash-intense company using these controls to protect its profit?
I have seen candidates answer these questions and tell you they sit on the integrity fence and not only will not tell you if a co-worker is stealing, they think everyone does it "occasionally" and it's none of their business. I have seen candidates actually admit to stealing from past employers (in so many words) in the past. Occasionally you have to tell the candidate what integrity means because no one has ever told them and they don't have any!
I have seen candidates answer this question and state in no uncertain terms they will not tolerate dishonesty around them because, if they do, their silence would make them part of it!
Personally, I like candidates who are moral people with a well-developed sense of right and wrong, good and bad and who value honesty.
I have had both types give real-world incidents from prior jobs where their integrity or lack of it was on display.
It is often easy scoring a 1 or a 5?
Which one would you want handling your product and money?
Also note the last question is a form of Theft Deterrence Marketing (TDM). My next VT blog will be about TDM and how most vending operators, as opposed to most legacy retailers who understand its value, do not market theft deterrence to their employees. Here you plant the TDM seed in the interview before they even touch the first case of product or the first dollar.
Conflict Management: This is my second favorite question as it can lead to not hiring the employee from HELL! I have seen candidates tell the interviewers, without realizing it, they have "hair-trigger" tempers, chips on their shoulders the size of a small log, have pending lawsuits on a past employer for some borderline insane reason and/or have authority problems and will not respond well to being told what to do and when to do it. Obviously, they forgot to bring their pitchfork and cape to the interview.
I have seen candidates explain situations where they disagreed with their boss but resolved the serious conflict reasonably or took the problem up the chain of command and resolved it. Some will tell you of a past injustice or how they were taken advantage of or wronged but their conduct was sound and reasonable in resolving it.
•  Tell me about a serious past conflict you have had with a supervisor.
•  What were the details of the issue?
•  How was it resolved?
It is often easy scoring a 1 or 2 or a 4 or 5 after this question.
Avoiding lawsuits and expensive litigation: Listen to me on this as this program will prove why someone was hired and or promoted over a protected class. Twice I have avoided litigation because someone felt they deserved a "promotion" over someone else and they were discriminated against. They weren't just scored lower. I had become so convinced this program scored the best person out of a group of candidates I used it for promotions as well as hiring.
Twice employees from a protected class felt they should have received the promotion but they didn't (one went to the EEOC) but because of the detailed documentation, their charges were immediately dropped once the scored forms with all the notes related to their answers were produced.
This program documents the best person for the job/promotion received and exactly why. Always save the forms.
Free: This industry has been good to me. I came into it later in the game at 52 in 2002. On behalf of myself and Vending Times, who is giving me the opportunity to write for them, anyone who wants a copy of this four-page program can have a copy free, just e-mail me a request at and I'll send it to you.
The current questions are geared for an entry-level Vending position. However, you can edit them and use this format for entry-level management or cafeterias or micromarkets.

MARK MANNEY is the founder and chief executive of Creedmore, NC-based Loss Prevention Results, focused on the vending and foodservice industry. Click here to purchase his "Food Service Manual: The 5 Loss Prevention Common Denominators" and his "Micromarket Loss Prevention Manual" at the Vending Times Bookstore.