Have you ever interviewed a potential job candidate and immediately knew that they would be the perfect addition to your workforce? While your first impulse might be to hire them on the spot, making such a hasty decision could also pose significant risks to you and your small business. In episode #104, Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks help business owners determine whether on-the-spot hiring is appropriate for their particular staffing needs.

Executive Summary

0:57—Today’s Topic: Should Small Business Owners Hire a New Employee on the Spot?

1:24—Due to the level of commitment and financial risk involved, hiring any new employee on the spot is rarely advisable.

1:49—If you decide to make an immediate hire, it should only be for a contractor or other temporary position.

5:29—Before hiring a potential candidate, business owners need to see them in action to get a clearer idea of their current skills.

11:03—Gene discusses why providing your employees with an appropriate outlet for their frustrations could ultimately make them more effective workers.


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Elizabeth: Welcome back to the small business head podcast, this is Elizabeth Larkin. I’m here with Gene Marks, our small business expert and owner.

Gene: Expert and owner. Yes. That is correct.

Elizabeth: And writer.

Gene: We have a lot to talk about.

Elizabeth: We have a lot to talk about. We have a great question today, this is about hiring someone on the spot and we will delve into that after we hear from our sponsor.

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QUESTION: Have You Ever Hired Someone On The Spot?

Elizabeth: This question kind of caught me off guard. We got it from … A listener submitted it. They did not give us their name, or their business, or where they’re from, or any information. As always, we’ll just make that up.

Gene: Sure.

Elizabeth: Their question for you Gene, is have you ever hired someone on the spot?

Gene: The answer to that, we were talking about this beforehand and straight out? Yes and no. Right?

Elizabeth: What?

Gene: I know that’s a terrible way-

Elizabeth: That’s not a yes or no question. It’s yes or no.

Gene: Clearly … It is, but clearly if you’re … Anybody will tell you and any smart business person knows you try not to hire people on the spot. Right? Sounds like a bad idea, there’s so many risks in doing that. You don’t know what you’re getting, you got to put some though into it, it should be a due diligence process. Plus, if you’re running a small business … You make the wrong hire and it’s brutal.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: A big impact on your business as well, so you try not to do it. I’ve never hired an employee on the spot, but I’ve hired contractors on-

Elizabeth: Oh, okay.

Gene: … on the spot.

Elizabeth: That’s where the yes and no comes in?

Gene: That’s what it is.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: Yeah. An employee to me is, you’re making a commitment. I hire you to work for my company, I am saying, “Elizabeth … ” I’m basically saying to you, “I want you to be here for the rest of your life working for me.” We’re setting you up on-

Elizabeth: God. That’s scary. Isn’t it?

Gene: But, we’re setting you up on payroll, we’re giving you your business cards. You’re gonna have your email accounts, you’re adding to our health insurance, all that stuff. That’s a big deal and I think most business owners and employees kind of give out the same level of credence. An employee, employer relationship is heavy. A contractor is like a different thing.

If you hiring a contractor it’s like, if you don’t like the person you just fire them-

Elizabeth: Yeah. You get rid of them.

Gene: … don’t use them, and whatever. I’ve hired a lot of contractors on the spot and some of them were for low risk … You try to keep it low risk. For example, we’ve been going … I’ve been trying to bump up some of my social media on some of the stuff that I’m writing.

For example, I do a lot of writing for … Besides The Hartford and Small Biz Ahead, I do a lot of writing in different places and I’m like, “You know what? It would be great to see if I could do some promotion to drive more audience to read this stuff that I write.” It’s fun to do that and it’s good to see more views.

I’ve been on Fiverr recently. Have you ever gone on Fiverr? It’s-

Elizabeth: I’ve heard about it.

Gene: Okay.

Elizabeth: I’ve never used it.

Gene: It’s F-I-V-E-R-R. And-

Elizabeth: We’ll put that in the show notes.

Gene: Yeah. It is an interesting site where there are many, many, many freelancers that can do a whole bunch of different tasks. Now, I’m looking for people that do social marketing and digital marketing, and there’s a bunch of them from all over the world that promise you the world. I’ve been gambling a little bit. You know what I mean? A few hundred bucks here and a few hundred bucks there, and I’ve been hiring people on the spot.

Saying, “Okay. For the next two weeks as I write this and this … ” You know what I mean? “I’m gonna give you a $200 budget plus your hourly fee of $10 an hour.” Whatever they charge. “Can you go and promote these pieces? I’d like to see if I get more views or whatever?” So far? Not so great.

Elizabeth: How do you track that?

Gene: Well, I know what audiences look at stuff beforehand. I add … They’ve been sending to me, “This is what I’ve been doing.” You know?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: I get … Anyways, that’s the best way that I can track it. Is just what they’re telling me that they’re doing. And then, I can track it for historical. I’ve hired those guys on the spot.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: So far? Not so good. Right? I’m not getting much results.

Elizabeth: $10.00 an hour though-

Gene: They’re cheap on Fiverr.

Elizabeth: … you’re not gonna get Ryan Heisler-

Gene: Well-

Elizabeth: … level-

Gene: … I hear you. First of all, you can’t put a price on Ryan Heisler from The Hartford’s-

Elizabeth: Just to back up-

Gene: You can’t … How do you-

Elizabeth: … Ryan Heisler has been on the podcast many times to talk about social media-

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: … and he works at The Hartford, so you can’t hire him on Fiverr.

Gene: There is no way you could value services of a Ryan Heisler. So I’ve hired those guys on the spot. I have hired people on the spot for jobs. For example, I’ve been in a pinch where, “Oh my God we’re trying … We need to do this. We need a developer that specializes in C++ development and we need somebody to write this to bridge this and that. Our clients banging on us and we need this done in the next week or two.”

I’ll go to another site … Upwork is another great site, also. We’ll put that in the show notes.

Elizabeth: Yep.

Gene: I’ve mentioned Upwork before, I’ve used them before for a short term project. That’s kind of on the spot as well-

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: … I’ll hire somebody. In all those cases, if it fails I can manage that risk. Even the developer, if he fails, I’ll eat it and I’ll find another developer. You know what I mean? But, I’ve never hired an employee on the spot.

Elizabeth: Okay. What about … Alright. I’m gonna tell a story about a very popular TV show from the 90s that I’m rewatching on Hulu right now that-

Gene: Okay.

Elizabeth: Honestly, this is gonna be a tangent, but it does actually dove tail nicely into this.

Gene: We believe you, Elizabeth. Go ahead. Let’s hear. We’ll try it.

Elizabeth: The TV show is ER.

Gene: Okay.

Elizabeth: I’m pretty sure everyone’s familiar with that-

Gene: George Clooney.

Elizabeth: … and-

Gene: That’s where he got his start. Yep.

Elizabeth: George Clooney, Juliana Margulies-

Gene: That’s right.

Elizabeth: … Anthony Edwards. I’m re-watching it on Hulu. You know, a couple episodes a week. I was just … There was this episode where Carol Hathaway, the nurse has just opened up … Gene is looking at me like, “Where is this going?” She-

Gene: Cannot even imagine. Go ahead.

Elizabeth: She has just opened up an emergency clinic for people that don’t have health insurance.

Gene: Okay.

Elizabeth: They could just come into the ER, they could go to her clinic instead of going into the actual ER. These are not for gunshot wounds and people that have been hit by cars, these are people that come in and they’re like, “Oh. I think I have the flu or something.”

She’s starting the clinic, she got the grant money from Carter’s grandma … Or I think he calls him “Gamma.” But, anyway. This nurse comes in and she applies for the job on the spot, she’s a nurse practitioner and while they’re talking one of the patients comes over and is giving Carol a hard time. This nurse practitioner totally takes care of the situation and Carol hires her on the spot.

Gene: On the spot. Wow.

Elizabeth: On the spot.

Gene: Wow. Okay.

Elizabeth: A couple episodes later, they’re looking for a person to run the ER and they see all these big shots and resumes and what not. They end up hiring this woman, because her resume and her credentials are so impressive that they think they’re never gonna find anyone better.

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: A couple episode later, it turns out that she’s actually crazy and she faked her entire resume. The point of this story-

Gene: I actually see how this ties in, believe it or-

Elizabeth: … is that-

Gene: Just don’t hire somebody on the spot.

Elizabeth: … if you’re hiring somebody on the spot you have to see them in action first.

Gene: Sure, sure.

Elizabeth: You actually have to see … You can’t hire someone on the spot unless you see them actually doing what you’re gonna hire them to do.

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: Let’s say there’s a competitor and they have a great salesperson who’s just killing you salespeople, that’s the kind of person that I think you could hire on the spot.

Gene: Yep. If somebody has good experience … I think I’ve told this story once before on this podcast, but I was at a conference of windows and door dealers or whatever and this guy that I met … I’m forgetting what his name is-

Elizabeth: Must’ve been a good time.

Gene: Well, it was a good time actually. These are good people and you can’t get past good double glazing on your house. Okay? This guy, he sells windows. He has successful business, there’s three locations, whatever. He hires people on the spot, he gets all of his salespeople from retail.

Whenever he goes out shopping, if he sees a good-

Elizabeth: Yes. You talked about this before.

Gene: Yeah. If he sees a good salesperson at a store … They’ve got the energy and they’ve got the whatever. He’ll be like, “You know what? Here’s my business card, I’d like to hire you. Come and visit with me.”

Elizabeth: That’s amazing.

Gene: It’s not exactly on the spot or whatever, but he recruits people. Because-

Elizabeth: Yeah. But-

Gene: … his feeling is … Like you just said, if you see somebody that’s sort of got a track record of success, he sees somebody that’s got energy and whatever. You can always mold them and teach them what to do.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: But, I think the bottom line is … Elizabeth, I think this whole hiring on the spot thing seems very Hollywood. How many movies have we’ve seen where they say, “Kid, you got it. You’re hired. Come to my office tomorrow at 8:00 AM.” I don’t think that really happens in real life.

Elizabeth: You’ve got to see someone in action, doing what you’re hiring them to do.

Gene: You’ve got to check references and you gotta … Even giving them a time period where you could test them out. You gotta look at their social media accounts. Not that you need access, but you should be able to see what they’re up to online and get a whole picture of this person before you invite them into your business home. I think hiring people on the spot, I wouldn’t recommend doing it.

Elizabeth: It’s risky.

Gene: Yep.

Elizabeth: Also, I do want to recommend re-watching ER on Hulu.

Gene: I’m actually watching a really great show from the 2000s called, Life on Mars.

Elizabeth: Interesting.

Gene: It’s a really great show. It only lasted two seasons and it’s cast is unbelievable.

Elizabeth: Who’s in it?

Gene: Harvey Keitel is in it.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher on-

Elizabeth: Oh. I loved him.

Gene: He’s amazing. Gretchen Mol is in it and Gretchen Mol was in Boardwalk Empire and a bunch of other stuff. It’s a remake of a British show where this guy goes back in time from 2008 to 1973. He’s a New York cop and he’s living it and trying to figure out how to get back to 2008 while solving crimes.

Elizabeth: Oh, really? That sounds interesting.

Gene: I love this show. It’s 17 episodes total and it lasted for two seasons, unfortunately.

Elizabeth: Where can our listeners access this?

Gene: I actually bought it on Amazon Prime.

Elizabeth: Okay. Alright.

Gene: That’s where it is. Great show. Life on Mars.

Elizabeth: ER is on Hulu is you’re interested in rewatching some … Having some 90s nostalgia.

Gene: Sure.

Elizabeth: I didn’t really watch it in realtime, because I think I was in high school while it was on. It was-

Gene: You appreciate more when you watch it now?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: I get it.

Elizabeth: Definitely. Alright. We’ll be right back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.

Gene: I’ve got a good one.


Elizabeth: And we’re back with Gene’s Word of … Ooh, I just yelled. We’re back. Because, I’m so excited to hear what your Word of Brilliance is.

Gene: This Word of Brilliance, Elizabeth, is something that I recently read, and then wrote about it as well. The word is voodoo.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: Voodoo.

Elizabeth: Cool word.

Gene: Apparently, a research team at a school … I got to get this. It’s the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at the Wilfred Laurier University in Ontario, Canada.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: A researcher team there did a study of a bunch of employees at organizations around whatever area they did and they came to this one conclusion … They found that employees get out their frustrations with their boss and are better employees if you give them a voodoo doll of the boss.

Elizabeth: Oh my God.

Gene: They took a sample size and made up voodoo dolls of the peoples bosses … Whatever. With the name of the boss on it or whatever and said, “Whenever you get frustrated or angry with your boss or whatever, punch it, stick pins in it, you can burn candles … ” You can completely abuse the doll. And then, they tested … I guess, they’re biometrics before and after, and they’re attitude before and after.

Apparently, it turned out that over a third of the people that were tested reported not only calling it like a calming experience, but also being more suited to do their work afterwards if they took out their frustrations on a voodoo doll for your boss.

Just … If we could apply that here at The Hartford maybe with the different bosses have voodoo dolls made. But, I don’t know. It was really interesting that even in a smaller business the funny thing to do … And it’s a cute thing to do. But, believe it or not it’s somewhat therapeutic to do as well.

Elizabeth: I was just wondering. Instead of sending the employees at The Marks Group their annual bonus this year, should you just send them a Gene Marks voodoo doll?

Gene: I agree. I was thinking about it myself. They were giving examples of how these employees were abusing the … They were pinching it with pliers, they were burning candles on the boss, and I was thinking, “Man, I’m getting kind of nervous just reading this. I don’t even know if want to give this to anybody.”

But, apparently it is … From a human nature perspective. Giving your employees something to take their frustrations out on, everybody gets frustrated with their boss, is actually therapeutic. It makes them better employees.

Elizabeth: That makes total sense.

Gene: Voodoo.

Elizabeth: Okay. Great. We’ll talk to you in a couple days. Thanks for joining us.

Gene: See you next time.

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