Thoughts on Screening New Employees

In reading Ecclesiastes 10.5-6 the other day, I was struck by how this directly talked to business owners who hire people in their business. This verse reads as follows:

There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler: Fools are put in many high positions while the rich occupy the low ones.

It’s not a far stretch to equate the ruler with the business owner and fools as (potential) employees. What this passage clearly teaches is that hiring a fool for a position of management and/or influence in your business instead of a non-fool (called “rich” in this verse) is an “evil” and an “error”. This is not to say that all or even most employees are “fools”. They are NOT. Most are fabulous people who are hard working, loyal, dedicated and anything but a fool. But there is the occasional individual who will fit this profile. Knowing how to spot such an individual during the interview process can help you avoid frustration and costly mistakes down the road.

So, what is a fool? Well, a brief reading of Proverbs tells us the characteristics of a fool:

  • Despise wisdom and discipline, 1.7
  • Hate knowledge, 1.22
  • Complacent, 2.32
  • Spread slander, 10.18
  • Lack judgment, 10.21
  • Do not listen to advice, 12.15
  • Quickly show their annoyance, 12.16
  • Mock at making amends for sin, 14.9
  • Hotheaded and reckless, 14.16
  • Full of talk, but they don’t work hard, 14.23
  • Do not accept advice, 17.10
  • Love to give their opinions, 18.2
  • Quick to quarrel, 20.3
  • See danger, but they don’t change course, 27.12

While there are many more verses about fools in the Scriptures, this list gives us a starting point for characteristics that you *shouldn’t* hire on your staff. Hiring a fool represents poor stewardship for your business.

Now, does one need all of these characteristics to be classified as a “fool”? No. Do we not all have these characterstics at one time or another? Yes. But the point is this: the more one has these characteristics, the more likely it is that one can be discerned as a “fool” in Biblical terminology. So, the question becomes this: How do you assess for these characteristics during the interview process?

Well, I’ve listed out some questions and ideas to use to help screen against these characteristics:


Potential Screening Question

Despise wisdom

  • Who do you go to for mentoring?
  • What are the guiding principles for your life?

Despise discipline

  • Tell me about the last person you worked for. What did you like and not like about your last manager?
  • Do you have any authorities in your life that you submit to?

Hate knowledge

  • What are the last three books that you have read?
  • What have you accomplished in the last three years to grow professionally?
  • Would you rather read a book, watch a movie or work with your hands?


  • Are you satisfied with your character development at this stage of your life?
  • Have you ever spent money knowing that you really didn’t need to spend it? If so, did you do it again?

Spread slander

  • Tell me about the last co-worker that you worked with that you didn’t get along with – what were they like and how did you handle it? (The substance of their answer is irrelevant: the point is that if they keep talking about it, giving more details, if they start getting angry, reliving the experience, etc…, then they will likely spread slander to you during the interview)

Lack judgment

  • Give them a scenario in your business and ask them how they would handle the decision
  • If you were to be given $10,000, what would you do with it? (look for how they would manage their money)
  • Run a background and credit check – how they handle money will indicate strongly what kind of judgment they have

Do not listen to advice

  • Ask their references how well they were at listening and heeding advice – be sure to call those with whom they worked that they *didn’t* list as references

Quickly show their annoyance

  • Do something annoying and see how they handle it
  • Ask them questions in rapid succession and see if they show any annoyance
  • Ask their references about this
  • Do you like driving in rush hour traffic? (Even for this question, they might show their annoyance quickly about rush hour traffic)
  • What kind of people annoy you? (See if they display annoyance when they answer this question)

Do not make amends for something they have done wrong

  • Ask them to describe a situation in which they wronged someone and then describe how they tried to make amends
  • Ask them to describe the last business mistake they made and what they did to correct it

Big talk, small work

  • Ask their references about this

Love to give their opinions

  • Ask them about a hot-button issue and see if they proffer their opinions strongly – in an interview, this would not be considered good judgment to give strong opinions on hot button issues

See danger coming, but don’t change course to avoid the danger (most likely because they believe they can overcome the danger or they minimize the danger’s “dangerousness”)

  • A DUI would be a great indicator of this
  • Ask them to describe the last three business decisions they made. Listen for the risk/reward elements and discern accordingly

Bill English


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