Herb Greenberg makes a living helping firms make good hires, and his advice is often right on target. I once had a career that lasted 7...

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Herb Greenberg makes a living helping firms make good hires, and his advice is often right on target.


I once had a career that lasted 7 ½ hours.


As with many riveting stories, this one begins with a college student in need of quick cash.


I had gotten a late start on the job-search process, and I soon realized that all the good jobs: congressman, race-car driver, lingerie stockboy, etc., were taken.


Long story short: I ended up at a very large retailer, where an obviously desperate store manager decided I was perfect.


I was given a name tag, told to watch the training video, “Sexual Harassment and You,” and put on the clock as part of an “associate team” that basically did anything the team “leader” wanted done.


The work was mind-numbingly dull.


So I packed it in, even before the first shift was over. I tossed the crummy smock on a crummy chair in the crummy break room and left. When the team leader called me at home the next day, I pretended to be someone else. The corporate office mailed a check a week later that was barely worth the postage.


I was a bad hire.


Herb Greenberg would call me a “turkey.” And Herb Greenberg would know.


He is president of Caliper, a giant New Jersey consulting firm whose clients include Avis, FedEx, professional sports franchises, and 25,000 or so other companies.


Greenberg shows clients how to hire the right people. He advised the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, for example, to draft high-school phenom LeBron James.


Greenberg says the secret to success is to weed out the losers in the job pool. And that can be easier said than done.


“It takes three months to realize you made a mistake, and another three months to replace them,” Greenberg said.


“A wrong hiring decision can knock the stuffing out of an employer. It can bring a team down and affect everyone’s productivity. That’s why some managers fear the hiring process.”


In a recent interview, he shared the following workplace observations:


• “A company with a ghastly turnover rate can sometimes narrow it down to one person in that office.”


• “Knowing which applicant is a flop is easier than knowing which one will be a top performer.”


• “Someone who needs to be told ‘We love you’ all the time shouldn’t be matched with a boss who says: ‘Just do your job, stupid.’ ”


• “Too many employers would rather stick with poor performers than risk trying to replace them.”