September 23, 2021
By: Phil La Duke
Author’s note: The following is an updated excerpt from my book Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Prevention.
Everywhere I go these days employers have the same lament—nobody wants to work. While that might have a modicum of truth to it, the more likely scenario is that job seekers are being more judicious about the type of employment, compensation, and employer that they will accept. Aging Baby Boomers forcefully removed from the workplace by COVID-19 shutdowns have acclimated to life as a retiree and aren’t particularly interested in returning to a job while a pandemic still rages. Younger workers aren’t interested in working for companies who don’t pay a living wage or that expect workers to take on a side hustle (which they realize is corporate greed-speak for a second job) just to make enough money to live above the poverty line.
We are in the midst of a labor shortage—several markets and restaurants that I frequent are closing two or more days a week simply because they don’t have sufficient staff to keep their regular hours. This is more than a temporary inconvenience. In fact, a labor shortage often encourages employers to hire less than desirable candidates because they “need bodies”. Employers have yet to accept that the end of the pandemic (when it comes) won’t mean that the workplace will go back to the way it was before the pandemic.
Recruiters must eliminate the “we need bodies” mentality if we are going to make a dent in workplace violence. A good way to avoid a workplace shooting is to avoid hiring people who are unstable and/or who demonstrate a pattern of violent behavior. In this day where people blithely post sometimes outrageous and ominous threatening statements on social media that provide a hidden glimpse into their personalities making it easier than ever to legally gain information on an individual’s mental state and volatility. Even as individuals try to conceal embarrassing posts it is still possible to gain important insights. Here are some potential red flags that are worth considering, as you read through them remember there are two conditions for which you are screening:
Again, none of these things in themselves identifies a dangerous individual but it provides an important piece of the puzzle that you really need when you hire a person, and you need that information BEFORE you bring the person in for an interview.
As I have said, a recruiter shouldn’t make a hiring decision based on these criteria alone, but assuming you find an otherwise qualified candidate, there is no harm in asking questions about the posts during a preliminary interview.
Of course, there are many other factors to consider but that’s why I wrote a book instead of a single article. I will close with this: it’s far easier to avoid hiring a mentally unstable and potentially violent candidate than it is to fire this person once they move from candidate to employee. So be careful about “looking for bodies”; you might get exactly that (only dead) and you will regret the approach that led you to hire a killer.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.