Know who you are hiring: Extensive due diligence is a must

Human Resources

question I frequently have asked my clients is, “Do you really know who you are hiring?”

That same question could be posed to the management of the Cleveland Browns after they selected Johnny Manziel, a quarterback nicknamed “Johnny Football,” from Texas A&M in the 2014 NFL Draft. Manziel was a talented and entertaining player in college, but he also had a well-known reputation as a party animal.

The Manziel situation is an example of knowing there is a maturity problem and still taking a chance on his ability to consistently lead the team to victory. Did the Browns ignore the fact that Manziel dropped to 22nd in the draft of the first round? What did the other teams who passed on him know that they did not? Current NFL statistics indicate that over the past 10 drafts, only 30 percent of the quarterbacks drafted made it to the Pro Bowl.

Will Manziel fall into the 70 percent who do not succeed? So far, his performance on the field for the Browns has been nothing to write home about. And he has been involved in numerous off-field incidents. Manziel was fined by his team for missing a scheduled medical treatment on Jan. 3, the day of the Browns’ final game of the season. Browns management did not know where Manziel was prior to the end of the season.

When a company considers hiring an executive with some red flags in his or her background, a leader should ask key questions. Do you have sufficient information to make the hiring decision? Will the individual’s past dictate his or her future behavior? Do people really mature and change over time?

These questions need to be addressed prior to making a contract or offer of employment.

There is homework that needs to be completed prior to the first interview. Using the Internet to gather information on a prospective employee has become the norm for many employers. You can access the applicant’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and other social media accounts, read their posts and view pictures of social gatherings, friends and events. Even with this information, you still will need to perform the basics: the careful review of the resume, letters of recommendation and academic records. After an in-depth review, you should have a number of questions that need to be posed to the applicant.

I have found that focused questions will reveal information that is not on any resume. Any gap in employment should be challenged, in addition to educational achievements. During one interview I conducted, a respondent was asked about his experience at UW-Madison. The applicant said he went to UW-Parkside, not Madison, even though he listed UW on his resume. I continued to probe other elements in the resume and found further misrepresentations and inconsistencies. That applicant was eliminated.

The moral of that story is, “don’t take anything on face value.”

If you are interviewing a management candidate, how much importance are you going to put on his or her past experience and performance? The questions in your mind should be: Will he change his behavior? Will she fit into your culture? What impact will he have on your organization? Finally, has she demonstrated good judgment online and is she the best candidate for the position?

Johnny Manziel’s off-field activities were known to the Browns, so his recent partying should not be a surprise to their management. Based upon the latest news coverage, it appears Manziel will not be in a Browns uniform next fall. Where he ends up will depend on who wants to take a chance on him.

The rumor at this time is that the Dallas Cowboys are that team. Based on their current record, is he worth the gamble? Can Cowboys owner Jerry Jones rope in this maverick? Only time will tell.  

-Cary Silverstein, MBA, is the president of SMA LLC and The Negotiating Edge. He leads a group that provides services in the areas of strategic planning, negotiation training and conflict resolution, with offices in Fox Point and Scottsdale, Ariz. He can be reached at (414) 403-2942 or at

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He was a senior professor at DeVry's Keller Graduate School in Wisconsin. Cary has published articles in periodicals and on the Internet. He recently published first book with Dr. Larry Waldman, "Overcoming Your NegotiaPhobia". Cary holds MBAs from L I U’s Arthur T. Roth School of Business. Cary has a BA from CUNY, Queens College. He has certificates in Negotiation from Harvard’s PON and in Labor and Employment Law from Marquette University.

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