How to Avoid Bad Hires & Spot Red Flag Candidates

Kelly Cantwell

Hiring the right people to fill your team is always a challenge, and it’s even harder today. But can you afford a bad hire? Hiring the wrong employee could be the worst thing to ever happen to your company. The negative energy from one bad hire can poison your office space, sink your productivity, and damage your business reputation.

To keep your team happy and bottom line healthy, you need to make avoiding bad hires a top priority.

The ideal candidate for the job will be skilled, thorough, and able to get along with other members of your team. Still, how will you recognize that person? Can you prevent bad hires?

How to Prevent a Bad Hire: Prepare, Assess, Act

Fortunately, it’s easy for you and your company to prevent bad hires by following three steps:

  1. Prepare. Know what your ideal candidate should have in terms of skills, experience, personality, and attitude.
  2. Assess. Use research, diagnostic tests, and interview skills to determine if a candidate is a smart fit. Do background checks.
  3. Act. Quality talent is in high demand. Be prepared to make a competitive offer immediately when you find the right candidate.

By following these steps, you can find the perfect employee for any open position and set up your company for success. Let’s get started.

What are the most common reasons for bad hires?

Bad hires come in several forms. Some people exude the kind of toxic negativity that can ruin a team dynamic and bring everybody down. Others are pleasant but too incompetent to get the work done. Some might be able to do the work, but are unreachable. A number of candidates lack the confidence to make a decision or complete a task without oversight.

When you introduce a bad hire into a team setting, the negative impacts can include overall productivity loss, lower job satisfaction rates, and even reputational damage. How do bad hires worm their way in? Here are the most common reasons people make bad hiring decisions.

  • Interviewer bias. A candidate shows up to an interview who seems perfect. The prospective employee fits your ideal image and similar interests. The interview goes well and you hire them. Unfortunately, they aren’t qualified for the position and your other employees resent having to pick up the slack.
  • Badly defined job position needs. You haven’t properly defined the job needs and ideal candidate.
  • Candidate misrepresentation. The candidate exaggerates their skills and abilities.
  • Poor interview process. Your questions don’t reveal the candidate’s character.
  • Not enough information about the candidate. You didn’t administer the tests that would identify the skills and character traits necessary for the job.

9 ways to avoid hiring the wrong person

It’s easy and costly to make a mistake. Said Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates: “Hire right, because the penalties of hiring wrong are huge.”

How can an employer avoid hiring the wrong person? Here are nine ways to avoid the penalties of hiring wrong.

1. Define your ideal candidate and be clear about your company needs

Identify what makes someone a top candidate for a particular job. Before you narrow down your list of job applicants or start holding interviews, it’s best to develop an effective job description and a list of characteristics desired in a potential employee. What might make a candidate a bad hire for your company? Will the right person be an introverted or extroverted worker? Do they see the big-picture or are they a detail-oriented person?

For inspiration, look at the people in your office who are successful in the same position. If you’re hiring for a sales position, take a look at the personality traits of your top salespeople. What do they have in common? Depending on your industry, your top salespeople may be confident, engaging, and energetic enough to sell cars or empathetic and soft-spoken enough to serve mourners. Defining specific personality traits for each role helps you weed out disruptive or jarring personalities.

If you’re hiring an employee to fill a new role, look at similar job descriptions online and see what other companies seek out. This can help you formulate your ideal employee hiring profile.

2. Assess your existing hiring process and learn from past mistakes

Hiring can be a waste of time. If you’re spending a lot of time interviewing people you would never hire, or worse, hiring the wrong people, your hiring process is the problem. You may be spending so much time trying to narrow down a large applicant pool using traditional criteria like experience and education that you miss the critical qualities.

With the ideal candidate in mind, Hire Success® can administer pre-employment personality tests and integrity tests to narrow the applicant pool down to likely candidates by learning attributes you cannot uncover with a resume.

avoid hiring the wrong person

3. Use all available candidate sources to attract top talent

Posting on a general job board can bring in plenty of applicants, but if you want to attract top talent, consider widening your search. Hiring recruiters is an effective way to lure employed candidates not actively looking for a new job.

To attract candidates with specialized skills, place ads on an industry-specific job board. You may also find great candidates by asking your top-performing employees in the same department to spread the word through social media.

Another often overlooked possibility is promoting from within. The stellar talent you need might be right under your nose. Promotion from within is great for your company image.

4. Look for both technical and cultural fit

You need to hire people with the right skillset, but in today’s marketplace, company culture has higher importance than ever before. Consumers want to do business with companies they can relate to and expect certain behavior and values from everyone associated with your company.

Make sure new employees have the right personality type, fit your company's image, and uphold your values. One employee carrying a swastika flag at a protest rally could undermine all the work you’ve done to build your brand.

5. Don’t overestimate experience on account of future potential and attitude

While most employers value experience, this isn’t always a good predictor of future performance. Sadly, the number of years performing a job or the number of jobs a candidate has had do not indicate the quality of their work. Workers can easily be mediocre at their jobs for decades. Some of the more charming or connected personalities can even fail upwards.

Conversely, an employee with great potential may have been passed over or assigned to tasks well below their abilities and appear to be mediocre when they are not. A new hire with a great attitude and the aptitude for the job may be a much better hire than an experienced person with poor performance.

6. Verify candidate’s information, dig into the gaps and require proof if needed

Job seekers tend to lie and exaggerate their applications. During the interview process, it’s important to verify all the information you can and find out why there are gaps or omissions. While your job description may put a higher value on experience or knowledge over academics, you might want to know if a potential hire lied.

Candidates might also exaggerate their skills. That’s where Hire Success®' aptitude and skills tests come into play. Hire Success® can assess the true potential of your prospective hires.

7. Don’t overlook candidate red flags and follow your gut

In the rush to hire, interviewers often ignore red flags. Be aware of the signals candidates are sending and explore any concerns ahead of time. If you sense something isn’t right, trust your instincts. The following examples could be signs of a bad candidate:

  • They don’t ask any questions. Lack of questions could indicate no interest, arrogance or fear that questions will reveal weakness.
  • They avoid discussing any flaws. Refusing to acknowledge weaknesses could indicate lack of humility or self-awareness.
  • They arrive late to the interview. While there are many legitimate reasons to be late, it may indicate disorganization.
  • They are unprepared for the interview. A good candidate will understand the position, be qualified, and know at least the basics about the company.
  • They don’t seem adaptable. If you mention additional job responsibilities and they object, they may never be able to adapt to change.

8. Give yourself enough time to make a final hiring decision

It’s more important to hire the right person than fill the seat. Given the cost of a bad hire and how devastating a toxic personality can be to your team, it’s better to take the time needed to attract, identify, vet, interview, and onboard the right new team member rather than settle for someone with the right technical skills.

9. Set clear expectations for the hire and define next steps

You can’t expect new employees to hit the ground running without instructions. During the hiring process, you should know their strengths and weaknesses. Before hiring is finalized, make sure they understand what the job entails and what comes next. Walk them through the onboarding and training process.

How can you know if you hired the right employee?

When you’re interviewing an ideal candidate, you’ve already vetted their personality, skills, integrity, and background, the meeting should be smooth as silk. The candidate will answer your questions easily and ask some of their own. They will have ideas about how they will handle their role, and curiosity about their team and the office environment. A great hire is exactly who you’re looking for to fill this job.

It’s not always easy to know how to avoid hiring the wrong person, but Hire Success® is here to help.

Stop wasting your valuable time today. Hire Success® can help you develop job baselines, vet candidates, and prepare effective, revealing interview questions. Hire Success® will give you the interview roadmap needed to identify the right people for every position.

Kelly Cantwell

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