Hiring the wrong candidate is expensive; money wasted on salary and training will usually be substantial. In fact, estimates from the U.S. Labour Department give the cost of a poor hiring decision at about 30% of the employee’s potential first-year earnings.
The organisation wastes money on onboarding and training, which should have been spent on the right person to fulfil that role. However, it’s not just the financial impact but the additional emotional cost to the department and eventually the organisation’s morale. Hiring the wrong person may ultimately affect other employee’s morale and motivation and they may start to question the ability of the company to pick someone who can do the job, and who is a good fit with the company culture. We provide Interviewer Training to improve hiring quality and consistency.
So how to avoid selecting the wrong candidate in the first place? Assuming you have accurately captured the requirements of the role, written a good job specification, and advertised in the appropriate channels then there should be a robust group of applicants.
Some of the warning signs that may be apparent from the initial application are:
1. The application letter bears little relevance to the job description and the required skills
Someone who is genuinely a good fit for the role and who has the necessary skills and experience should be able to get this information across in their application. A job description that looks as though it may have been cut and pasted from another application shows lack of interest and professionalism.
2. The letter and CV contain typos
They are both important documents and it is reasonable to expect them to be free of errors. A candidate that cannot take the time to proof-read their application and correct errors is likely to take the same approach to important documents that may be sent to potential clients.
3. Gaps in the employment history or frequent job-hopping
There may be perfectly reasonable explanations for both, but at the very least they should prompt further exploration. In the same vein, beware of candidates who share too many personal details and have elaborate or over-complicated reasons as to why jobs didn’t work out. The face-to-face interview is usually office-based, where possible, as there is far more opportunity to gauge the candidate’s personality and assess their technical competency and fit with the company culture. The interview process should be open and transparent, and the interviewer’s tone friendly and welcoming. You are not out to trip up applicants, but nevertheless you should be alerted to warning signs.
4. Lack of preparation
Applicants that give a good impression will have obviously done their research about the organisation and it’s products or services. They will know the specifics of the role, demonstrate strong interpersonal and communication skills, come across as honest and enthusiastic, and ask probing questions. Applicants should also know how to dress for an interview and how to greet staff appropriately. It goes without saying that being late for an interview is rarely acceptable. A job interview can be a stressful experience for some candidates; however, stress is part and parcel of most jobs, and it is expected that candidates will have the ability to cope with some pressure. After the introductions and an explanation of the interview process and timings, it is good practice to start with a general question that will allow the candidate to settle, for example “talk me through your career.”
5. Poor communication skills
Appropriate body language and eye contact are important, avoiding eye contact can be interpreted as being ‘shifty’, but is usually a sign of anxiety. Leaning too far forwards may be a sign of an aggressive attitude, as can excessively staring, whereas leaning backwards, particularly with arms crossed, may indicate arrogance or lack of interest. You want to hire people that are engaging, enthusiastic and who can communicate well; does this interview flow, does the conversation feel natural?
Does the candidate answer the question or are they evasive and do their responses lack detail? How do they respond to further probing such as “can you provide me with some more detail about your role in the project you’ve just talked about?” Candidates may not be able to provide an example for all questions, but they should be able to demonstrate real world, working answers for most, and be easily understood in terms of their use of language.
High performers usually have great examples they can draw on from the past and can easily recollect them; they use more first-person pronouns such as ‘I’ and they talk in the past tense. Conversely, low performers use pronouns such as “he”, “she” & “they” and often talk in the present or future tense, allowing them to give hypothetical examples. They also tend to discuss what other people did, or how other people’s actions stopped them from performing. You should expect professional language throughout the interview; over-familiarity, swearing or profanity, or disrespect toward former colleagues or employers should trigger alarm bells.
6. Final stage red flags
Beware candidates who do not have any questions. You want employees who are energetic and enthusiastic; candidates who ask follow-up questions about next steps, or about their future team are generally looking forward to joining the organisation. Candidates who present last-minute limitations or requests, or even potential deal-breakers at late stages in the process are not showing responsible or professional behaviour and may well create similar issues during their employment.
These observations are not infallible but following them will greatly reduce your chances of recruiting a “bad hire”.