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Tips for recognising & avoiding a costly bad hire

17th Jan 2017
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You’ve found a good match for a company. Everyone seems to be satisfied. Or do they? It later turns out that the person lacks desired qualifications, is often late for work and acts very arrogantly towards the superiors.

Apart from that, hiring mistakes are financially costly. To be more precise, Jörgen Sundberg, a well-known recruiter says that large companies spend up to $240,000 for onboarding a single employee and around $840,000 in HR costs all together if we are talking about a second-level manager with a $62,000/year salary.

The US State Department of Labor estimates the cost of a bad hire to be 30% of the employee’s first-year salary. You can easily count how much that would be in your case.

But some people are just too good at acting as a perfect match during the interview process. Weeding out those candidates isn’t that simple, yet not impossible. Here are some tips to help you with that.

Scout for red flags online

In the world of social media getting a clear candidate profile has become much easier. In fact, according to a survey published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 69% of recruiters that conduct social media screening rejected applicants based on their profiles.

The common red flags include:

  • Rants and bad mouthing about past/current employer or colleagues.
  • Insulting, controversial or provocative content shared.
  • Poor grammar and blunt spelling mistakes.
  • Information that contradicts the one stated in the candidate's resume.
  • False/spammy-looking content and posts published.

Check their credentials and stated qualifications

Let’s face it – most people have mastered the art of manipulating their resumes and taking credit for accomplishments they haven’t actually achieved.

Pre-hire assessments and/or testing is a great way to make sure your candidate is as experienced and knowledgeable as they claim to be.  

Additionally, as Jan Margolis, founder and managing director of Metuchen, N.J.-based Applied Research Corporation promptly pointed out:

“Pre-hire assessments are more accurate predictors of future success or derailment in a new job and work culture.”

A test is harder to trick and the hiring decision-makers don’t get impacted by the candidate's personal charisma or the in-person ability to persuade.

These tests can include sections both on soft and hard skills; overall personality tests and additional sections depending on the role you are trying to fill in.

Hiring in certain industries e.g. education or healthcare may also require conducting a professional background check of the candidate to gain a complete understanding of their criminal history, if any, so as to understand whether this is going to make them unsuitable for the position. Today those could be done online and in bulk through services like Good Hire in the US and uCheck in the UK.

Ask the uncomfortable questions

So your candidate has successfully made it through the initial screening and tests and it’s time to have an actual interview.

No one is fond of acting tough and making the interviewee feel uncomfortable, but remember there are some $800,000 at stake. So sometimes you just need to ask those dreaded questions to understand the person’s true potential and intentions better:

  • Why do you actually want to work for our company? Great hires definitely took the time to research your company in advance and could clearly communicate how they could become a good asset and what’s their motivation.
  • Why do you have a gap in your work history? Going sabbatical for a year or choosing to volunteer with an NGO is a normal reason these days. But if the candidate can't exactly explain this gap, be more vigilant.  
  • What’s the one thing you’d change about your last job? Harsh and open criticism of the employer or the colleagues is a huge red flag.

Get in touch with the references

A lot of people have tons of recommendations and testimonials on LinkedIn, but a good recruiter should look beyond those.

For starters, you can name drop the former manager/colleague of the candidate during the interview and closely watch their reaction. Ask them if they’d feel comfortable to put you in touch with them.

The best hires will often suggest you speak to their former clients/supervisor themselves to verify their expertise. Yet, if the candidate acts reluctant, it isn't a bad thing either – just try to dig to the root of the cause before making fast judgments. Their former boss may not know yet about their job hunting, for instance.

Using different channels for screening candidates can be more time-consuming. Yet investing in a thorough, multi-step process with save your company money in the long run. Don’t push your HR department into closing the job offers as fast as possible. Instead, focus on creating long-term engagement among the employees and reducing the turnover rates.

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