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3 Ways to Weed Out a Bad Job Candidate

Mark Airs — Getty Images

You can’t afford to make mistakes when hiring new talent. When you hire someone who is not a good fit, your team and your business will suffer. In a 2014 study by Robert Half International, 34% of CFOs agreed that bad hires cost them productivity. Moreover, they said that managers spend 17% of their time, or almost a day a week, supervising poorly performing employees. The U.S. Department of Labor also estimates that a bad hire can cost up to 30% of the employee’s potential first-year earnings.

No business wants to bring on a bad hire and endure the accompanying wasted time and financial drain. So how do you avoid hiring the wrong person? In my experience, it comes down to three things.

1. Do your homework

Hiring is not the time to wing it or do half-hearted research. You need to evaluate competence beyond the impressive résumé or the seemingly robust LinkedIn profile. You want to make sure you only pursue candidates who will excel at the job, not just do the job. When vetting serious applicants, check their social presence, connections and experience. In interviews, ask for examples and more examples. That tells you more about how they think and who they really are.

Once we were seriously considering hiring a candidate, and had internal pressure from our hiring manager to fill the position immediately. We looked at the candidate’s work history and noticed they had previously spent time at a company where a friend of mine used to work. I called my friend and discovered some work-ethic issues about this candidate that could not be learned from a résumé or an interview, and we decided not to offer them a position. A quick 10-minute call saved a lot of wasted time, money and drama.

2. Hire to your culture

Peter Drucker’s famous quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” holds true in hiring as well. Someone who won’t fit your desired culture simply won’t work out long-term, no matter how hard you try to squeeze them in. If your culture is highly collaborative but a candidate shows signs of being a “my way or the highway” kind of person, they won’t (or can’t) change, regardless of how smart, driven or experienced they are.

Be deliberate about the culture you want on your team(s) and hire to that culture. When hiring becomes strategic, each new hire will contribute to building the culture you want.

3. Trust your instincts

Tune in to how you feel about each candidate. Don’t override your gut when everything is lining up logically but you can’t seem to shake an uncomfortable feeling. I have learned from experience that sometimes your instinctual feelings about a situation can be your best guide. We all know what a good hire feels like when it clicks. And we know what it feels like when it’s not quite right. No matter how frustrating it can be to take longer to hire, I have never regretted delaying to find the right person.

When you’re in the thick of hiring, be mindful of the effect it will have on your team. Do your research, stick to your cultural goals and trust your hunches. Through smarter hiring methods, you’ll be able to more strategically hire for candidates who will truly propel your team and company forward.



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David Sturt

NY Times bestselling author and EVP at O.C. Tanner, the world’s leading employee recognition and engagement company