How to avoid bad hires

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Hiring the right person for a role is never easy — but dealing with the fallout from a bad hire can be even more challenging. We asked our experts to share the red flags to watch out for…

The cost of a bad hire is high. Not only is the person a drain on precious resources, he or she also has an impact on morale and productivity.

“A hiring mistake could dent team morale,” says Tiffany Wong, director of human resources in Robert Walters’ Hong Kong office. “If you have people leaving after less than three months, that is going to have an effect on your team.”

On top of that, external perceptions of your company could also be hurt and there are resource costs too. “In addition to recruitment costs, salary costs and training time, you have to spend time and resource managing any client relationships that were affected. And of course, if the market learns of these speedy departures, that tells a bad story too,” she says.

Hiring managers can maximise their chances of avoiding such pitfalls by following our experts’ advice about how to spot an inappropriate candidate – before they turn into an inappropriate employee…

Interrogate the CV

One warning sign to look out for is frequent job hopping or gaps between jobs, says Airene Tan, director of sales & marketing, commerce finance, healthcare & life sciences at Robert Walters Malaysia. As technology continues to accelerate the speed at which businesses evolve, resilience and adaptability are two valuable qualities that hiring managers should look out for in their hires.

“If a candidate has changed jobs multiple times within a short period, it may indicate a lack of resilience or issues with their commitment,” shares Airene. “Someone who left their previous roles when the going got tough is likely to do the same again. Look for someone who has a strong record of internal progression as that is often a sign of their work ethic and ability to deliver.”

However, Airene cautions employers to not immediately dismiss candidates who seem to have a history of job hopping or taking career breaks. “If their skill set matches what you need, then it may be worthwhile to hold an interview with them. This will allow you to ask them about the details of their frequent job switching or career gaps. Those with valid reasons such as family issues or corporate restructuring will be able to explain these to you with confidence and clarity.”

Look out for interview danger signs

One of the key things to look for at the interview stage is the preparedness of the candidate. “An interview shows a potential employee at their very best, so failing to prepare properly could be another sign of a lack of commitment to the role,” says Tiffany.

Familiarising themselves with recent news regarding the company and information available on their website and should be the very least candidates do, adds Airene. “Strong candidates will go a step further, taking time to understand the commercial side of the business, such as competitors, market challenges, and potential expansion plans.”

Airene also advises hiring managers to pay attention to non-verbal cues, such as their body language, eye contact and handshake, that may reveal more about the candidate’s openness, confidence and honesty. If you detect any discrepancies between their verbal and non-verbal communication, the best approach is to probe further. 

Testing for fit

Putting candidates in difficult situations they may encounter in their role and seeing how they approach them may be a good way to determine whether they are suitable for the role.

“For example, if the role involves giving presentations frequently, it may be useful to have a candidate to prepare a short presentation beforehand and deliver it during the interview. This will help you more accurately evaluate the candidate’s abilities instead of simply relying on what they say on their CV,” Airene shares. “You can also put them in role plays or challenging situations that may crop up during their role to see how they would handle the issue.”

Cultural fit with the team is also crucial, particularly as jobs become increasingly collaborative. Airene recommends either conducting psychometric or personality evaluations to test for cultural fit within the team. Having team members be part of the interview process may also provide insights into how well a candidate gets along with the team.

The interviewee questions to watch out for

“The questions an interviewee asks about the role can reveal a lot about their interests and motivations,” says Airene. “A candidate who fails to take the opportunity to ask about the role and company may not be the person you’re looking for.”  

As both our experts agree, what you don’t want to hear are just questions that focus on candidates finding out “what’s in it for me?” — employee benefits, salary, holiday allowance, working hours etc. “While flexible working and achieving a good work-life balance are becoming increasingly important to jobseekers, a lack of curiosity about how the role will develop or deliver job satisfaction should cause the interviewer to question how committed the candidate really is,” says Tiffany.

Interviewers should also be wary of candidates who don’t engage fully in conversation. As Tiffany warns, defensive and curt answers may indicate that a candidate is quite closed-up and inflexible, which could be a revealing sign as to how well they would work in your team.

Attitude and potential

At the end of the interview, hiring managers need to judge the candidate’s overall attitude throughout the interview. “A candidate who focuses heavily on the negative aspects of their current employer or situation may simply be looking to leave instead of being truly excited about the role you have,” Airene shares. “As an employer, you should be looking for someone who is eager about your role, and how they can learn and contribute.”

Tiffany adds, it’s often not just what the candidates say in either their CV or interview that’s important, but how they say it. “Personally, I find it better to hire based on attitude and potential over experience,” says Tiffany. “Anyone can gain experience, but attitude and potential are much harder to find.”

Get more hiring advice here, or contact Airene Tan for an in-depth consultation on your hiring needs at airene.tan@robertwalters.com.my