How to avoid bad hires


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.

A bad hire can be costly. A recent report by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) found a poor hire at mid-management level can cost a business more than £132,000. However, in terms of morale and productivity, the real cost to a company can be much higher.

“A hiring mistake could dent team morale,” says Tiffany Wong, associate director of human resources and transactional services 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

The first warning sign to note is a poorly put together CV. Punyanuch Sirisawadwattana, Country Manager of Robert Walters Thailand, says that CVs should be structured, especially when it comes to showcasing one’s achievements. “When candidates include their achievements in CVs, they need to back them up with clear and reliable evidence. The achievements themselves need to be realistic; overly exaggerated achievements raise questions regarding their authenticity and ethics,” she says.

Punyanuch also adds that it is ideal for CVs to reflect consistent advancement over the course of candidates’ careers. She notes, “Instead of just putting down their last title, candidates’ resumes should also highlight the details of their career progression, to reflect how often they have been promoted within the company or across companies. Another thing candidates should do is to separate their job scopes and key achievements in their resumes. This allows interviewers to have a clearer understanding of how they have progressed over the years, in terms of wider job scopes and greater achievements. It’s even better if candidates can show career advancement within the same company over the years, as this depicts them as being committed to their careers, and that they are not job hoppers.”

Similarly, Tiffany points out that soft skills like resilience are becoming increasingly important qualities that employers look for in candidates. As Tiffany explains, “an employee who changes jobs regularly could be cause for concern. An employer doesn’t want to hire someone who looks as though they might leave as soon as the going gets tough. They want to know: are they resilient to the pressures of the job, or do they just cut and run if things don’t go their way?”

A far more positive sign is someone with a proven track record at a particular company, she says. “If a candidate has a strong record of internal progression, that effectively validates their performance and work ethic. They have been successfully tested and promoted by people who know them well.”

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.

Punyanuch meanwhile, recommends interviewers pay attention to candidates’ attitudes. Do the interviewees come across as flexible, humble, and understanding? Companies would want someone who is able to quickly adapt to different workplaces, processes, cultures, and roles, and not someone with a fixed mindset. “Even if the candidate doesn’t possess all the required technical skills for the role, if the person is willing to learn, has a positive can-do attitude, and is committed, ambitious, driven and motivated, that person might very well be the one,” she says.

The interviewee questions to watch out for

“The questions candidates ask during interviews are not only their best opportunity to find out more about both the company and the role they are applying for, they are also opportunities to showcase themselves,” says Punyanuch. “Good candidates would ask questions that show they have previously studied about the company, and are updated with the latest company and industry news. Importantly, they need to ask questions that reveal their interest in the company.”

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. “Whilst 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.

Indications of good fit

Whether a candidate is a good fit for your business will largely depend on how they fare during the interview process, and a lot of it comes down to personal instinct. As Punyanuch explains, look for technical and cultural fits. “A candidate who is a good fit for a company mustn’t only have good, relevant technical skills, the person’s character, values and personal beliefs need to align with the culture and value of the organisation as well. Also, does the role need a teamwork-type of person or an independent person who can work alone? Take note of other soft skills as well, such as being flexible, adaptable to changes, and possessing leadership skills if the role needs the candidate to be in-charge of big teams. This is a key hiring element to remember as some candidates might be the right fit in terms of having the hard and soft skills, but they can’t work independently, be flexible, or lead as required by the role.” At the same time, she advises employers to also consider diversity. By hiring someone who is different from the rest of the team, you open the team up to more perspectives, and indirectly promote greater creativity among team members.

Installing a rigorous, well-structured recruitment process can help employers judge whether a candidate is a good fit. Remember as well to do reference checks as part of the overall recruitment process, Punyanuch says, as it helps confirm what candidates shared during interviews are aligned with what others who know them well say.

As 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.”

Visit our hiring advice page for more expert tips on securing the right candidates, or submit a vacancy to partner us in building your team.


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