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How to Detect the Not So Perfect Job Candidate

Hiring and retaining the best talent is often a company’s greatest competitive advantage. That's why every company should have a clear definition for what it takes for an individual to succeed in the organization. Equally as important is knowing how to identify job seekers who are not a good fit and to have a process in-place that eliminates them from the candidate pool as quickly as possible:   

Before the Interview:  A poor performer can be easy to spot if you look for clues.

  • Carefully review cover letters, and resumes. Typos and grammatical errors are always red flags for a tendency to produce sloppy work.

  • The same conclusion is reasonable when statements in the cover letter do not match what is in the resume or on the candidate’s online professional profile, such as on LinkedIn.

  • Apply a similar analysis to statements made during any telephone screening.

During the Interview:  Actions speak louder than words and words matter, too.

  • The job seeker who is late to arrive (other than for a compelling reason) will likely be late for work once hired.

  • How is the individual dressed? Inappropriate attire is disrespectful, as is checking one’s phone during the interview.

  • Swearing, yelling and/or interrupting have no place in an interview. Additionally, the candidate who speaks poorly of a prior employer or colleagues in an interview may have the same negative attitude toward his or her future employer and co-workers.

  • Be wary of the applicant who is impolite to employees at the reception desk or anyone he or she encounters. This is likely evidence of a poor team player.

  • Given how easy it is to do a Google search, every applicant should be knowledgeable about the position he or she is applying for and the company and industry; no excuses. Do not expect the unprepared candidate to be a prepared employee.

  • Watch out for the interviewee who does not answer the questions asked, who cannot provide specifics or who rambles.

  • Take note of the applicant who takes credit for every good outcome and cannot give an example of any areas for improvement.

  • Ask how much notice the individual needs to provide to his or her current employer. Someone who is willing to provide no notice may do the same again. It may also be a clue that this individual does not think through his or her decisions.This factor alone may not be cause for elimination, but it can be useful in helping to break a tie between two promising candidates.

After the Interview: Check the “facts.”

  • It is not unusual for applicants to exaggerate matters such as dates of employment, job title(s), pay and/or education. While many employers will not provide detailed job references, most will provide information on the above-referenced subjects and it is not difficult to verify degrees or certifications earned. An organization must determine how worrisome slight embellishments are; however, gross overstatements should set off alarms.

  • Do not forget to ask about non-compete agreements. Everyone with such a contract should be required to submit a copy to the interviewer for further legal review.

Finally, do not settle. If no candidate is a good fit, restart the hiring process and consider alternative sources for new applicants. Starting over is inconvenient but far less disruptive than dealing with the consequences of a bad hire.