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How to Spot a Bad Hire


rotten apple

Have you ever made a really bad hire?

I know I have.

One of the first people I ever hired was an ideal candidate on paper, but turned out to be an absolute nightmare as an employee.

I won’t go into the details, but I will say that the cost to our organization was a huge drain both financially, and emotionally.

Unfortunately, my experience is not unusual.

In fact, 66% of employers said their company has been affected negatively by a bad hire in the last year, according to a study by the Better Business Bureau.

These negative effects are financially significant, CareerBuilder reports that 41% of the companies they surveyed lost a whopping $25,000 due to a single bad hire!

There are also many indirect costs associated with poor hiring choices:

“When you add up missed sales opportunities, strained client and employee relations, potential legal issues, and resources to hire and train candidates, the cost can be considerable,” says CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson.

Fortunately, there are ways to help improve your chances of weeding out bad apple candidates!

Here are 5 ways to find out if your potential candidate is a bad hire (that I wish I had picked up on all those years back!)

1 – Make your job application tricky.

Sneak little tests into your job ads, in order to quickly weed out less than stellar candidates.

For example, ask candidates to include a very specific word or phrase in the title of their application.

Whether or not an applicant complies with your requirements will help you to determine if the potential hire pays attention to details, and if they follow instructions.

2 – Be a stickler for grammar, spelling, and formatting.

Make cover letters a mandatory part of the application process, whether you plan on reading them or not!

If the cover letter is rife with spelling mistakes, lacks punctuation, and crammed into a single paragraph, trash the application. The applicant obviously does not value your time, or the potential position enough to proofread their work. Not a good sign!

3 – Google them.

I’m not saying that you should judge a candidate’s work ethic, or work persona by their social profiles, or internet activity, but you can watch out for red flags.

Red flags such as: blatant racism, name calling, or trolling. Extreme negativity and whining are also two signs that you may not want to work with them.

Again, I don’t think that you should hold party pics, or their love of Britney Spears against them, but you can uncover some pretty serious character flaws, and even resumé deceit by doing a quick search.

4 – Do their references seem sincere.

Many past employers will provide a positive reference out of kindness, or a feeling of obligation. To get more honest information out of them, try to get the reasoning behind their recommendation.

Ask for examples of projects that the applicant worked on, or times that they went above and beyond the requirements of their job. Ask if the applicant is missed by their past customers and co-workers. Ask about times when they screwed up, and how they made things right… If they made things right!

This will give you a more detailed, and well rounded understanding of what your potential hire is like on the job.

5 – Read their body language

Body language makes up for about 55% of how we communicate. As this form of communication is usually unconscious, it can provide a more honest insight about your applicant.

A candidate may attempt to win you over by telling you what you want to hear, but often their body language will give their true feelings away.

For example; when someone is lying, they will often make excessive eye contact in an attempt to look sincere, so if you notice that a candidate never blinks, or has an overly stiff face, you may want to think twice about believing their answers.

This article from Lifehacker explains the basics of reading body language.

Hopefully these tips will help improve your odds of hiring awesome employees!

Another way to improve your chances of finding candidates that are the right fit for your company is the Candidate  Search feature of, learn more by following this link to our Candidate Search info page.

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