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…

A bad hire can be costly. 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, associate director of human resources and transactional services at Robert Walters’ Hong Kong. “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 resources 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 on how to spot an inappropriate candidate – before they turn into an inappropriate employee…  

Interrogate the CV

“A truly interested candidate will put in the extra effort to tailor their CV to the role,” says Wendy Heng, associate director of sales & marketing, healthcare, supply chain & procurement at Robert Walters Singapore. “This means including highlights of key competencies and experiences that match the job description. The CV should also be succinct and easy to read while including some personal interests and hobbies as such information would provide some insight into the candidate’s personality.”

Typos and grammatical mistakes should immediately raise red flags. “These errors are a no-no as they reflect a lack of attention to detail,” she adds.

In a progressively transient business world, 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. 

“Even if a candidate is nervous, a mid-level to senior candidate should have a strong handshake and good eye contact,” says Wendy. “During the interview, other than seeing if they’ve done adequate research on the role or company, also pay attention to the way they deliver their answers. A strong candidate will be able to deliver their thoughts in a systematic and succinct way that flows well.”   

The interviewee questions to watch out for

The questions candidates ask are often a good indication of their interest and enthusiasm. “A committed candidate will be thinking about the future with your company and will be interested in learning about what you expect of them, how they can succeed, and career development opportunities,” shares Wendy. “Good candidates will go a step further to ask about how they can drive the business ahead and showcase how they have relevant experience by citing past projects or initiatives they’ve worked on.”  

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 

In order to determine whether a candidate is a good fit for the company, majority of hiring managers rely on their personal instincts. “Many hiring mangers adopt competency-based and technical questions and while it works for them, I personally prefer to ask scenario-based questions,” shares Wendy. “Attitude and drive are two key factors for me when determining whether a candidate will be a good fit and I find that scenario-based questions, where I ask about how they will respond or react in certain situations, often reveals whether they have the mindset I’m looking for.” 

Tiffany agrees, 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 Wendy Heng for an in-depth consultation on your hiring needs at wendy.heng@robertwalters.com.sg.

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