When it comes to behaviour, people are habit-driven more than decision driven. This means that with a few questions and some careful observation, you will be able to predict an employee’s attitude and possible behaviour when things get tough or they are required to make a decision and carry out actions without you there to observe them.
While it is impossible to know exactly what an employee will be like in any given situation, there are certain warning signs to pay attention to which may indicate a candidate is unreliable, untrustworthy or a risk to your business. We’ve put together a few traits to watch out for, as well as some questions to ask that might help you gauge what kind of employee they’d be.
- They question why they have to provide certain information
Inviting an applicant to fill out an application form at the beginning of an interview is often par for the course. If you’re busy, it’s a time efficient way of ensuring all applicants provide the same desired information prior to an interview.
However, some applicants will see this as unnecessary, or may be uncomfortable filling out the form and will question the need. As one recruiting manager said:
“I have had applicants ask right at the start of the interview, why they have to fill out any application forms. Sometimes it is reasonable to expect to have an interview upfront but sometimes, for a busy employer, that is not always possible.
Generally from my experience I have found good applicants are very flexible and adaptable with the interview process. This is generally a good indicator of what they will be like in the work place. Having to explain the process every step of the way why a worker needs to do their job does not bode well with any employer. The first indicator of this is at the interview, when an applicant questions the process right off the bat.
I have placed these people into temporary work and I can honestly say it has never worked out for me. If the applicant does this at an interview it is pretty much game over. I wouldn’t offer them a job.”
- They don’t appear interested in talking about the company, the role or their responsibilities
This is the part of the interview where you go over the work duties. If you’re an organised employer you will be going through their job description with the applicant at the interview. You might see them visibly glaze over while you describe the day to day activities involved in the position they’re interviewing for.
As an employer try to gauge how interested the candidate actually is in the duties and responsibilities. At this stage they should be asking you questions about the role. Leave some less important information out of your description and give them space to enquire further.
If a candidate is really interested in the role, they will have researched your company and thought of a question or two to really demonstrate their interest. If they only have questions about leave, pay and perks; they probably aren’t the applicant you’re looking for.
“As a younger recruiter I placed people into temp work who really did not ask many questions at all about the job. Most times I found those placements did not work out. It was clear their attitude towards the job was ‘it’s just a job’ – a means to an end. Their expectation is only to go through the motions in order to receive their pay check.”
If the applicant is not asking any inquisitive questions about the job, then factor in that this might just a job to them. You don’t want or need people like that in your business.
“I’ve held interviews where I’ve literally asked them what they want to know about the job, because we were winding up the interview and the candidate still hadn’t asked me any questions – this is very frustrating. Unfortunately, not prompting them can result in the candidate leaving the interview without having asked any questions at all.
I had a situation just recently where the candidate did not appear all that interested in what we do, and being a tech start-up we are pretty addicted to what we do. For us, either the candidates share the passion or we don’t consider them.
I rang the applicant shortly back after the interview and addressed the issue head-on, telling her I didn’t think she was really that interested in working for us. I was reassured she was very much still interested in the role. However later that afternoon I go an email saying she had accepted a role in the ideal industry she was hoping to establish a career. So why did she push for the role we were offering?”
So what’s the moral of the story? Recruitment is kind of like dating. If you’re not feeling the love, you’re probably right – they’re not that into you.
- They’re all about the money
When you broach the subject of money with these candidates, they call top dollar and refuse to budge, often without a solid explanation for why they feel they are worth as much! In contrast to this, a desirable candidate is going to be genuinely interested in the role – they are willing to take less than their ideal pay rate because they are interested in the work.
“Every now and again I get a candidate who knows they are red hot for the job. I’ve had candidates price themselves right out of the market. I know of one story where one recruiter interviewed a guy who was asking $200K for an 80-90k role. Guess who didn’t get the job?”
A confident candidate will know their worth, and be upfront about it. However, if you have screened the person well before the interview stage, you should have discussed the salary range and be upfront.
It does not need to be a specific figure; rather it can be a range i.e. we are looking to pay 80-90 k for this role. If an applicant has turned up to the interview stage and is playing hard ball because they know their skills are desirable – then it has been an exercise in futility. Simply they are wasting your time.
Sometimes it’s just better to end the interview process, remind them you were upfront with the salary range, thank them for attending the interview and bid them farewell!
- The person is not flexible with their time
If you are in the process of trying to organise an interview and your candidate keeps finding reasons why the times you’re suggesting aren’t going to work, without offering up a concrete alternative, they may be shying away from committing to anything too early. This highlights a ‘one foot out the door’ attitude, which doesn’t bode well for their work ethic and can indicate an unreliable candidate.
“If you find yourself trying to press to get an agreement from the candidate, regarding an interview time, then you may need to question whether they are serious about the interview. I had some truck drivers who wanted to arrange for an interview, but said they were busy on daily runs and could not come in for an interview during normal working hours, or get time off. While their dedication to their work was admirable, their expectation that I would interview them on my free time was not.
As a recruiter, they would have to be something special for me to give up my weekend, as I work 60 to 70 hour weeks already.”
The question here is whether your applicant is really serious about leaving their current job. If you feel yourself making the concessions right up front, then I hate to say you are probably wasting your time. If you have a job your applicant is truly interested in, then they need to demonstrate they are serious about your recruitment process.
- They don’t have a (good) reason for leaving their previous employer
Leaving your job isn’t a bad thing. People grow, want new challenges, have to move cities or simply don’t want to work for a particular company any more. If there is no negativity as a result of an employment contract ending, most people will be open and happy to share the circumstances they left under. If they’re cagey, vague or try to change the subject, then there may not have been a good reason for why they left. Of course, there are times when employers and employees simply clash, but in this case an honest and polite explanation as to why things didn’t work it out is better than none.
“If an applicant is avoiding giving any explanation for why they left a position, keep pressing. I have had times where it has been a really awkward moment in the interview, but it’s better to deal with this issue upfront and avoid any uncertainty about why the person really left. If they still dodge your pursuit, you can safely say things didn’t end well.”
- They bag their previous employer.
Another negative sign related to their previous job would be bad-mouthing a previous employer – bad blood with an old boss is something that should be portrayed in the most positive light possible. If a candidate is putting a lot of effort into making their previous boss look bad, it may be a pre-emptive strike to deflect from a negative reference they are expecting to receive.
“I have had interviews where the candidates have talked so negatively and so much about their previous employer that I thought the interview was turning into a counselling session. Often in these cases, when I go to do the reference check I hear the other side of the story. Frequently, it is the candidate that often comes across unprofessional as a result. Moral of the story, if I hear an applicant bag their employer too much, I just don’t offer them a job.”
Remember; listen to your gut when it comes to negative feelings about a candidate. If you have to push too hard, or make too many accommodations to land a particular applicant, you’re probably better off withdrawing your interest and refocusing your valuable time and energy on someone else.