Research by Manfred Kets de Vries, professor of leadership at graduate business school INSEAD, estimates that approximately 3.9 percent of corporate professionals may have antisocial tendencies. These potentially bad employees may be difficult to spot in an interview because they may hide behind a facade of charm that can impress and lead to an instant rapport .
Experts in the field have sometimes labeled these types of people as "seductive operational bully." Whatever we may call them, these are individuals who can cause a great deal of damage in the workplace. Bad employees can erode a company's culture, decrease productivity and ruin morale. They can severely affect a company's performance.
The best way to protect yourself and your business from a potentially damaging employee is by not hiring them in the first place.
So the big question is, how can you avoid hiring a bad apple? Here are some tips that may help you keeping a potential hire from spoiling the bunch.
Be a Resume Sleuth
Review their resume looking for signs of deceit. While many people have, at one time or another, fudged start and end dates to disguise periods of unemployment, that's not what we're talking about here. This is about spotting major lies. For example, employment with companies you've never heard of, dubious degrees and diplomas and over-inflated job titles. Check out their LinkedIn profile, as well. Is what is portrayed on LinkedIn consistent with what is shown on the resume?
Watch Out for Red Flags
Does the person seem maybe too charming? Do they come across as almost too good to be true? Do they lack modesty and seem to be bragging a little too much? Enlist everyone's help to give you feedback about their behavior during the interview process. The interview starts the moment they step off the elevator and onto your premises. How do they greet the receptionist? How did they treat any administrative or HR staff who dealt with them? How did they react to staff if you had to start the interview a little later than planned and they had to wait? People unwittingly give off many clues.
It's important to remain objective so that you don't miss these behavioral clues. Use your intuition as a trusted navigator to help you follow up on any hunches that you might have during the interview process.
Above all, guard against the "halo effect," that is, viewing an impeccably dressed, articulate, charming individual armed with what appears to be a stellar resume as the perfect candidate without taking the time to seek objective evidence.
Conduct Lengthy Interviews
Consider setting up multiple, lengthy interviews. This is one time when being pressed for time and rushing the interview process may come back to haunt you. The longer you spend talking with them, the greater your chances are that the charm mask might slip a bit. If the person is genuine, they will appreciate the time you spend with them and the effort you put to get to know them. It's a sign that you're interested in hiring them and that you take seriously who you chose to join your team, so don't worry too much about wearing out a good applicant.
Check References with Rigor
When asking for references, you want to make sure that you're getting the right mix of references on the list. Consider questioning candidates who provide a colleague as a reference but not their boss. The list should include the person's manager as well as some subordinates and colleagues for several previous jobs, not only the most recent one.
Make sure that the person you select to conduct the reference check is not a junior person simply asking rote questions. Questions need to be carefully prepared and tailored to follow up on any hunches you get during the interview. Ask about their responsibilities and match the descriptions to the answers you received in the interview. Ask pointed questions to determine the candidate's emotional and social intelligence. For example, did they share power and knowledge or did they hoard information? What were their team leadership skills like? Did they accept responsibility for mistakes? Did they treat support staff with dignity and respect?
Listen for any hesitation in the answers you're given. They may open up space for clarifying questions that yield important information. It's good practice to ask them to give you examples and probe for details rather than generalities.
Think of simple questions such as "How did it feel working with him or her?" and "What could he or she do to improve their interpersonal skills?" These questions could open the door to give you more than just a peek at the person you're about to bring into your team. You may want to look for opportunities to ask follow-up questions that are not on "the list."
Set Up a Probationary Period
In spite of all the due diligence, it's possible to sometimes miss the vital signs and hire the wrong person. This is where a probationary period can come to the rescue before a potentially bad employee is entrenched. View the probationary period as an audition for the job.
Ultimately, a good defense against hiring a bad apple is to make personality a key factor when hiring. As entrepreneur Richard Branson put it, "Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, you are onto a winner."
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