How to spot a potential problematic employee in an interview

It goes without saying that, when it comes to hiring, every company is looking to fill their open positions with the best people. Sometimes, though, it turns out that the new employee is somewhat different than one might have expected. Leaving the technical abilities and the relevant experience aside, given that they are rather easy to verify, what seems to pose the most problems is either a mismatch of personalities in the working environment, or the new employee’s not-so-good-nature which managed to go unnoticed at the interview.

Replacing a team member is a long and costly procedure, so you want to make sure that you won’t have to start all over again in 12 months’ time. That is why we put together a list of interview tactics and questions that could rise some red flags during the early stages of the hiring process.

1. Look for frequent change of jobs during the last five years. That does not mean throwing away the resume, but rather thoroughly checking with the potential candidate the circumstances of these frequent changes (which could actually be on their side).

2. Ask as many questions related to their previous team. How they interacted with their supervisor and colleagues, what their team members would say about them, how would their direct manager review their performance a.s.o. How they talk about their previous colleagues and the extent to which they can look at things from that angle are strong indicators about how they make it work within a corporate environment.

3. Don’t forget about checking the references. Direct feedback is an invaluable source for a hiring manager.

4. Ask about the bad times. How he or she handled a difficult situation at work speaks volumes about the type of person they are. Are they running away from their responsibilities? Are they throwing the blame on someone else? Are they doing their best to solve the situation? Do they get emotional and take everything personally? If they don’t seem to have had a relevant enough difficult situation, then present them with potential ones, maybe even inspired from your company’s history, to see how they would react.

5. Ask about the good times. If the answer to the above question might be rehearsed or the candidate could put a positive spin on it, when the discussion shifts to positive aspects, the guard suddenly falls down. This is the moment when you can see if your potential employee values higher things or is more interested in the free lunches.

6. Check the cultural fit. One of the interviewing phases must include the future supervisor of the interviewee, as they sure can tell if they will be able to work together. And, why not even with some part of the future team. After all, it is their future colleague, therefore they might want to put aside 10 minutes of their time for a quick meet&greet&check out.

+1 Unless you’re looking for someone who will be working in that remote room, on the last floor, looking at camera footage to spot one too many personal printings, then you’re probably looking for more or less of a team player. So, make a mental note of the times “we” appears in the candidates’ storytelling about past successes.

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