The 4 Kinds of Candidates You Shouldn’t Hire This Summer

The summer season is fast approaching, when the pool of great talent gets even deeper.

As employers rely on summer hires more than ever, over the next few months recruiters and other hiring professionals face mounting pressure to enlist the best new workers for their teams.

There’s an endless amount of recruiting tools and processes that help businesses select top talent. But when you’ve got hundreds of application packages to sort through, it’s often easier to start by identifying who you do not want to hire.

As Matt Ferguson, the CEO of CareerBuilder, modestly puts it, “making a wrong decision regarding a hire can have several adverse consequences across an organization.” So try not to screw it up.

Of course, if you do make a mistake, you’re not alone. A survey mentioned in The New York Times notes that nearly one in five U.S. employers report having made a bad hire that cost the organization over $50,000.

So while you might not look twice at someone who would take a bath in your company sink, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some duds in your candidate pool. To make things easier, here are four of the most common types of bad hires, and some simple strategies you can use to keep them from spoiling your summer.

1. The Bad Apple

Bad apples often seem like great choices during the selection process, but as soon as pressure starts to mount, their skin peels back and bruises start to show.

While often initially charismatic and engaging, bad apples spread negativity and toxicity at every opportunity.

It’s so easy to focus on the skills, expertise, and overall value that someone brings to the table, that we tend to forget about their potential negative impact. The toxicity of a bad apple will usually outweigh its benefits, and the organization ultimately suffers.

Bad Apples are experts at being charming during interviews since they’ve developed strategies to hide their bad habits. A great way to sniff out and avoid these candidates is with role play.

Create realistic environments for your candidates to demonstrate their problem solving and interpersonal skills. When faced with a challenge outside of a traditional interview, bad apples will show more of their true cores.

2. The Complacent Hire

Right next to the bad apple is the complacent hire. Complacency breeds laziness, which neuters creativity and innovation.

The problem with identifying complacency is the resume effect: On paper, a candidate looks like a champion, but in practice they rely on others and use clever language to divert your attention.

To identify a complacent hire, identify whether the candidate is resourceful and hungry to solve problems. The best way to do this is to creatively test candidates. This is what the famous strange interview questions used by companies like Google are often searching for.

Whether you use 10 questions or a few riddles, present interesting content that’s relevant to the job. As the candidate responds, watch for resourcefulness: Do they use technology to do research? Do they ask pointed questions? Do they give up entirely?

Seeing how each candidate behaves in this environment will provide you with a good indication of how well they’ll perform day-to-day, so you can avoid complacent hires and instead choose creative and ambitious candidates.

3. The Perpetually Unfulfilled

Saying that cultural fit is important is like saying that grass is green — we’ve all seen it before and accept that it’s true. What we don’t always consider is how strong personalities can actually shape and change your company culture.

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Every year as the weather warms up and summer rolls around, a subset of workers gets tired of their present roles and starts a new job search. If this is your candidate, consider that their tenure might only last a few short months. How will that departure affect the rest of your team?

Of course, leaving a job in the spring doesn’t make a person perpetually unfulfilled. Dig in deep to their past employment and see if the circumstances that led to their departure might repeat themselves in your company.

Better still, collect references and call them. Take the time to speak with each reference, asking clear and direct questions about the employee’s departure. The best references should be able to provide specific anecdotes about an employee’s reactions in various situations.

The best way to make sure your candidates will be fulfilled by your business is to be very upfront and honest about your company culture. Some people thrive in an unstructured environment; others hate it.

4. The Hand Holder

Increased summer hiring is often designed to cope with repeated extended employee vacations. Your summer hires need to provide high value quickly and shouldn’t need to rely on a support network who might be away at the beach or the cottage.

The final hire to avoid this summer is the hand holder. The hand holder seems like a great fit, but can’t actually perform without regular explicit prompting.

With an influx of new talent, you don’t have the time to provide constant guidance or training — you need someone who understands what’s required, can execute quickly and professionally, and really hit the ground running.

To identify a hand holder, ask questions that explore what the candidate believes is required of them to succeed in the role. Provide creative scenarios for them to navigate. Hand holders’ responses to your questions typically fall flat, or may fail to explain how their skillset and experience can be applied to this new function.

As you work to identify and avoid bad summer hires, remember that it’s still your responsibility to provide candidates with the information they need to be able to answer your questions. If you don’t describe the job, they won’t be able to interpret it.

Most importantly, be balanced in your approach to hiring. If you rely on your intuition and the evidence from the selection process, you just might have the best summer hiring season ever.


4 Comments on “The 4 Kinds of Candidates You Shouldn’t Hire This Summer

  1. Great article Joseph.

    The other one to look out for is that Perpetually unfulfilled complacent employee that is burnt out so he/she needs their hand held as they are always causing problems.

    But in all seriousness, to help identify the above culprits, don’t be afraid to ask those hard questions, and become childi-like and ask why 3-4 times to get to the bottom of that answer that didn’t make sense.

    And more importantly, think of your HR cousins freezing in the Southern Hemisphere.

    1. We’ll definitely enjoy the warm weather on your behalf! Be sure to reciprocate in January 😉

      The 3-4 questions is particularly appropriate when reference checking – we find that the repeated asking is required when trying to determine opportunities for growth. Only once we’ve dug enough that we get the same answer from multiple references, can we feel confident we found the real answer.

  2. Good points, I’d say this is true anytime, not just in the summer. The challenge is when you have to hire one of these types knowing full well that they aren’t an ‘A’ player because you need bodies to do the work.

    1. That is a tough scenario. We’ve seen a lot of teams solve this by filling the position with a temporary or contract hire, while they continue the search for the ideal candidate. Not a perfect solution, but might prevent the permanent hire of a sub-optimal candidate.

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