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3 Ways to Avoid Hiring Toxic People

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Working in the corporate world can be tough, but if you have a toxic employee on your hands, it can make things even more difficult. They can gossip about others, procrastinate on projects that need to be done sooner rather than later, make excuses about everything or just simply be a “yes man” who sucks up to everyone in the room. Whatever the case, they’re a bad hire who needs to be dealt with one way or the other.

Instead of having a toxic employee on your payroll, though, you can neutralize the problem at the hiring process. Learning how to identify and then hire people who actually contribute positively is important, but it’s even more important to avoid people who detract from your business. A study shared by Harvard Business Review found that while a superstar, defined as someone in the top 1 percent of employees in terms of productivity, added more than $5,000 to the company’s bottom line, a toxic employee ended up costing the same business more than twice that, over $12,000. That number goes up even further when you consider all the non-tangible effects such as morale, customer relationships and more.

So, how do you avoid these types of people? Here are some good guidelines to get you started.

1. Evaluate Their Character, Not Just Their Talent

If it’s large enough, every business has some form of applicant tracking system that weeds out the people who are unqualified for the job. While systems like that help automate the process, once you decide to bring a candidate in for an interview, take some time to analyze the person as well. Did they arrive on time? How did they speak of past co-workers and employers? Are they constantly shifting blame for their mistakes, or are they willing to own their results?

Moreover, ask them questions that highlight their own personality, such as “Where have you failed in the past?” and “What kind of people do you think are difficult to work with?” Questions like these tell a lot about the person and can help you understand how well they’ll gel with your business.

2. Collect Outside Opinions

The last thing you want is for the person you’re interviewing to feel like they’re being watched, but if you really want to get to know the person, invite them out to lunch with the team that they’re going to be working with or a few people whose opinions you trust. If you make a bad hire, the effects can trickle down to the other members of your team; just one toxic employee on your team makes it 54 percent more likely for the good employees on your team to quit.

Also, be sure to actually check up on the applicant’s references. Ask these people to define the candidate’s communication style, find out if they had made any friends at work, or if what they put on their resume is true.

3. Go With Your Gut

You can tell within the first few minutes of an interview (even via the phone) whether or not this person will be a bad hire. If so, skip them and move on to the next person. A big factor in this is whether or not their values line up with those of your business. Are they here for just a paycheck, or do they honestly believe in the company’s mission? Ask yourself if you even need to hire for this position in the first place or if you can move someone else to take over those responsibilities. A few tweaks to your ATS software can ensure that you evaluate for future needs and that you only hire for positions that you truly need.


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