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Business Horror Stories: Jekyll & Hyde Employees

The person I interviewed was nothing like the employee I ended up terminating.

Their resume was spot on. Their interview went perfect. So how is it the person I thought was going to be the best hire of the year for the company turned out to be my worst nightmare?

I have hired more people than I can count or even remember in the last twenty five years. However, it is the employees that I have terminated that I remember with astonishing clarity. This is because I feel it something of a failure on my part in that I should have sniffed out the “problem child” instead of employing them. So, as with any set back or disappointment, I have tried to embrace my bad hiring choices. I want to analyze them and more importantly- learn from them. Were there common characteristics that linked these bad hires together? Was there a “tell” I could have picked up on in the interview process?

Thinking back on the employees that did not work out, I discovered the really toxic ones, all had a few similar traits. They were overly confident in the interviews and they all claimed they had been “mistreated” or undervalued at their former places of work; hence their decision to look for new employment. At the time, I admired their confidence and felt that previous mistreatment from a “bad” employer would make them all the more appreciative for the “good” work environment I could offer them. What actually happened, to hear them tell it, is their tenure concluded in the same way as they described their previous job ending. They were brilliant and undervalued and had been mistreated by their employer. My version of events were vastly different; I had green lighted the hiring of employees who had no personal accountability, were unwilling to learn what they did not already know and construed any form of management or constructive criticism as a personal attack.

Confidence is not a bad thing. Honestly, I doubt I would hire an applicant who would be wishy-washy about whether or not they could do the job I was interviewing them for. I am also certain there are a lot of good employees out there suffering the wrath of bad employers. The dilemma for managers and business owners is being able to distinguish someone with a healthy self confidence versus someone with an ego that is so fragile, personal accountability is an impossibility.

Avoiding The Over Confident Victim

I talked to Vanesa Lewinger, Human Resources Advisor for Law 4 Small Business. I asked her thoughts on the best line of interview questions that would help separate the Jeckyll’s from the Hyde’s so to speak. Here are her thoughts:

“I like to ask open ended, experienced based questions. I then listen for red flag answers. Candidates who are brazen enough to literally bash former employers, instead of attempting a diplomatic response are likely to mirror that behavior within an organization, often helping to create a toxic work environment. The point of the interview is to demonstrate their fitness for the position at hand. It should not be a platform to air their specific personal grievances with a previous employer. A mindful applicant should simply state that a previous company was not a good fit for them or something along those lines, and leave it at that.”

“Additionally, responses that portray themselves as the victim could indicate a reluctance to take accountability for their own actions. This trait often indicates the candidate will be unable/unwilling to take constructive criticism. This will ultimately diminish that candidate’s ability to learn and grow within your organization.

“Business changes everyday. Therefore, employers need to hire employees who are open to learning new things. It is important to ask questions that require the applicant to reflect on instances when they had to learn a new process or task for their job in the past. How did they feel about that? Were they excited or at least open to learning or were they mad at the notion of change? Ask them to discuss a time they suffered a professional set back or failure. How did they deal with it? Are they accountable for it? Have they overcome it? Or do they simply blame someone else for it? ”

“A huge piece of finding the right candidate really has nothing to to with their education and experience. You are looking for a person that not only fills the needs of the role but who will also be the right fit within your organizational culture. Defining values that support your culture and guide your internal policies will help you better identity candidates that align with the established culture of your organization.”

Finding the “right” employee for your unique business is important. That’s why when it comes to the job interview, asking the questions that lead to the applicant expressing themselves in a meaningful way, rather than in short, un-insightful answers is crucial.

Mastering all of the aspects of Human Resources is not easy. That is why it is good that quality Human Resources advice is just a simple click of the mouse away for small business owners. Schedule a time to talk to Vanesa Lewinger, Human Resources Advisor today about dealing with your toxic employee. Or, consult with her about learning better hiring and interview techniques so in the future you can reduce your risk of inadvertently hiring a “Mr. Hyde.”

Law 4 Small Business, P.C. (L4SB). A little law now can save a lot later. A Slingshot company.

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