How to avoid bad hires


Hiring the right person for a role is never easy — but dealing with the fallout from a bad hire can be even more challenging. We asked our experts to share the red flags to watch out for…

The cost of a bad hire is high. Not only is the person a drain on precious resources, he or she also has an impact on morale and productivity.

“A hiring mistake could dent team morale,” says Tiffany Wong, director of the Walters People Division & HR at Robert Walters Hong Kong. “If you have people leaving after less than three months, that is going to have an effect on your team.”

On top of that, external perceptions of your company could also be hurt and there are resource costs too. “In addition to recruitment costs, salary costs and training time, you have to spend time and resource managing any client relationships that were affected. And of course, if the market learns of these speedy departures, that tells a bad story too,” she says.

Hiring managers can maximise their chances of avoiding such pitfalls by following our experts’ advice about how to spot an inappropriate candidate – before they turn into an inappropriate employee…

Interrogate the CV

Inadequate CVs with grammar, typo errors and formatting inconsistencies are often a warning sign that the candidate either doesn’t care enough or is a careless individual, shares Ricky Chandra, financial services manager at Robert Walters Indonesia. Additionally, something else Ricky looks out for is consistency between tenure and responsibilities. “If the candidate has a long list for responsibilities that doesn’t seem to match up with a short tenure, there’s a chance that the applicant may have overexaggerated his or her scope of work.”

In a progressively transient business world, soft skills like resilience are becoming increasingly important qualities that employers look for in candidates. As Tiffany explains, “an employee who changes jobs regularly could be cause for concern. An employer doesn’t want to hire someone who looks as though they might leave as soon as the going gets tough. They want to know: are they resilient to the pressures of the job, or do they just cut and run if things don’t go their way?”

A far more positive sign is someone with a proven track record at a particular company, she says. “If a candidate has a strong record of internal progression, that effectively validates their performance and work ethic. They have been successfully tested and promoted by people who know them well.”

Look out for interview danger signs

One of the key things to look for at the interview stage is the preparedness of the candidate. “An interview shows a potential employee at their very best, so failing to prepare properly could be another sign of a lack of commitment to the role,’ says Tiffany.

Interviewers will be interested in candidates who are able to identify the vital skills needed to be successful in the role that they are applying for. Ricky adds, “At the very least, candidates need to be familiar themselves with the company’s mission and values. Stronger candidates will go a step further to showcase how they are able to focus on the commercial aspects of the company, such as competitors, familiarity with the market and long-term growth plans.”

Furthermore, a candidate’s attitude towards their current job provides insights to the interviewer. “A negative attitude towards a current employer is a red flag,” Ricky warns. “Candidates should have a forward-looking mindset and be focused on what they would like to gain from the new role.”

The interviewee questions to watch out for

“Interviews are an excellent opportunity for candidates to ask questions regarding the company and the role they wish to take on,” shares Ricky. “Not asking questions may indicate disinterest or an overall lack of curiosity – all of which are concerning.”

As both our experts agree, what you don’t want to hear are just questions that focus on candidates finding out “what’s in it for me?” — employee benefits, salary, holiday allowance, working hours etc. “Whilst flexible working and achieving a good work-life balance are becoming increasingly important to jobseekers, a lack of curiosity about how the role will develop or deliver job satisfaction should cause the interviewer to question how committed the candidate really is,” says Tiffany.

Interviewers should also be wary of candidates who don’t engage fully in conversation. As Tiffany warns, defensive and curt answers may indicate that a candidate is quite closed-up and inflexible, which could be a revealing sign as to how well they would work in your team.

Indications of good fit

A candidate that may be suitable on paper may not turn out to be a good fit for your team and this is where you need to trust your own instinct, Ricky shares. “Candidates who are open-minded with excellent attitudes and ask the right questions are often the best hires but a lot of it still depends on you. You will be working with the person, so you need to have found the interview interesting and engaging.”

Ricky also suggests asking some situational questions to see how they will react when faced with a challenge or conflict. This will help you determine whether the candidate is quick-thinking and a good fit for the company.
As Tiffany adds, it’s often not just what the candidates say in either their CV or interview that’s important, but how they say it. “Personally, I find it better to hire based on attitude and potential over experience,” says Tiffany. “Anyone can gain experience, but attitude and potential are much harder to find.”

Get more hiring advice here, or contact Ricky Chandra for an in-depth consultation on your hiring needs at