The expression “looks good on paper” can apply to many things, including potential employees. A resume that includes a master’s degree from an Ivy League school, proven experience in the field, and a long list of seemingly fine accomplishments looks like a slam-dunk hire, right? Well, not always.
There have been plenty of mediocre or even outright bad employees that have maneuvered their way around the interview process and into a valuable position within at a company. They seemed great in the interview, but turned out to be lazy, uninspired, problematic and a negative influence on co-workers. And if you’re responsible for hiring this person, you might be asking yourself what went wrong. They appeared to come up with the right answers during the interview process. But were you asking the right questions?
It’s not a full-proof system. Even the best manager, recruiter or personnel director can be bamboozled by a slick-talking candidate whose lone motivation is the two-hour lunch and corporate expense account. These people can be stopped, however, and the first line of defense is keeping them off the payroll to begin with.
Like many things, planning is the key. The same in preventing a problem employee. Simply asking questions out of a manual is not enough these days. First of all, check that application closely. Are there time gaps, lack of specifics or the possibility of a puffed-up resume? And that embellished resume doesn’t just apply to the college student looking for his or her first job. It can apply to the high-end of the corporate world, like David Edmondson, CEO of RadioShack, who resigned in February after a Texas newspaper revealed his lies about earning degrees in psychology and theology from Pacific Coast Baptist College in California. Edmondson’s slip-up? The college doesn’t offer psychology courses.
Resume padding is extremely common, but that doesn’t mean it should be tolerated. It has been estimated that half of all resumes have substantial amounts of false information, prompting companies to do their own background checks or hire security companies to confirm the claims on a job applicant’s resume.
The interview is the next step and this is one of the last lines of defense against getting stuck with a bad employee. Asking questions that will illicit the most revealing work ethic is the key here. It’s important to know which questions you’re going to ask and even what answers you’re expecting. The questions should be formed in a way that gets the interviewee to give his or her own account of life and work experiences. Make sure the interview doesn’t evolve into you talking and the potential candidate just listening. This is a time for him or her to think quick on their feet and express themselves, so they should be doing the overwhelming majority of the talking. Save your time for when the candidate asks questions about the company. And if they’re not asking any, then that’s a sign of disinterest and should be weighed against them.
Step outside the box from the regular hum-drum interview and have the candidate meet a few people in the office, take them on a tour of the company and then out to lunch. This will give you a chance to see how the person interacts and adjusts to different environments.
Finally, check those references. If the candidate has been a problem at other jobs, this is the time to find out. Not every employer can or is willing to trash a former employee with a bad attitude, but try to draw out this information by asking how the candidate would fit into his or her new role.