Tales From The Front: How Not To Hire The Wrong Person

David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

With the national unemployment rate at 4.8%, the country is essentially at full employment. This of course means that hiring the right person is harder than ever. So we do our due diligence, reviewing the candidate’s resume, doing background checks, checking references where we can. Have you ever considered however, the cost to your organization and to the firm’s other employees, of hiring the wrong person?

What to Look Out For

So what are the red flags that should pop up when interviewing prospective candidates? While the following list is certainly not meant to be all inclusive, here, from a recent poll are the top five red flags that emerged from the interview process when it comes to hiring people:

  1. Lying – A candidate caught lying about something (anything) should be avoided like the plague.
  2. An Inordinate Attachment To Their Cellphone – Be aware of a candidate who answers their cellphone during the interview (if the candidate does not have enough insight to let the interviewer know that they might receive an emergency phone call, they will probably exhibit other inappropriate behavior after you hire them).
  3. Failure To Dress Appropriately For The Interview – Not dressing formally for an interview is no longer a deal breaker. Business casual is the dress code for most offices now. But dressing inappropriately (stains on their clothes, mismatched socks) are a clear indication that focusing on details may not be their strong suit.
  4. Having A Bad Attitude – The candidate appears arrogant or entitled (awful for the individual that has to train them and/or the rest of the team that that has to work with them).
  5. Complaining – A candidate who disparages his or her previous boss or employer indicates that they have a lack of accountability.


“Bad” Behavior

And then there are the behaviors that while not deal breakers, certainly left a bad taste in the interviewer’s mouth:

  • Failing to make eye contact
  • Having a weak handshake
  • Failing to smile
  • Playing with something on the table
  • Having a handshake that was too strong
  • Constantly glancing at their phone (Really, what could be that important?)
  • Fidgeting too much in their seats


Real Examples

Proving again that truth is stranger than fiction, here are some real life but bizarre interviews that readers in the poll shared:

  • The candidate stated that if the interviewer wanted to go to heaven, she would hire him.
  • Candidate ate crumbs off of the table.
  • The candidate bragged about the fact that there was an article in the local newspaper that he had allegedly stolen a treadmill from an older woman’s house.
  • When asked why she should become part of the interviewer’s team replied “because my hair is perfect.”
  • The candidate sang a song to the interviewer.
  • The candidate invited the interviewer to dinner afterwards.
  • The candidate asked to step away from the interview to call his wife and ask her if the starting salary was high enough before he agreed to continue the interview.


And my personal favorite:

  • The candidate asked where the nearest bar was located.


Hiring the wrong person has real consequences. It causes the current employees to question if management really knows what it is doing. So the management team is in danger of losing credibility. There is a real dollar cost as well. Onboarding a new employee, training a new employee, monitoring their progress (or lack thereof) takes time and energy away from other important tasks. And invariably, when the bad hire is let go, the rest of the team will ask “what took them so long?”

What we all need to remember is that things are never so desperate that any warm body will do.

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