Hiring decisions are one of the most important decisions for business owners. Hiring the right people for your business will have a significant impact on growth, but unfortunately hiring toxic people will have an even bigger negative impact. Each single person you hire will either contribute positively and thereby complement to your company´s culture, values and ways of working, or deduct from it by impacting the work atmosphere, productivity and internal relations amongst colleagues.
Therefore, when hiring a new employee, it´s important to not only focus on the skills and experience required for that position (the “what”), but also on the behavior and interpersonal skills of that person (“how” does he or she achieve things). Probably the latter is even more important in hiring decisions, knowledge and skills can be learnt but negative behavioral skills of toxic employees are much harder to get rid of!
But how can you avoid hiring toxic employees? Most candidates will only show their good sides during an interview, right? Here you can find some identifiers you can look for in a possible toxic employee:
- Does he or she take a victim role?
A characteristic of toxic employees is that everything that went wrong is to blame on external circumstances. You can screen for this during the interview by asking questions about situations where things failed or did not go as well as planned. If the candidate only talks about external causes, blames someone else and does not mention his or her role in this kind of situations, it could be a bad sign.
- Is the candidate a complainer?
Does the candidate complain a lot about their previous employer or colleagues? This should be a red flag for the interviewer! Everybody has parts of their job that they like more and parts that they dislike, that´s completely normal, it all depends on how they explain it. Big complainers are very toxic for the office environment and history will repeat itself.
- Does the candidate only speak in the “I” form?
How does the candidate respond to questions about achievements or success in their current or previous positions? If they only speak in the “I” form that´s a very bad sign, they won´t acknowledge team efforts and are quick to link success to individual work.
- How does the candidate respond to negative questions?
Most candidates are fully prepped for positive questions, therefore try to catch them off guard with negative questions so they really open up. For example, instead of asking why you should hire them, ask why you shouldn´t hire them.
- What are the candidate´s values?
Ask them about their values and how they identify most with the values of their current employer. Toxic employees don´t care about the values of their companies so they will have to make something up. Focus also on your company´s values and ask specific questions about situations in which the candidate has shown such values.
- Does the candidate show signs of incivility?
Ask questions about concrete situations and examples in previous roles and how he or she reacted in these situations. Conflicts at work, a co-worker that had personal issues, politics in the office are all good topics to dig a bit deeper into how civil this candidate is. Combine this info with behavior during the interview, for example did he or she arrive on time, how did he or she treat the receptionist or other person that received him or her before the interview.
- What do their references say?
Always check for several references, and not only the references that the candidate provides. Check via LinkedIn or other networks if you have connections at the current or previous employer and try to get some additional references in addition to the ones that have been instructed by the candidate. When talking to the references also ask for examples of behavior in certain situations.
Finally, make sure that each candidate has several interviews during various phases. A toxic candidate might be able to fool one person, but it´s much harder to make the whole team believe that they are a great addition to the company. Therefore, always make a hiring decision a team decision. What other identifiers of toxic employees can you think of?