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How to Avoid Hiring Troublemaker Candidates

Contributed by: Cassidy Hennigan

women colleagues arguing in the office

Hiring new employees is always a gamble. It’s hard enough to figure out if a candidate is a good fit from a professional point of view – a list of skills and previous work experience can only tell you so much – but it’s even harder to spot a candidate who might become a troublemaker.

Do a Background Check

If you have reason to believe candidates could start making trouble in the workplace, ask their former employers. Hiring managers rarely ask about details like how employees interacted with their coworkers but the answers can be revealing.

Bear in mind that behavior is influenced by the environment as well. If a candidate was a troublemaker at one workplace that doesn’t necessarily mean he will perform poorly this time around. The former employer might also be biased for whatever reason. One negative review is no reason to jump to conclusions. Instead, look for patterns of behavior.

Ask About Past Job Performance

Asking about candidates’ life outside work is a good way to find out who they are but it won’t tell you a lot about how they will perform in the office.

Likewise, asking hypothetical questions such as “How would you deal with this situation?” or “What would you do in that situation?” isn’t going to tell you what they would actually do, but more what they would want to do.

Focus instead on concrete past events and ask them about what they did and how they reacted in those real-life situations. You should not take their words at face value, however. Candidates may want to cast themselves in the best possible light, so you should keep an eye out for embellishments and inconsistencies in their stories.

Introduce Candidates Around the Office

Having one toxic employee might not be a disaster but the problem with toxic employees is that their behavior tends to spread. You don’t want to create a toxic work environment. Ultimately, the ones that are going to be most affected by troublemakers are the ones working alongside them.

If you’re unsure about how candidates will interact with the other coworkers, show them around the office and give them a chance to interact with their future colleagues.

You can then ask your employees to give their opinions on the candidates. The final decision should be up to you. But asking around for advice is a good idea for everyone involved. On the one hand, your employees are going to feel like their opinion is valued, and perhaps they’re even going to feel encouraged to be more critical about their own behavior and interactions with other colleagues. On the other hand, you’re going to gain some valuable insights you might not get otherwise.

These sort of interactions can ensure each potential candidate is a good fit beyond just their professional abilities. Assessing how someone will fit in in terms of their behavior is very difficult since there are no clear metrics you can look at.

Can You Offer Project-Based Work?

Your candidate may be perfect for the job but a bad fit for your work environment. Consider allowing him to work remotely, or bringing him in only for specific projects. The less he’s around, the less likely he will be to make trouble at the workplace.

Check Your Own Behavior

As we’ve mentioned, toxic behavior has a tendency to spread. And while it may be difficult to self-assess your own behavior, it is essential. As the manager, employees look to you to figure out what is acceptable in the workplace and what isn’t.

You cannot ask your employees to follow a set of guidelines if you don’t follow them yourself. They might end up confused, at best, or genuinely angry at worst. You should always endeavor to set an example for your employees. Only then can you avoid hiring a troublesome candidate.

Analyze your behavior during the hiring process as well as theirs. You might discover that you’re actually encouraging unruly behavior with your own actions. Try to maintain a friendly, but professional tone. If candidates are shy, don’t attempt to overcompensate for their shyness. If they prefer to maintain a professional distance, you should respect that.

On the other hand, if candidates start out by being overly-friendly, try to steer the conversation back to a more professional tone, without reprimanding them. Everyone needs a little time to adjust to new people and a new environment.

If you follow these tips, you can avoid hiring troublemaker candidates in the future. However, you should not be terrified of these types of candidates. Sometimes, if you have a good feeling about a potential employee, it’s better to go with your instincts. People can change, and they always have a potential to surprise you in a positive way, in the right context.

As a contributing writer for Salaries Wiki and an HR expert and passionate career consultant, with over six years of experience in the field, Cassidy Hennigan loves working with small businesses to help them implement better recruitment processes. You can leave Cassidy a comment here or contact her on Twitter @CassidyHennigan.

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