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How To Spot Problem Candidates

Candidates can look so good on paper that they trick you into thinking they are the perfect fit for the job. It’s important that you spot the basic warning signs during the interview to prevent yourself from taking on a problem candidate. There are lots of factors that you need to take into consideration; Will they get on with the rest of your team? Are they reliable? Are they capable? Most importantly, Are they telling the truth? Even if they aren’t lying, there may be a couple of things that they say or do that may put you off.

Here are 5 things worth looking out for before they become problem employees: 

Money Orientated

Although candidates are entitled to ask about salary, this shouldn’t be their only concern. You can spot a candidate who is only interested in the money by how salary appears to be their main reason for moving on. This goes for perks too, if their only interests are in relation to holidays, perks and money then it’s more than likely they don’t want to work for your company, they just want a job. 

Some companies benefits play a huge part in the hiring process and it’s perfectly normal for the candidate to be inquisitive about these perks but there are many downfalls to this approach. You need to make sure that their passion lies in the role and not just what you can give to them. Candidates come across as less of a risk if they choose the job based on what it entails, it shows they will get great job satisfaction from this role and not just salary satisfaction. By hiring a candidate who only displays interest in the Salary, you should expect regular pay rise requests and potentially, a higher staff turnover – avoid!

Bad Mouthing

During the interview, you may ask questions about the candidates previous roles. Strangely, some candidates see this an opportunity to bad-mouth their ex-employers. Alarm bells should be ringing by this point. If they left their job due to not getting on with their manager or colleagues, it’s likely they will cause trouble in their next position. Their openness to talk badly about them during an interview clearly displays their lack of professionalism. They have just met you and yet they are gossiping about their ex-employer, lack of trust springs to mind.

If they blame the termination of their previous job on someone else, this signifies how easy it is for them to blame others and this may cause issues in the future. Candidates should refer to previous jobs and employers in a professional and polite manner, avoid those who cannot adopt professionalism.


You may notice from some of the answers that you receive that your candidate struggles to criticise themselves. This immediately signifies a problem candidate. When candidates are able to criticise themselves, it shows that they are clearly aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and by personally recognising them, they can work on their weaknesses as well as focusing on their strengths. The candidate may inform you that their only weakness is that they are a ‘perfectionist’ – how very cliche. 

Candidates who fail to recognise their own weaknesses are often quicker to push the blame on to others to overcome their imperfections. Problems may arise in the future and their inability to accept criticism may cause further issues – avoid!

Lack of Knowledge

Now, this one seems pretty obvious but it is a definite red alert. They may be an ideal candidate in terms of skills and experience but if they know nothing about your company or the role, it’s probably best to avoid. All candidates should do their research before the interview, not only to display their interest but to make sure that the company and the role are right for them.

They may not be familiar with the size of your company, what services you provide or what the role consists of. By showing no interest or knowledge, it suggests that they are only thinking of themselves and not passionate or motivated towards the role or your company – avoid! 

Me, Myself & I

You can often spot when someone isn’t a team player by their desire to talk about themselves and no-one else. All the success they have earned, by themselves and not a mention of anyone else along the way. This is often the same person who competes against their colleagues and doesn’t do a thing wrong themselves.

Failure to work as a team can result in bad tension within the office and cause unnecessary problems and distractions from work itself. You want to hire an employee who wants to help others and someone who looks to others for inspiration, not the mirror. If your office is a place that encourages teamwork and collaboration, it’s probably best to avoid this employee.

Now, after all that talk about what to avoid, it’s probably best to give you some advice on How To Hire Superstar Candidates. Good luck in your hiring process and if you need any more advice just have a look at our blog!


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