Hiring Managers Share Red Flags They Missed That Ended Up Costing The Company
Hiring can be difficult, since it's hard to get a feel for who someone really is from a job interview. We're all trained to pretend to be the best versions of ourselves in interviews, and that can lead to some very unfortunate hiring decisions.
Reddit user greyghost6 asked:
Nepotism Is A No-No
"He has family in upper management".
Laziest person I've ever hired. His dad was an exec.
I actually hired someone who was late for the interview. Her apology was totally reasonable and I looked past it because she seemed like a good fit. A few weeks into the job it came out that she didn't know what time zone we were in. That's not the reason she was late, but it did turn out that her understanding of time and clocks was insufficient for a job where scheduling things across time zone was a primary responsibility.
Not a hiring manager, but was evaluating applications for a position. One candidate gave some very thoughtful, insightful criticisms of his current workplace. We appreciated his candor, and the content of the critiques were perceptive.
When we hired him, we realized that while he spoke well and appeared intelligent, all he could is criticize everything... even when his criticisms made no sense. We started to see him complaining about the same things with us that he complained about in his letter, even things that were objectively false (like our vacation policy being use-it-or-lose-it, which it literally wasn't).
Moral: a good candidate will find ways to frame criticisms in a positive, forward-looking way in a cover letter, not complain about their current employer.
Don't Hire Just Cuz You Like Them
I didn't miss it! My boss did, and it's something I pointed out multiple times during the process. This was maybe five years ago.
So, for context...my boss was not a very good manager, and yet he was the director of our team. He had a good work ethic, a good head on his shoulders, and always got things done not only well but on time; he was rightfully rewarded for it all. That said, he possibly has the social EQ of a fish.
In my industry, you need a thick skin and the ability to kind of bulldoze through sh*t, people, whatever. It's heavily rampant with scumbags, fraud, etc., and it's why we get paid well -- we're capable of navigating through that sh*t and saving/making our companies a lot of money in the process. This guy that we were interviewing just didn't feel like a personality fit during the phone screen. Immediately after the call, I tell my boss that I'm a no. The guy isn't just going to get run over by our industry, but our own f*cking team. He sounds like a great guy, but just not a fit. I get told to give him a chance.
Then comes the in-person interview. It's basically all confirmed. Super nice dude, I would love to manage him in any other scenario, but not here. He just doesn't have the personality traits to succeed in our environment -- which was admittedly not a good one. Boss tells me "Don't worry. We can fix him." The f*ck? First of all, there's nothing to fix. His personality isn't sh*t, it's just not right for our job. Two, you're not the one managing him...I am?
The dude ends up accepting our offer. Honestly, I love the guy. He's so friendly, earnest, and worked really hard because he saw the gaps in his skill sets from where he was an where he needed to be. But it took a giant toll on him, and eventually me. The guy ended up being diagnosed as clinically depressed, he hated the f*cking job, and I was nowhere *near* experienced enough as a manager to handle something like that. When he was at his wit's end, I just told him to take a break (start with a vacation so that he's paid, and then decide whether or not he wants to leave afterwards), take care of himself, and to utilize me in any way he could for future prospects outside of our work.
TL;DR: My boss' inability to judge personalities literally sent someone over the edge into depression.
Whinging It Isn't Part Of The Job Description
Candidate for supervisor position was asked about a time when they had trouble completing a task (I hate corporate interviews!). Candidate mentions something they struggled with but the answer was that they found a way of completing the task that worked for them and did that going forward.
So we kind of take that to be a big positive for thinking outside the box and being able to solve problems independently using the tools available to them. Now this was a preferred candidate so we didn't do a lot of deep digging questions around the standard questions we were required to ask by corporate.
Fast-forward and Candidate is now Supervisor. We have a team of about 12. There is an opening checklist and a closing checklist. Supervisor struggles with learning tasks on checklist. No other team member has issue with tasks on checklist as it literally writes out what buttons you need to press. Supervisor concludes that checklist is poorly done since they cannot understand it. Proceeds to make changes to checklist master document to the way they feel it should be done and chaos ensues.
Now we have Supervisor that understands checklist, about 3-4 that just press the buttons, and the rest of the team is now lost. On top of this, Manager checklists have tasks that can only be done once staff has done their tasks. As a result of some of these tasks being removed from the checklist, manager tasks are no longer being done on time and everything is thrown off.
When coached on this incident, Supervisor did not ask trainer, teammate, or manager about how to understand the checklist and just made changes without communicating this to rest of the team. We did thank Supervisor for being proactive but then worked as a team to make any necessary changes but used the original as a template. We also did some extra coaching on what they didn't understand. It took a few weeks to get everything back on track though and our scores took a hit as a result.
Supervisor was up for Manager position at another location. Supervisor puts on their resume "revamped morning/evening checklists for improved team performance." Couldn't help but chuckle at that one.
If It Seems Too Good, It Is
I used to do hiring for a small store and the biggest red flags were "too good to be true." Candidates who claimed they loved the public, never had any problems with coworkers, and were never late or absent invariably caused the biggest problems because they were lying through their teeth.
Not so much any specific thing, or any specific person, but don't ever settle for the least worst applicant.
When we have an opening, we usually have HR screen the applications for basic requirements, then I go through anywhere from a dozen to 40 applications/resumes. I usually do a phone screen on half a dozen or so, then invite the best 3 or 4 in for face to face interviews with me and the team.
Every single person we've hired based on "Well, they were the best/least bad of the applicant pool, let's go ahead and make them an offer" versus, "Wow, I really liked her, she's going to be awesome!" I've always regretted hiring the least bad applicant. I've learned my lesson that hiring the least bad applicant instead of someone I'm really excited about never works out in the long run. It's much better to keep the position open a few months longer, or even close it, wait a few months, and then open it again, instead of feeling rushed to hire a warm body because they floated to the top of a mediocre applicant pool.
I hired someone who didn't respond to my calls for over a week after their interview, later saying it was because their child had a rare acute illness (like one I've not heard of within the last century). Gave them the benefit of the doubt but noted the red flag in my mind. 6 months later I had to fire them for extremely inappropriate behavior such as f*cking a coworker and making things very uncomfortable for the rest of the team, not performing at the level required by their professional license (this was someone with a high level degree FFS), and for general unprofessional and damaging behavior. Lesson learned painfully.
The Truest Statement
People who speak in superlatives rather than answering questions directly.
Turns out the guy while super excited to work for me really didn't understand the role. I ended up firing him the last day of his 90-day probation period despite spending an enormous amount of time with him trying to get him right.
Not Knowing Something Isn't A Fault
Not an exact fit for the question, but I feel like close enough to count. I was a hiring manager, of a third tier systems engineering team, but I was often asked to help interview candidates for the second tier team, because of my expertise in the subject matter. Nonetheless, not my final call on the position.
Two things I always do in interviews is spot-check technical knowledge indicated on the resume - the more suprising or out of place in terms of the rest of the work experience, the more likely I'll ask a question or two on it, and two, ask a question that the candidate doesn't know the answer to.
The former is to detect people straight up BS-ing on their resume, the latter to see how a candidate answers when they don't know the answer to the question. (I make it clear at the outset of the interview that if a candidate doesn't know the answer I want them to say "I don't know", or "I'm not sure", and then feel free to offer, "my best guess would be...") Being able to separate what you know from what you don't know is really important.
Obviously I don't know what a candidate knows, but I can always keep asking more and more advanced technical questions in different areas until I hit *something* they can't answer. And then I want them to just tell me "I don't know". That will be part of their job on the team, rather than BS-ing an answer at the time. A good engineer knows that they won't have the answer to every question, and it's better to be clear about the limits of their knowledge.
Anyhow. Dude is interviewing for second tier team. Solid resume, with 20-25 years of work experience in relevant stuff. I notice assembly language programming history on his resume, like 18 years back, and I'm intrigued, because it's fairly uncommon, even amongst systems engineers, and it's also an area of personal expertise I can spot-check effectively. I asked him to name three assembly instruction names. He more or less panicked and sh*t himself. Stammering, physically sweating, visibly nervous like we were about to feed him to lions. He's like "oh man, that stuff was 20 years ago, I don't really remember it, I'm not going to need that for this job, am I?"
I reassured him "no worries, you don't need it for this role, I'm just trying to confirm that you did actually work with it at one time. Tell you what, name me two of the general purpose registers." After a moment of racking his brain, he successfully did so. I'm like "cool, alright, next...", just moving right along.
For the rest of the interview he *keeps* bringing up "hey man, I'm sorry about that assembly question but...", and I keep saying "dont worry, I realize it's rusty, but you obviously *did* used to work with it, because there's no way you would have just correctly made up the register names, that's all I was checking". For the next 20 minutes, every tiny break in the discussion, he keeps apologizing and coming back to it.
After the interview, we (me, the second tier manager, and his lead engineer who sat in the interview) huddle up and I say "nope". He couldn't let it go that he didn't know something. That will happen, and it's just part of your job to say so, and move on. People who can't admit they don't know things are dangerous, because they get in over their heads.
Second tier manager says "yeah, I kinda had the same thought, but HR says we gotta fill this position by tomorrow or lose it, and honestly he's the best guy we've had come through so far. We're better off to fill it and then have to fire him and backfill later if need be than to lose the headcount". Fair enough. Dude was hired.
Flash forward a bit, dude calls my cell at 6:30 AM (my contact number was published as an escalation point) - "Dude, I think I f*cked up, can you help me?" Turns out he made a simple mistake about 4.5 hours ago, and has been compounding it by getting further and further out of his depth trying to fix it for the last several hours. What was a mistake that could have taken 15 minutes to correct is now so f*cked up that even I can't recover it fully (although he was calling me as the best possible hope to try to recover it).
Now, unfortunately, he's already broken policy at least twice by this point. When he got an unexpected error in the procedure he was doing on the system that wasn't accounted for in the procedure, he was required to stop and escalate (initially to his team lead, then to my team) for assistance, but he didn't. Also, once it hit 6 AM, and we were no longer in a "maintenance window" he was required to send out a management notice indicating that the maintenance was ongoing, and had encountered issues. He had done neither, because he felt on the hook for the initial, trivial mistake that would have been easily fixed if he'd gotten a second set of eyes. And he didn't want to admit he had screwed up and didn't know how to fix it. Started Googling sh*t at random, and entering commands (as root) that he had no idea what they really did, that might or might not really be for the same problem. Rinse repeat. Hilarity ensues.
He wanted me to help him keep it off the executive radar, and fix it quietly without anyone ever knowing. As much as I hated to do it, I had to tell him I couldn't do that. I told him if he'd called me at 1:30 AM, when things went sideways, I'd have sorted him out in 15 minutes, and never said a word, but once it's already past the window, and the monitoring system is still lit up like a Christmas tree, I can't be digging around the system secretly, in direct violation of every policy on the books. Had to make higher tier management aware, then managed to *quasi* restore the system over the next hour and a half, leading to restoring the system for the ~100k customers depending on it, although it had to later be fully reinstalled from the ground up to fully restore it.
He quit before he could get fired shortly thereafter (his manager was actually just going to write him up and work with him).
But that inability to admit you aren't all-knowing and all-powerful will abso-friggin-lutely bite you in the ass.
Arrogant Is As Arrogant Does
One applicant had this weird, sort of arrogant body language during the interview. But, because they looked great on paper and otherwise interviewed okay, I wrote it off as anxiety or something. Joke's on me, because that person ended up being the whiniest, snottiest, bitchiest, most vile individual. Thank God they found another job before I had to let them go.
Skills Are Necessary
A couple of seventeen-year-old boys were dropped off by their father [in a compact, red Porsche convertible, not that it's relevant] with frozen yogurt cups in their hands. The older one walked up to the desk, and, with f*cking froyo in his mouth, asked "Can I get an application?"
The brothers spent almost half an hour eating frozen yogurt, laughing and joking with each other, and filling out that application in our lobby. It was maybe a five-minute application.
When they handed their applications to me, I took them [the applications, not the applicants] back to our brand new HR lady and, laughing, told her about these kids who were obviously only looking for jobs because daddy made them do it. I pointed out a sticky thumbprint on one of the applications. It was funny to me and she laughed along with me.
She hired both of them on the spot. Before that point, applicants were required to have a minimum of three years' experience in whatever field they were applying for. Neither of these kids had ever had a job before. That place went downhill rapidly under that HR manager, because she would just hire anybody she liked--which meant she only hired attractive, highly extroverted teenagers.
Those two boys and just about everyone else that woman hired were terrible.
Oh boy this one happened last week.
Hired a guy to be a seller of cannabis products for a new dispensary I'm about to open. He was...eccentric to say the least. He has tons of experience as a salesman and definitely knows his sh*t. In the interview he got a little bit douchey about his salary and health benefits (this is the second interview, salary and benefits were to be discussed with the owners on the 3rd interview. We told him this.) Whatever.
We hired the guy, gave him his ideal salary plus commissions plus benefits. The whole package.
First day he started giving me orders and asking where does he rank on the chain of command. I tell him I'm his boss and he doesn't like that so much. Whatever.
Then he started giving out candy to all the females in the office and telling them "I was thinking about you...have some chocolate". I told him that wouldn't fly here and he should cool it. He told me he was a "social butterfly" and that I was uptight. This was all during his first week. Whatever.
The very next Monday (His 6th day on the job) I get called into the owner's office with the head of human resources and they straight up asks me what I think of the guy. Turns out all of the females that got the candy from him felt heavily harassed. Dude barely lasted a week on an awesome job because he was a "social butterfly".
What a f*cking moron.
The guy definitely sounds like a douchebag, but I don't agree with the point above. Salary and benefits will be discussed when the candidate deems it fit. I wouldn't want to waste time going to three interviews no less for a company that paid sh*t, so you guys need to get a reality check here. People work for money. Salary is the most important aspect of a hiring process for the future employee, so please don't make people waste their time and address this as soon as possible.
Arrogance Isn't Good For Anyone
Company hired an arrogant individual who had issues everywhere he worked both with co workers, product and policies, supervisors, and customers. When I brought the issues up with him he seemed ok and when I left he called upper management crying . He said I had offended him and was a racist. This was relayed to me and we had a meeting with upper management. I begged my manager to get HR involved and either look at me and see if I was racist or if he was full of it. They did not get HR involved and told me to try my best to train him up. I gave it a try and failed to get any buy in or progress. I ended up leaving the company via headhunter for greener pastures and after I left they transferred him to another location because they put a more inexperienced person then myself. He is now at another location doing the same thing. I have a friend with the old company and that dud of a worker has called 4 different people racist who have brought up his performance. I don't know how folks like that keep jobs. Disruptive and zero effort in any tasks. The hiring manager apologized to me when I was leaving.
Don't Be In A Rush
Not a hiring manager but everytime someone brought up in an interview "what's the fastest anyones been promoted here? I want to break that record!" They end up being duds
We were emailing a candidate to set up an interview a month or 2 ago who asked if she could be promoted to assistant manager soon. She hasn't even had her interview yet. I told her she would have to be a regular employee for a while and become knowledgeable about everything first before we evaluate that. She'd also have to have opening and/or closing availability (the availability she gave us was just like 9-3 for a few days a week which was semi-helpful for the position we were hiring for). My boss hired her as a regular employee (what she applied for) because we needed help for the holidays and she quit less than a week later.
Appearances Are Deceiving
Oh oh oh I got one.
We had two interviews. Our interviews are my workplace were weird. We would have 1 Hiring Manager, 1 Guy from the floor, 1 supervisor, and then 1 female.
I was the female.
The first guy comes in and is very sloppy dressed. His outfit wasn't that impressive and he stuttered a lot. His looks weren't that attractive either. I wouldn't call him ugly and he was teeter-tottering on the line of unattractive. His resume though was holy sh*t.
Impressive as f*ck work history.
References from all his previous jobs (mostly management)
The skills we need and then some.
This guy could code, animate, fix, design, and you name it he can do it.
We do the interview and despite all awkwardness aside his resume was his one saving grace.
Enter guy 2. This guy is a knockout. Dressed beautifully, wearing cologne, hair swept back, a smile on his face, and very VERY sociable. Everyone was impressed by him.
Everyone else was impressed by him on looks like alone.
We decide to give these two a final test.
The first guy passes with amazing colors and we ask him if he would like to add anything to his resume for documentation, etc. He gave us a list of volunteer activities and a list of notable achievements. We looked it over and were impressed again. Mostly because he did alot of stuff raising money by playing videogames (one boss was impressed)
Second guy finished the test and just said he has a good feeling about it. Walked out without anything.
I'm sure you know where this is going. We hired the second guy (I lost the vote 3 to 1) and the first guy was told he was put on file.
Two weeks later. Things in the office go missing, people are more stressed as hell, and whats worse is that we all think its this new guy.
Yeah it was. He was a womanizer and we all grew sick of his jokes and attempts to pass off his work onto us because he would say "I'd owe you." By owing us he would take one of us on a date and desperately try to get into our pants.
A sexual harassment suit later and he was canned. We tried calling the first guy, but he already found another job at a better company a job I would later move too.
Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.