Recruitment is a serious undertaking with long-term implications for the success and profitability of a business. This is why companies typically invest considerable time in creating job adverts to attract the right candidate, and then vetting them through multiple interviews before selecting the right person for the job. Even an applicant who is unsuccessful will still require a considerable investment in time and resources, often from several members of your team. Despite the best efforts of businesses to find the perfect applicant, sometimes it all ends in tears. Sometimes a candidate does not mesh well with the rest of the team, or is unmotivated, or simply is not skilled in the way that they claim that interview! Often it doesn’t even get that far. An applicant may simply disappear part way through the recruitment process, or may appear to change personality between the first and the second interview, or even not turn up for work on the first day.

This article goes through a few simple ways of rooting out a ‘bad applicant’ who may not be sufficiently motivated or suitable for your company.

1) Does the applicant want your job or just any job?

It is natural to assume that a candidate is genuinely interested in your company and in the position they have applied for. However, this simply isn’t the case for some people. An applicant may be unemployed and keen to get back to paid work, or they may simply be unhappy with their current position for whatever reason – but sometimes the applicant will simply just want any job. This isn’t usually a good sign, as such candidates are likely to have less motivation, a lower work ethic and less loyalty to your business than someone who is genuinely enthusiastic about the position.

Signs include: a generic cover letter, and unenthusiastic attitude at interview, a lack of knowledge about the job role and applicant requirements.

2) Has the applicant lost interest in the position?

Between submitting their application and arriving for the first interview, some applicants simply lose interest in your job role. They may have submitted a fantastic cover letter and CV and appeared enthusiastic on the phone, but in the meantime something has changed. Maybe they have had a better offer, found something more interesting or decided not to jump ship from their current employment.

Infuriatingly, a significant proportion of such applicants simply fail to turn up to the interview without any notice. Others, however, will come along to the interview out of what they perceive as politeness, but will act in a disengaged manner and have no intention of pursuing the application further. How do you spot these people, to avoid wasting your time and theirs?

Signs include: Slouching, lack of eye contact, failure to ask questions, short or noncommittal answers to interview questions, failure to give personal detail.

3) Applicant becomes difficult to pin down

The applicant has submitted a CV and performed well at the first interview. You want to get them in for a second interview, but they are suddenly inflexible or hard to pin down for a time to attend. This is a common indication that the applicant has lost interest for some reason, but do not want to spell it out directly. We recommend that if you doubt an applicant’s commitment at this stage; that you ask them directly about how keen they are about the job role and whether they are interested in pursuing their application further.

4) Is their job history and skill set consistent?

Occasionally applicants are known to lie or exaggerate the truth on either their CV or at interview stage. If this is suspected, then it should always raise alarm bells. At the very least an employer needs to know that their candidate is trustworthy and that they are presenting an accurate picture of their skills and abilities. However, it can sometimes be tricky to figure out when an applicant is being economical with the truth. Make sure that full notes are taken at the interview stage by every member of the panel that can subsequently be compared to the information on the candidate’s CV. Other than that, watch out for the following…

Signs include: Lack of eye contact or eyes flicking to the left when answering questions. Excessive nervousness, and restless movement of hands or knees. Changing the details of a story without explanation or apology. Reluctance to provide references for one or more employers on their CV. Grandiose claims made without enough supporting evidence.i

When recruiting new members for your team, we sincerely hope that you won’t come across any of these warning signs! Look for applicants who are upfront, show clear enthusiasm and who are honest in their communication with you. The best way for both you and the applicant to ensure you are a good match is to ask plenty of questions at each stage, keep talking – and take careful note both of what they say and what they fail to say.

Tricia Hay

Tricia Hay is Owner, Director of First Base Employment Limited