Blog Candidate Quality 5 Warning Signs of a Bad Employee During an Interview

5 Warning Signs of a Bad Employee During an Interview

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Mark Stephens Nov 25, 2019 Candidate Quality


When interviewing applicants, it can sometimes be easy to get carried away and miss the warning signs of a bad employee, especially if you actually like the individual sitting in front of you.


Recruiting the right people unfortunately often means rejecting those that don’t meet the minimum standards. There are a few key ways that you can identify if this is the case during an interview. But first, why might you want to do this?


The impact of a bad employee

It probably goes without saying that a bad employee can negatively impact your business. In fact, it could cost your business at least 30% of the employee’s first year earnings. Hiring the wrong candidate ultimately has a slew of bad outcomes.

Under performance

An employee who doesn’t have the skills or experience to perform well can greatly impact your bottom line. Underperforming employees can cost £39,500 a year on average, and although it’s important to provide support and training for employees that need it, they should still meet an expected standard before it becomes a loss.


Distractions to other employees

A bad employee can become distracting and effect your whole team’s performance. If they have a poor attitude for example, psychologists argue this can cause emotional contagion, where one employee’s poor attitude can lead to more conflict in the workplace.


Additionally, if an employee is consistently producing poor quality work, this can lead to others needing to fix mistakes, or constantly stepping in to help. This ultimately creates productivity issues business-wide, and frustrations among employees.


Warning signs of a bad employee at interview

Now that you know the negative impact that hiring the wrong employee can have, here are some of the subtle signs that you could be interviewing a bad employee.

1. They haven’t prepared for the interview

As an absolute minimum, any individual attending an interview should have visited your website, know a little bit about you, and be able to explain what it is that you do. If they don’t know these basics, then how can they put forward a strong case as to why you should hire them?


2. They don’t ask questions

Some people are very good at responding to interview questions and articulating what they think you want to hear, but anyone that is serious about establishing a successful career with you will have plenty of questions for you.


This doesn’t just mean at the end of the interview. Each time you ask the applicant a question, this is a great opportunity for the best candidates to respond with questions of their own.


3. No depth to their answers

Weak candidates and those that might have expanded upon the truth in their CV’s have very little depth, and this is relatively easy to establish.


Behavioural interviewing techniques will allow you to ask several layers of questions around the original question. When people lack genuine knowledge, understanding, and experience, they tend to come unstuck. When you take this approach they generally start to waffle.


Look for eyes that look to the candidate’s right when responding. This is an obvious sign that they are tapping into the creative side of their brain to make up an answer.


4. They see their job as 9-5

Some jobs are for plodders, but when most of us recruit, we want dynamic, energetic, self-motivated people who can take on responsibility, and treat your company and customers with care and attention and grow with the company.


The reward for this is longevity, stability, respect, progress, responsibility and remuneration that should increase appropriately. To progress faster requires more educational input and that should not stop within the confines of a working day.


People who do not invest in themselves, through self-learning, reading, courses, and training will only ever likely be plodders.


5. They don’t accept responsibility for their mistakes

During the interview, you’ll want to ask about a time when they had to handle a difficult or awkward situation at work and how they resolved it. You can also ask them about their previous working relationships, especially those with managers that might have held them back.


People who blatantly blame others for their own lack of success or failures is  a key warning sign of a bad employee, and it’s likely they will bring that blame culture and mentality into your organisation.


How to avoid hiring a bad employee

If you still aren’t completely sure on the warning signs of a bad employee, there are tactics you can use throughout your recruitment process to avoid hiring one entirely.

Candidate Screening

Screening your candidates properly is a sure fire way of avoiding making a bad hire. Luckily, there are now numerous tools available that can help you quickly weed out any candidates that aren’t suitable for your role.


Getting applicants to complete a behavioural assessment ahead of an interview is a great way to help identify cultural and behavioural areas of potential conflict.


At SRO, we use a fantastic tool called Prism Brain Mapping, that allows you to benchmark the most critical behavioural and cultural elements associated with the job. When candidates complete a questionnaire designed to highlight behaviours most critical and motivating to them, you get a clear indication of potential areas of conflict.


These tools are an amazing interview aid, and encourage the recruiter to dig in the right areas and uncover the areas of risk relating to that candidate, in regards to the job you are considering them for.


Talent attraction

Ensuring you attract the right kind of talent in the first place minimises the risk of making a wrong hire. Using talent attraction techniques such as job advert writing and optimisation, and media channel selection can help.


Job advert writing & optimisation

How you write your job adverts is a very important part of attracting the right talent. It’s where you want to excite and engage a prospective candidate, rather than write a simple job spec. With the best candidates often only passively searching for a new role, your advert is the ideal place to sell the role and opportunity to them.


To ensure your advert is actually seen by the best talent online, optimising it is important. 75% of internet users never scroll past the first page of results, so you want to get your ad displayed on the first page of your chosen job channels.


This can be done by using keyword targeting throughout the advert, typically the job title of the role you’re applying for. Ensuring you include this a few times throughout the advert copy greatly increases the likelihood of you appearing in those top positions, among other tactics.


Media channel selection

Selecting the right job advertising media channels helps get your role in front of the right candidates. You want to select channels that candidates will be searching on, and also want to be present across a large enough number of these channels.


Doing a simple Google search for your job title and location will show you where candidates are likely to be looking. Ensuring you post your job on the top results increases the likelihood of you attracting the right talent.


You may find it useful to use a job multi-poster, which allows you to post on multiple channels for a reduced price compared to posting on each channel individually.



There are plenty of warning signs of a bad employee that can come up at interview, and being aware of what these are is beneficial, as making a wrong hire can have a variety of negative outcomes for your business.


Interviewing the right talent in the first place however is the ideal way to avoid the risk of both interviewing and hiring a bad employee, using a mix of screening and talent attraction techniques.


For more in-depth information on how to attract and hire quality candidates, watch our short webinar on this topic!

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Mark Stephens

Mark has worked in, and researched the HR & Recruitment landscape for over 20 years, focussing on the unique blend of recruitment technology, evidence-based processes, and human behavioural science in order to optimise performance and recruitment outcomes. He is a serial entrepreneur, previous winner of the prestigious Chambers of Commerce - Innovation in Business award, and founder of Smart Recruit Online Ltd, and Corporate Wellness & Mental Health UK Ltd (Corpwell). Smart Recruit Online has been the winner of several national and international awards for recruitment innovation.

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