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Make sure you’re not hiring an Art Vandelay

There is a very natural element of risk to every hiring decision. No matter how much information you collect, you won’t truly know if a candidate is the right fit until after the decision has been made and they’ve started getting their hands dirty on the job.

Having said that, the more information you have, the better equipped you are to make the right decision.

So how do you make sure you’re getting the right information from your candidates during the hiring process – and that that information is accurate? (Most people don’t try and sneak an Art Vandelay into their resume à la George Costanza in Seinfeld – but it does pay to be sure.)

Here are some of the things that are often overlooked, but which you should definitely find out about your candidates before you make a decision – and how you can verify them, too.

How are their soft skills?

You can get an idea of somebody’s hard skills and experience from their resume or CV or resume. Soft skills, on the other hand, are much harder to gauge – but crucial to a successful hiring decision.

CareerBuilder found that the majority of employers (77%) believe that soft skills are just as important as hard skills. An additional 20% said they were more important than hard skills.

Is the candidate good at managing people? Are they professional in their behavior? Resilient? Good at problem solving?

Hard skills can be taught. Soft skills are more likely to depend on somebody’s personality, which is why it’s important to get a grasp on them.

Most people try and work out soft skills using competency questions, off the wall interview formats or personality tests, but these can unfortunately be gamed or may be just plain unscientific. Too often, candidates will try and anticipate what the potential employer wants rather than answer truthfully.

Assessments and training days can also be revelatory, but these are expensive and time-consuming to organize.

The quickest way to really find out what someone’s soft skills are like is to talk to the people they’ve previously worked with – if you can.

What about their interpersonal skills?

Arguably a subset of soft skills, interpersonal skills are likewise hard to measure. But understanding how a candidate relates to the people around them will also help you predict if they’ll fit in to your team.

Interviews will give you and your team an initial idea, but we’re all on our best behavior then – it’s only a snapshot of how they might behave. How will they actually deal with stressful situations? With their co-workers? Are they team players?

Spending extended amounts of time with a candidate to work that out is rarely an option. This is why references are super important – they’re your best shot of truly gauging what somebody is like in a day-to-day office environment.

What are their strengths and weaknesses?

As we’ve already established, everybody’s putting their best foot forward in interviews. Chances are if a candidate is asked about their biggest weakness, they’ll come out with something they consider socially acceptable or secretly positive – like perfectionism.

The fact of the matter is that everyone has areas for improvement. If you can identify them early, you’re better able to investigate further. You can then ask the right questions at interview, determine whether or not the issues in question can be managed, and arrange for the appropriate training if you choose to make the hire.

And remember, it’s not just weaknesses you have to dig for. Sometimes candidates aren’t the best judge of their own strengths, or simply don’t do themselves justice at interview – so it pays to ask around. You might learn about skills the candidate underestimated (and underreported) in themselves.

Will the folks at their previous workplace vouch for them?

The truth is that past performance is the best predictor of success. And the best way to establish past performance is to – you know what’s coming – ask the people who worked with the candidate previously.

Unfortunately, referencing is too often a routine exercise that merely confirms employment dates. It can be difficult – and time-consuming – to get the sort of information that will actually give you the insight you need.

One way of getting around that is through online reference-checking software. When you ensure confidentiality and waive the risk of litigation, people tend to be that much more forthcoming. And that’s where the real gold is.

It will shed light on the areas that often aren’t adequately surveyed in the traditional hiring process – but that could have a massive impact on your decision.

A thorough reference check is good for you and the candidate – as making the right hiring decision will benefit them as well as you. Satisfaction at work is a two-way street, after all.

More data means less risk

These are only a handful of the areas where it pays to have more information about a candidate, so you’re better able to make the right decision for your company. There are more, of course.

Generally, the more data you have, the more likely you are to make good hiring decisions – and avoid the morale-destroying, budget-draining consequences of choosing the wrong person for the job.

If your hiring process doesn’t get you the information you need, then you could be at risk of a bad hire – and the consequences could be dire.

Worried about your risk? Take our quiz and assess your own hiring practices. 

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