How to avoid bad hires

Hiring the right person for a role is never easy — but dealing with the fallout from a bad hire can be even more challenging. We asked our experts to share the red flags to watch out for.

The cost of a bad hire is high. Not only is the person a drain on precious resources, he or she also has an impact on morale and productivity.

“A hiring mistake could dent team morale,” says Tiffany Wong, associate director of human resources and Walters People in Robert Walters’ Hong Kong office. “If you have people leaving after less than three months, that is going to have an effect on your team.”

On top of that, external perceptions of your company could also be hurt and there are resource costs too. “In addition to recruitment costs, salary costs and training time, you have to spend time and resources managing any client relationships that were affected. And of course, if the market learns of these speedy departures, that tells a bad story too,” she says.

Hiring managers can maximise their chances of avoiding such pitfalls by following our experts’ advice on how to spot an inappropriate candidate – before they turn into an inappropriate employee…  

Interrogate the CV

While grammar and typos are often touted as signs of a sloppy CV, Adrien Bizouard, country head of Robert Walters Vietnam says that in an emerging market like Vietnam, where English is the second language, this is often a secondary concern.

“Less than 10 years ago, CVs weren’t a common part of the recruitment process in Vietnam. The concept of CVs is a relatively young one, and only became more common as the number of foreign companies in the market grew,” shares Adrien. “Rather than grammatical errors and typos, our focus is on whether a CV has good structure, flow and formatting. A CV should start with a strong personal statement that introduces the candidate, before moving on to their work experience.”

Dates are also important, Adrien emphasises. “I often check the dates to ensure that there are no missing gaps that are unaccounted for. Some other things I look out for includes the length of employment as well as internal promotions.” 

Tiffany agrees. “An employee who changes jobs regularly could be cause for concern. An employer doesn’t want to hire someone who looks as though they might leave as soon as the going gets tough. They want to know: are they resilient to the pressures of the job, or do they just cut and run if things don’t go their way? A strong record of internal progression effectively validates a candidate’s performance and work ethic. They have been successfully tested and promoted by people who know them well.”

Look out for interview danger signs

One of the key things to look for at the interview stage is the preparedness of the candidate. “An interview shows a potential employee at their very best, so failing to prepare properly could be another sign of a lack of commitment to the role,” says Tiffany. 

“An interested, enthusiastic and proactive candidate will have done adequate research prior to the interview. Ask them questions about your company and competitors to see how much they have prepared. You can even challenge them by asking about macroeconomic trends to see how familiar they are with the overall industry,” suggests Adrien. 

For hiring managers who are not from Vietnam, Adrien cautions them to not judge how prepared a candidate is based on the notes they bring. “In Europe, where I’m originally from, it’s very common to bring along research notes to interviews so I was surprised that jobseekers here don’t do the same,” adds Adrien. “I later found out that it’s because bringing notes along is considered impolite here in Vietnam. It gives off the impression that you didn’t bother to commit the information to your memory.”

The interviewee questions to watch out for

Candidates who take opportunity to ask specific questions about the company and the role they wish to take on during the interview are often the ones who have spent time thinking about the role. Adrien adds, “You want a candidate who is able to put themselves in the role of business driver, whether they are in a sales role or support function. This starts from as early as the interview itself.” 

As both our experts agree, what you don’t want to hear are just questions that focus on candidates finding out “what’s in it for me?” — employee benefits, salary, holiday allowance, working hours etc. “Whilst flexible working and achieving a good work-life balance are becoming increasingly important to jobseekers, a lack of curiosity about how the role will develop or deliver job satisfaction should cause the interviewer to question how committed the candidate really is,” says Tiffany. 

Interviewers should also be wary of candidates who don’t engage fully in conversation. As Tiffany warns, defensive and curt answers may indicate that a candidate is quite closed-up and inflexible, which could be a revealing sign as to how well they would work in your team. 

Indications of good fit 

Many companies include a round of culture fit interviews during their process to help the hiring manager get additional input. Adrien encourages this, but reminds companies to keep the interviewers consistent across all the candidates.  “For these culture fit interviews to be effective, you need the same interviewer across each round. Changing interviewers for different candidates will only result in more confusion as different interviewers may have differing preferences.”

However, at the end of the day, Adrien says that it still largely boils down to the hiring manager’s instinct. “It is important for you to have found the candidate interesting, engaging and enthusiastic as you will be working closely with this person. If he or she looks good on paper but did not spark your interest, it’s probably advisable to reconsider.” 

Tiffany adds, it’s often not just what the candidates say in either their CV or interview that’s important, but how they say it. “Personally, I find it better to hire based on attitude and potential over experience,” says Tiffany. “Anyone can gain experience, but attitude and potential are much harder to find.” 

Get more hiring advice here, or contact Adrien Bizouard for an in-depth consultation on your hiring needs at

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