The thing about bad job candidates is that they are not always easy to catch. Not every bad candidate will be an obviously terrible employee. They may, in fact, be well-dressed and well-spoken.
This is why the interview process is such an important and central part of hiring new employees. It gives you a chance to weed out bad candidates by asking the right questions.
If you’re moving through a giant pile of applications, you need to choose these questions carefully. Often, you do not have time to ask all of the questions you want to. But to get right to the heart of the character of the candidate, you can use these five questions to weed out potentially bad candidates.
1. If I asked your last manager what it was like to work with you, what would he or she say?
This is a great question because it easily distinguishes bad employees. People who have had strong, positive relationships with their managers will be able to answer this question quickly and confidently. This is because they know what their boss thought of them and they left on good terms with their company.
Candidates who struggled at their last place of work will often try to deflect this question or give you a non-descript answer. They might say their boss thought they were good at their job or confirm the reference would be positive and leave it at that. If the candidate is moving on for the right reasons, it will show in their answer. Encourage a descriptive answer from the interviewee.
2. What do you want to accomplish by changing careers?
This is an excellent question because it allows candidates to discuss their primary motivations for changing roles. Most good candidates will cite one of the following answers: money, people, location, job security, challenge or advancement. These are all valid and popular reasons to seek a career change.
Of course, a bad candidate might also use one of these answers. But to get to know more about their answer, ask them to expand on it. If the candidate wants to work with different people, ask what kind of people they have worked with previously. Be wary of anyone who speaks negatively about past companies, colleagues or bosses. This usually indicates an unprofessional relationship in the workplace.
3. What do you owe your employer?
This is a silver bullet question because it demonstrates what a candidate thinks about their current or future job responsibilities. This is where you will find out whether the candidate would be out the door at 4:55 or whether they are willing to go the extra mile even in dire straits during a natural disaster and use a phone booster if they have to, to complete an all important call.
This is a difficult question for candidates because often, they have prepared statements about their experience and skills. They think in terms of technical job roles and respective salaries. The “what do you owe” question will force them to think differently and you will learn a lot about them this way.
4. What does your employer owe you?
This is a great twist on the previous question because it capitalizes on the change of pace created by the first question. When candidates hear this question, they think about more than salary. They will think about how they are treated by management and as the company as a whole. Candidates who want to grow, advance and fit into the company will make their desires clear here. If the candidate wants the job to punch the clock and collect a check, this will become apparent as well.
5. How will working here help you achieve your goals?
This is an important question for all candidates because it shows their intentions in applying for this job.
You want to find candidates who applied to your company because they want to work for you, not just because they want to work. Knowing the goals of a candidate will help you determine if they are the right fit for your company culture.
You want to hire rising stars, not those who have already burnt out. These goals should be futuristic in nature and forward thinking. A candidate who lists a vague goal that is not in line with the future of the industry may not be providing a genuine answer.
A good candidate will know why they have applied and what your company offers them long before the interview stage. A bad candidate will not be able to give a genuine answer to this question.
Weeding out bad candidates is not as hard as it sounds when you ask the right questions. If you ask direct questions that are designed to elicit descriptive and genuine answers, you will be more apt to pick out those candidates whose hearts are just not in it.
This article has been edited and condensed.