Alex Hyett
Alex Hyett
CEO and Founder of GrowRecruit

How to Spot a Bad Candidate

Hiring the wrong person for a position can be costly, especially if you don’t notice that they are underperforming straight away. I have been on both sides of the table when it comes to interviewing and there are some clear warning signs to watch out for to stop a bad candidate becoming a bad hire.

Which company is this again?

If you are going for an interview you would have thought that the candidate would have done their research first. However, it is astonishing the number of candidates that come in and don’t know much about the company.

I have had candidates ask “So what does this company do?“. Not researching the company beforehand is a big warning sign that as an employee they are unlikely to be committed to their job.

Ideally, you want candidates that have applied to you because they like what you do and want to help you progress your companies mission. Rather than applying to 50 companies in the hope, one will stick.

I would expect a candidate to come prepared for an interview. This includes having a copy of their CV to refer to, knowing a bit about the company and having some questions to ask at the end of the interview.

Not acting professionally during the application process

Anyone who is going for an interview knows to put forward their best self. This means dressing professionally, coming prepared and not being late.

Candidates that arrive late, are not appropriately dressed or who are otherwise unprofessional should be raising some alarm bells in your head. If they don’t take a professional approach to a formal interview then they are unlikely to be professional at their job.

You will generally have many contact points with a potential candidate before bringing them in for an interview so look out for warning signs early when speaking to them.

I am one man band

Unless the candidate owns their own company, chances are they haven’t been solely responsible for every bit of work. Someone who takes credit for every accomplishment is unlikely to make a good team player.

It is important to try and work out what part of the project the candidate did and get someone on your team with industry experience to find out if they actually know what they are talking about.

If there is anything on their CV which looks too good to be true then ask them about it. Chances are if they don’t know what they are talking about it will show in their explanation.

Inappropriate use of social media

Now, I am not suggesting you should spy on your potential candidates but doing some background research before hiring could save you the hassle in the future.

I once worked with someone who spent more time on Twitter than doing their job. I am not against people doing some non-work related browsing but when an employee hands in subpar work and writes negative comments about co-workers on Twitter you do wonder how they ever got hired. Do a little bit of light digging before bringing them in for an interview.

Bad mouths former employer

I have been quite lucky with the bosses I have worked and I understand that not everyone is so lucky. However, there are ways of explaining why you are leaving a job without resorting to trash talking the employer.

If a candidate can’t explain why they are leaving a job without bad mouthing their employer then chances are in 6 months time that employer they are talking about will be you.

Asking the wrong type of questions

Candidates interested in a position are more likely to ask questions about the work involved such as who they will be working with and what a typical day looks like. Candidates that ask more questions about the benefits such holidays, gym membership, salary are less likely to be committed to the job.

If they aren’t enthusiastic about the job at the interview they are unlikely to continue to be enthusiastic when they have been doing it for a few months.


A good interview should benefit both sides. Both the candidate and the employer should have a feel for whether this is going to be a good relationship going forward. Hiring the wrong candidate can be a costly mistake which can be avoided by looking out for these key warning signs.

Do you have any interview horror stories to share or tips to spot bad candidates? Let us know in the comments below.