5 People to Never Hire

Over the last twenty years I have made countless bad hires. They tend to fall into five types of candidates. If you spot them in an interview, you need to run the other way. Bad hires are toxic and expensive – I know from personal experience. Make sure you avoid hiring the following five types of people:

1) The Complainer

A candidate recently started off a conversation talking about how miserable she was in her job and how her employer was unraveling. Even if she is miserable and the company is terrible, there is no way she could dig herself out of this hole with me.

Great hires take personal responsibility for their situation and express a level of gratitude for the opportunities and luck in their lives. They own it and find ways to turn lemons into lemonade.

It is just like in a romantic relationship. If you are dating someone who has had a long string of bad relationships and never been able to commit, don’t be deluded into thinking you are going to break the pattern. Let their therapist do that job.

2) The Ego

After a Hall of Fame quarterback breaks a record, and their team wins by a large margin, what do they say when interviewed by reporters? They focus on the contributions of the whole team and they honor their opponent. They never take credit – at least, certainly not full credit.

Avoid the candidate who takes credit for everything ever achieved by their former employer or team. Even a good CEO doesn’t claim all of the success. They know their role and define their success based on it. If someone isn’t the CEO it is an even greater red flag.

As someone shared with me recently, they screen out any candidate that doesn’t describe all efforts and success as a team effort. Nothing worthwhile is accomplished solo in an organization. If your candidate suggests otherwise, it’s a sign that they are not in touch with reality, they are insecure, and they’re a poor team player.

3) The Paycheck

Our research on performance and fulfillment couldn’t be clearer. People who see work as a transaction and simply a job to pay the bills are nearly always the lowest performers, worst team members, and the least fulfilled at work.

Look, 99.9% of us need to get paid for our work. This isn’t about needing to get paid and to be paid fairly. But, if your candidate sees work as only about money, they will be not only be less engaged, reliable, and effective than their purpose-oriented counterparts, but they are also more likely to jump ship the first chance they get to earn more elsewhere

Avoid the person who is just working for a paycheck and would retire tomorrow if they won the lottery. They see work as a necessary evil and don’t understand that work can be a great source of relationships, meaningful impact and personal growth.

4) The Brand

Someone at McKinsey, the global management consulting firm, once shared with me that they did a survey of their clients asking them why they hired the firm. They found that the number one reason was that “no one was ever fired for hiring McKinsey.”

This is my Achilles heel. As an entrepreneur, I am total sucker for resumes where someone has worked at a sexy company. When you see Google, Apple, IDEO or another celebrated employer on their resume, you may assume the candidate is exceptional, and would teach you and your organization a ton.

I have probably made this hire over a dozen times in my career and regretted it every time. It doesn’t mean that you need to avoid people who have worked at great organizations; you need to avoid hiring the brand and not the person.

5) The Climber

They aren’t as likely to fail as “The Paycheck” candidate, but ladder climbers usually fall, and they take out a number of people as they tumble down. People who define work as something to accomplish and win score lower on all measures in the workforce compared to those that work for purpose.

The challenge with climbers is that they see work as a zero-sum game and rely on extrinsic motivations (vs having the confidence to not need external recognition). Someone wins and someone loses. There are only so many promotions and if someone else gets one it means their odds go down.

Don’t mistake climbers for people with ambition. You want ambitious people, but ambition for impact and growth, not titles.

To spot a climber, listen to how candidates describe their career. Is it a series of promotions or opportunities to make an impact and grow? Ask them how they know if they have been successful.

Advice for Candidates

So, how do you position yourself for success in an interview so you avoid raising red flags and better, find a great fit? The first step is to build your own self awareness about who you are and what makes you tick.

Take this free ten minute purpose assessment and then answer these three questions:

1) When have you had the deepest relationships at work? What kinds of relationships do you want at work?

2) When have you felt like your work was really helping other people inside or outside the organization? What is the ideal impact you would like to make every day and week on your co-workers and clients?

3) When have you felt like you have really grown as a person at work? What was it that lead to the growth? What kind of growth do you want to create for yourself in your next job?

If you are clear on who you are and what is going to maximize fulfillment in your work, you are already in the top 2% of job candidates – at least for jobs worth taking.

This article originally appeared on Imperative
Aaron Hurst
About the author: 

Aaron Hurst is Chief Executive Officer of Imperative, and he’s an “Influencer” on LinkedIn.  Aaron is also the founder of the Taproot Foundation, the author of The Purpose Economy – and he is an Ashoka Fellow, an award-winning entrepreneur and a globally recognized leader in fields of purpose at work and social innovation.  Aaron has written for or been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg TV and Fast Company.  Follow him on Twitter.