Hey, nobody’s perfect — but when you’re recruiting to fill a position, you’re looking for the best person for the job.
Recruiters have to walk a fine line between detective, psychologist, and psychic: looking at all the data they have available about a candidate, thinking about what’s notbeing said to read between the lines, and predicting whether or not the person will be the best fit for the job.
But there are some key personality flaws that are often overlooked in the recruitment process, even by experienced recruiters, either because they’re hard to see in the limited environment of the application and interview process, or because people can have these traits and still look great in a resume or interview.
I’ve chosen to highlight my top 7 character flaws that are dangerous to the workplace:
Apathy — A good employee will feel passion about something related to the job. Maybe they love the creativity required, love working with people, love the greater mission of the company… I’m not saying they have to be enthusiastic about every aspect of the job, but without some passion you’re likely to see lackluster performance and more likely to see turnover. If the candidate doesn’t show any enthusiasm during the interview, be wary — no matter how good they look on paper.
Narcissism — It’s a fine line to walk during the interview process: a good candidate needs to show off his or her best traits, accomplishments, and big plans, but you don’t want to hire someone who is truly self-absorbed or overly self-promotional. A true narcissist is toxic in a team environment, often putting him or herself before the good of the team or company, throwing others under the bus, or needing constant approval and affirmation. Being quietly confident is a good thing; overt narcissism is not.
Perfectionism — It’s become something of a joke that people answer that dreaded interview question, “What’s your biggest flaw?” by saying that they’re a perfectionist, but a true perfectionist can be a big problem. They may try to micro-manage every aspect of a project or team, get mired in the minutiae, and end up procrastinating, unable to make decisions. They can be overly critical of their own work and the work of others. They can also end up being toxic to a team because they criticize, are impossible to please, and try to involve themselves in every decision. There’s a difference between a strong attention to detail and perfectionism.
Dishonesty — Some people are naturally good storytellers and salespeople, but where it goes too far is when their stories bleed over into lies. It should go without saying that if you catch someone in a flat-out lie on their resume or during an interview, that should disqualify them for the position, but even “exaggerations” or hyperbole should be viewed with caution. Someone willing to tell even a “white lie” to make themselves look good may exhibit other dishonest behaviors down the line. And it’s more common than you think; a survey showed that 40 percent of candidates knowingly distorted information on their resumes and applications, so check everything.
Inconsistency — The inconsistent employee may be the most frustrating, because when they are on their game, they can produce amazing results — but only sometimes. They might miss work often or show up late, and they always seem to have an excuse. The worst part is when they show clear potential and brilliance during their productive periods, but those periods are few and far between. It’s hard to spot inconsistency in the interview phase, but if you have to reschedule the interview more than once, have to chase them down with phone calls, etc. that could be a red flag. If they seem to have large gaps in their work history or move from job to job a lot, that could be a sign as well.
Greed — We’re not talking about the kind of greed that would cause a person to steal from the company (although, that would be bad, too!) but the more insidious kind wherein an employee isn’t motivated to do much unless there’s a payday in it for them. They may go out of their way to put in as little effort as possible, and then try to claim as much credit as possible for the work. In a sales situation, it’s the kind of salesperson who will do anything to get the sale — and the commission — but won’t lift a finger to serve a client after the deal is done.
Negativity — True negativity goes beyond pessimism. There are always going to be optimists, pessimists, realists, and everyone in between, but a truly negative person will drag down an entire team. This person will be a chronic complainer and will never be satisfied, even when adjustments are made for them. They’re very difficult to work with and definitely put a drag on productivity in the workplace. These people don’t just see the glass as half empty, they’re always throwing rocks and making holes in the glass as well!
What other character flaws would you suggest recruiters and hiring managers be on the lookout for — especially those that are difficult to spot?
Based in the United Kingdom, Bernard Marr is one of the world’s most highly respected voices on data in business. His work with major companies, organizations and governments across the globe – ranging from NATO to Toyota to the Royal Air Force – makes him a globally acclaimed and award-winning researcher, consultant and teacher. He is the Chief Executive Officer at Advanced Performance Institute, and is a regular contributor to the World Economic Forum. The CEO Journal named him as one of today’s leading business brains, LinkedIn designated him as one of the World’s top-5 Influencers of 2015, and Mr. Marr has contributed a number of articles to ExecutiveVine.com. Follow him on Twitter.