Three Types of People to Avoid Hiring

April 12, 2014 Updated: April 12, 2014

The irony of running a professional staffing firm is that it is more challenging for me to find talent for our firm than it is to find talent for our clients. When a client calls us to fill an urgent need, we can usually turn around and find someone for them within 48 hours. So the natural assumption is that I should be able to do that for myself, but that’s not the case. 

Fortunately for me, I have never had to hire someone within a narrow time frame. I’ve have the luxury of taking as long as I want to find the right fit. Admittedly, I can’t say that all of my hires have worked out perfectly. If I had always been perfect, I’d be on a tropical island right now sipping piña coladas—but alas, I am only human. 

The good thing about being human is that you can learn from your mistakes. From the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve learned that there are certain people who will hurt your company and just make your life plain miserable at work. Here are three types of employees you need to avoid hiring at all costs:

1. The Debbie Downer. Nothing kills morale more than someone who is always negative and pessimistic. Every company goes through its ups and downs, but the more positive people you have on board, the easier it is to navigate through rough waters. You want people who’ll embrace challenges and look at things as half full instead of half empty. These individuals will make excuses and find acceptable reasons to fail. Whatever it is, it’s never their fault. They will try to convince you to expect a negative outcome. You don’t need that. This breeds a losing mentality and culture.

2. The Lone Ranger. When you’re building a team, you need everyone to be on the same page. Having someone out on an island disrupts the team concept. You can’t have one set of rules for one person and another set of rules for the rest of the team. This creates dissension and resentment. Before you know it, you’ll have a fragmented team. Collaboration becomes nearly impossible when you have a disjointed team. If the team concept is important to your business, you have to hire people who’ll embrace teamwork. 

3. The Pot Stirrer. This individual is trickier to spot. They are usually well liked and very charismatic. These people are your typical front runners. When things are going well, they are extremely positive and fun to be around. However, when something isn’t quite to their liking, even the most meaningless thing can send them down the path to negativity, but they’ll do it in a subtle manner when you aren’t looking. They’ll pull one person aside and complain. They’ll grab another person to complain even more, gathering as much momentum as possible to try and make changes that are more self-serving than what’s really good for the team overall. You don’t want this type of virus infecting your organization.

The difficult part about hiring is that it’s hard to uncover these characteristics in a typical interview setting. You can spend a lot of time with these candidates to learn as much about them as possible and still not be able to see these traits. However, the instant they display any red flags pertaining to these characteristics, you should avoid them no matter how talented they seem to be. I’ve learned that talent alone can’t make up for these negative attributes. I’ve made the mistake of letting the allure of talent override the red flags and hired someone that my gut said not to hire. Hiring is a combination of art and science. 

You are not going to hit a home run on every hire, but you definitely need to avoid striking out.

Song Woo, an employment and career management expert, is the president and CEO of Lighthouse Management Group, Inc.

*Image of “job candidate” via Shutterstock