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How to Identify Toxic Employees During an Interview

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As employers, we all want the workplace to flow with positive energy. However, we have all run into problem employees that bring their negativity into the workplace. To help avoid any toxic energy, the best solution is to not hire these “bad apples” in the first place. But how can you identify potential candidates that will be toxic employees for your business? We have identified 10 questions to include in your interviews.

  1. Ask how they handled a difficult work situation. One sign of toxic employees is they never take the blame for anything, while regularly pointing the finger at other people. Ask potential employees to describe experiences that didn’t turn out according to plan and how they reacted. If they will not admit their own faults or shortcomings, this is a red flag.
  2. Set up several different interview stages. Having multiple interview stages with various people within your company can help identify toxic employees. Whether it’s co-workers, managers or owners interviewing applicants based on their experience, skills and attitude, no one can deny that having a cultural fit is necessary. It’s easy for people to put on a good act for an hour, but interacting with several different people and personality types makes it easier to identify problem candidates.
  3. Ask where they see themselves in five to 10 years. To see if employees are a long-term fit for your company, always ask where they see themselves in the future. Make sure that employees describe clear visions of their future instead of just going down a checklist of right answers.
  4. Ask them about their favorite work moments. Candidates can put a negative spins on their past jobs. To catch them off guard, ask them about their favorite on-the-job work moments. If these answers only revolve around superficial aspects, such as free lunches or office parties, you likely don’t have a candidate that will work to improve your company.
  5. History always repeats itself. People that are not happy with themselves will not be happy with you or their jobs. As a general rule of thumb, if they bad mouth their past employers and co-workers, they’ll do it to you too.
  6. Listen carefully for complaints. Employees that constantly complain are the least productive team members. Candidates can dislike something about their previous jobs, but listen to how they explain the issues surrounding to them looking for new employment.
  7. Always ask forced negative questions. Forced negative questions are proven to help candidates let their guard down and open up. An example is, “Why shouldn’t I hire you?” or “Who is the worst employee you were responsible for hiring and why?” Questions that are framed positively have a higher rate of receiving prefabricated responses. Asking applicants questions that make them think to provide answers that are more truthful.
  8. Ask behavioral questions. Asking behavioral questions about how candidates behaved in certain situational-based scenarios makes it more difficult for them to fabricate stories. When they’re put on the spot, they’ll usually offer interviewers a glimpse into who they really are on the job.
  9. Always listen for “we.” Candidates that are not team players and only reference everything as in terms of “I” or brag about themselves may have an ego problem and not be a good fit for your company.
  10. Opt to deviate from the standard line of interview questions. We’ve all heard the routine, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” line of questioning. Deviate from the norm and ask off the wall questions, such as “What is your pet peeve?” or “What lie do you tell most often?” These answers will give you more insight into if applicants are a good fit for your organization.

Read more about if toxic employees are harming your workplace.

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