Is Your Job Applicant Who They Say They Are?

Reducing the Risk of a Bad Hire

Hiring badly for your business can be devastating.

Apart from the obvious expenses, including salary and training costs, choosing the wrong person can negatively affect staff morale, damage your brand and, worst-case scenario, you could be inviting a criminal into your business.

I have yet to meet a recruiter who has a 100% track record for hiring the right people all of the time. The person sitting in front of you at interview may be far removed from the real person you will encounter once they are in your business.

But there is much you can do to reduce the risks significantly.

Ensure that the interview process is robust

We are all guilty of hiring someone we liked and regretted it.

An instant connection means we can have the tendency to overlook some glaring shortfalls. By all means, hire people who have shortfalls but only if you're aware of them, discuss them, accept them, have a plan to bring them up to speed or work with them.

Don't bring that person into your business with your eyes shut and then wish you hadn't been so blind.

Our FREE interview Management Guide

If you are in doubt about your ability to interview or make the ultimate decision, get a second opinion from an experienced colleague or an external professional

Despite interviewing routinely, I have brought a third party into my interviews when I am hiring for myself.

Sometimes you're too close to the decision making to see clearly and, as referred to above, it's possible to overlook some things, go off-piste with the questioning and lose track of what you wanted to achieve during the process.

Sometimes you're not making yourself understood by the interviewee, or you appear to have too easily overlooked a red flag, maybe doing so because you feel the pressure to race through a list of prepared questions.

A third party can be an observer, take notes, keep the interview on track and then later remind you of those areas you need to pay close attention to, consider more closely.

During the interview, they might observe that an answer given was incomplete, brushed over, maybe misunderstood. They can make a note and step in later to ask the question again, in a different way, helping you to get to the bottom of a subject that might be critical to your decision making. Thus ensuring you don't hire on gut instinct alone.

Gut instinct, despite its reputation, is not always right.

This process will also help you to ensure you hire the right person for the job, helping you to reduce bias.

Check relevant qualifications

I remember a client who offered a job to a credit manager through a competitor agency, the candidate claiming to have a relevant Credit Management qualification. It wasn't necessary for the job, as it happens, but because he'd listed it, they checked it. It turns out that he'd lied.

Despite the fact it wasn't essential, they considered that if he was prepared to lie about it, then he was not right for them. I have to agree, it's not a great start and you'll never trust that person again.

So whether the qualification is essential, or not, I recommend you check it at the offer stage.

Take references

Skip this at your peril.

Reference by phone if you can - referees will often tell you things verbally that they would not put in writing. And, often it's possible to read between the lines using this method.

Issues flagged won't necessarily need you to revoke an offer, but make sure you proceed with all the facts, even confirm information that has already been shared.

"Sarah's timekeeping has been an issue, she's often 5 or 10 mins late" might well be a problem.

Except, if during your robust interview process, you explored Sarah's real reasons for changing jobs and she divulged "I enjoy my job but the school where I drop my son has changed the parking rules in the past few months, it's caused access issues and means I run a few minutes late for work on my three school drop-off days. I talked to work about starting 15 mins later those days and making up the time in my lunch hour but they refused".

Maybe a better question of the referee would be to find out how they managed this and whether they offered her flexible working. You'll then understand whether they are inflexible and she felt forced to move or they would have done if there weren't so many other concerns around Sarah.

"If we'd have offered her flexible working everyone would have wanted it and we can't do it for everyone"


"We didn't offer it to Sarah because, to be honest, timekeeping has always been an issue. She's the sort of person who takes 4 cigarette breaks a day, is frequently late back from her lunch hour and never stays late when we need her at month-end. Her colleagues don't feel she's a team player."

Ensure your candidate has the Right to Work in the UK

This is a statutory requirement, so no excuses.

But be sure to familiarise yourself with the post-Brexit changes and make sure you're only hiring someone with the right to be here, checking any visas thoroughly.

Start how you mean to go on

Making a job offer that's accepted is only the start.

Be sure to provide an appropriate employment contract, have company policies and procedures made available and ensure a thorough induction process.

Only by doing this will your new employee understand what is expected of them from the off. It will reduce communication problems, ensure fairness across your business and shows that you are a professional, organised and transparent business.

This blog was first featured on our website in 2017. It's just as relevant today as it was then, although we've expanded on it.

For help regarding the interview process please see the Clarity free guide for recruiters.

Want more from me? Here are some of the other articles I've put together for you.

Why are job applicants so hard to find?

Make your job advert more appealing:

Contact us now for a free, no-obligation chat. Contact Clare here.

Clare Wight is the founder and Managing Director of Clarity Appointments, an independent recruitment specialist. She served as a Regional Director for The Employment Agents Movement, supporting other independent recruiters.

She remains an active member of Recconnect (formerly Members Only), a recruitment leadership network promoting high ethical standards, collaboration, diversity, equity and inclusion.

She believes business owners are more fulfilled and higher-performing when they provide emotional and professional business support to other business owners, even those they deem to be competitors. She does this actively, whilst challenging and updating her skills and knowledge of the recruitment sector, enabling her to offer the best advice to firms looking to make their next hire.

Interview Management [717.35 KB]