Have you ever accidentally hired a “not” employee? You know, the kind that you absolutely wish you had not hired: someone who should not be working at your company, is not a good fit, but is also not underperforming and not doing anything so terrible that you have to let them go? I could go on and on about all the ways a “not” employee is just not your best hire ever, but I think you know what I mean. When you bring in an employee that brings down your team’s morale but is also pretty good at his or her job, it can create a tough situation for you and the rest of your team.  Looking strictly at the bottom line, it’s clear to see the value this person brings to your company. But when you zoom out and see the effects this person has on co-workers, it becomes much less clear where the line should be drawn.

So, what’s the best way to handle this kind of employee, who simultaneously propels your company forward and holds it back? The best solution is to not hire a “not” employee in the first place. This can be a tricky thing, since not, all “not” employees have the same issues. There can be many different reasons for not fitting in. Maybe she’s a professional gossiper, or he has an ego that won’t fit in your building. They may be the type to resist change or stir up chaos, but they all have one thing in common: they bring down those around them. Take a look at these four warning signs that may come up in an interview, to help you spot the “not” employee before you welcome him or her on board.

All Roads Lead to “Me”

For many people, interviews are a difficult balance between showcasing their talents and not sounding conceited or like they’re bragging. For some “not” employees, this is not an issue whatsoever. If you inquire about projects featured on their resume and their response is that they single-handedly increased revenue, kept their company from drowning, and brought in 200 new clients, they most likely have an over-abundance of confidence, and those around them are sure to feel its effects. It’s great to be talented, but it’s equally as important to recognize the value of others.

It’s Everyone’s Fault but Mine

While most potential candidates will not come right out and say that their last job ended badly because the entire company staff was plotting to ruin their career, many are thinking along those lines. Okay, I exaggerate a bit, but the truth is that someone who has a million excuses for their tardiness, forgetting to bring a copy of their resume, changing jobs, etc. is likely to have a tendency to point fingers. This type will often do whatever is necessary to make themselves look good, including putting others down, and may create an overly-competitive, every-man-for-himself environment. They whine, control, and belittle others.

The Holdout

In business, change is inevitable. Unfortunately, the buy-in is not. When you bring on an employee who resists change and doesn’t want to grow, it slows the rest of the team down in their endeavors to improve. To spot a holdout, ask about specific experiences, how they handle change, and what complications they’ve faced in the workplace. If you sense you could have a holdout on your hands, be clear about the company’s vision for the future, how you deal with change, and what the expectations are. Sure, there are some people who just need a job (read: any job), but the majority of people want to find something that’s a good fit for them as well. And if they sense that it’s not, they may make the call to not pursue the position further.

Woe Is Me

Let’s face it: some people are just Debbie (or Derek) Downers. Negativity can be toxic to your team, so you must guard against it like it’s the plague. In fact, it can actually become a plague, because sometimes all it takes is one person with a bad attitude and it’s suddenly spreading like it’s contagious. Sometimes in interviews, an attempt to convey professionalism can come off as a sign of being a Debbie Downer but look for a general lack of enthusiasm and phrasing that is inherently negative, such as working a veiled complaint in, even when the answer is positive.

Have you learned the warning signs of a “not” employee from experience? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.

5 Comments

  • Avatar Laurie says:

    I think that’s why a good deal of employers hire for personality but not for the experience and hard skills. Because even when your candidate seems perfect for the position in terms of his/her knowledge and employment history, s/he can be just not cut out to enter your organization, s/he can be just not your employee.

  • Avatar Ann Valenski says:

    Probably we’ve all met such candidates who start complaining about their former boss as soon as they enter the room. This is exactly a ‘not employee’ for me. Because I start picturing myself in the role of a ‘bad boss’ in few years’ time. I’d like my employees to be glad and proud that they’ve worked in my company and not foul the reputation of my company instead.

  • Avatar Tracy Harris says:

    It’s a pity that candidates don’t always do a bit of research before coming to an interview, because if they had they’d known that some kinds of behavior put the interviewer off from the start. These candidates might be very good at what they do, but behaving in a not appropriate for an interview way they put a ‘not employee’ label on themselves.

  • Avatar Brandon says:

    Any advise how to handle a “not” employee who has been with the company awhile? Yes, he/she brings value to the company, but when you zoom out, there are fit or skill issues or they are in the way of someone better from being promoted.

  • Avatar Bob says:

    It’s great to avoid hiring the “Not” in the first place, but the tag lines imply solutions for when you already have one!

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