Who’s The Real Person You’re Hiring?

Who’s The Real Person You’re Hiring?

You thought the applicant knocked it out of the park with both his resume and his answers to your interview questions. You interviewed the references he provided. Do you make the offer?

Not so fast. Have you fully checked out the real person behind the resume and interview answers? Have you asked probing questions or just the standard ones? What about the references he didn’t provide? If you search him out on social media, will you find posts that shock you?

If you limit your reference-checking to only the references your applicant provides, remember the state department head whose candidacy tumbled January 23rd when an unsolicited but key reference surfaced. If you don’t believe you need to check social media, remember the candidate that appeared to be a shoo-in for a Board of Regents appointment until her slam against Senator Lisa Murkowski, “You posturing with a parade of rape victims is doing nothing relevant. Get your s**t together,” torpedoed her candidacy January 31st.

If you’ve ever been fooled by a job applicant you’ve taken at face value, try the following next time:

Ask non-standard interview questions

When clients ask me to vet out-of-state candidates before they bring them up for in-person interview, I expect the applicants to  voice excitement about Alaska. So I ask “would you be more interested in a job offer from a company in L.A. or Portland”? If they respond L.A., I ask “how come?” If they answer, “more opportunities,” I then ask, “San Francisco or Seattle?” If they answer “San Francisco because it’s more cosmopolitan,” it makes me doubt their long-term interest in Anchorage.


Many were shocked recently when the candidacy of a nominee for one of Alaska’s most significant state offices crumbled after questioning. In hindsight, the questions seem obvious for an applicant touting his entrepreneurial prowess – when did you sell your stake in the business and who were your co-investors?  The candidate named a year and credited his high school friend as his co-investor – except, he didn’t own the business.

Avoid being fooled by someone’s façade by asking questions that takes interviews from surface to in-depth. For example, ask your applicant “when I call your last supervisor, what will she tell me about you?” and “if you took this job, hoping it would be an ‘A’ job, what are the small disappointments that would tell you it was really a ‘B+’ job?”

Dig into reference information

Most employers don’t adequately question references. A thorough reference check contacts the references not listed as well as those listed by the applicant and lasts at least fifteen minutes. I won’t soon forget my uneasiness when interviewing a subsidiary manager accused of sexual harassment while conducting an investigation for a new client. On impulse, I asked for the manager’s resume and conducted my own reference check, although my client insisted they’d conducted one pre-hire. When I asked one reference, “how long did you supervise him and in what capacity,” the vagueness of the answer bothered me so I probed further. The glowing reference came from a supervisor at a prison library where both were inmates.

Check out your candidate on social media

You can’t afford to ignore social media, it can reveal whether your candidate can present herself professionally; discrepancies with her resume or application; whether she’s viciously bad-mouthed past employers and even her involvement in illegal activities.

Vetting job candidates on social media opens Pandora’s Box. You learn information that federal and state laws don’t allow you to consider, such as the applicant’s race, family status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age, and medical conditions. Further, if your applicant has a common name, you may find posts authored by someone other than your candidate, leading you to assess the wrong individual.

Manage these risks by making social media vetting part of the reference and background check process and by focusing on job-related characteristics, such as verification of work history, education and credential, memberships and other criteria important to the position and ignoring anything related to protected categories. You can find this information in blog posts, press releases and other media mentions. If a post showing questionable judgment leads you to make a no-hire decision, make a screen shot of the post along with the URL.

If you haven’t searched out your candidate on LinkedIn, or Twitter and haven’t asked in-depth questions of the applicant and his references, remember this – avoiding a bad hire is one hundred times easier than getting rid of a problem employee.

© 2018, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully” and founded The Growth Company, an Avitus company. Curry is now a Regional Director of Training and Business Consulting at Avitus Group. Send your questions to her at Lcurry@avitusgroup.com, follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10 or at www.workplacecoachblog.com.

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