Key traits to look out for in the interview process that can help predict whether someone is going to eventuate as a toxic employee

Toxic employees – they aren’t new to any workplace and we’ve all had to work with one. They’re the person who isn’t prepared to help out others, they’re constantly late, and only seem to bring negative thoughts to the table. While these employees can be frustrating for everyone to work with, the impacts go far beyond a headache by the end of the day. Research from Cornerstone OnDemand’s ‘Toxic Employees in the Workplace’ report shows toxic employees make their colleagues 54 per cent more likely to quit, and also cost employers up to three times more in hiring fees – approximately. 

While any worker may exhibit some of these poor traits on a bad day, toxic employees are consistently unreliable, and at their worst, these employees’ ‘toxic behaviours’ can involve misconduct, workplace violence, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual harassment, fraud, and more company policy violations. So, can HR managers can avoid hiring these employees? Can they save themselves and the rest of the company time, frustration and unnecessary costs – whilst also retaining the right talent – before it’s too late?

Short answer: yes. Cornerstone OnDemand’s research pinpoints some of the key traits to look out for in the interview process that can help predict whether someone is going to eventuate as a toxic employee.

1. Watch out for “rule followers” 
Candidates who present themselves as self-proclaimed “rule followers” were found to be, in fact, more likely to break the rules. Those who endorsed this option in the research were 33% more likely to be terminated for a policy violation. 

2. Over-confidence with technical proficiencies 
Got someone who’s boasting about their excellent computer skills? Watch out. Individuals who were notably over-confident about their technical ability were found to be 43% more likely to exhibit toxic behaviours.

3. Productive attitude, but not in the right way
Toxic employees are shown to be more productive than their non-toxic counterparts, but for them the focus is different. Toxic employees are all about quantity of work over quality, suggesting they have a stronger impact on voluntary attrition than on day-to-day performance, which may lead to long-term effects of stress and burnout.

While more likely to occur in larger teams, toxic employees enter and affect small and large organisations alike. Using an online system that can easily predict these candidates before they enter the organisation should bring relief to employers. Many options are available, from screening surveys on company websites to Cornerstone OnDemand’s own solutions. While some of the options may have costs associated with them, the company is bound to save money on hiring costs in the long run by eliminating those likely to become toxic. 

Click here to read Cornerstone OnDemand's report on civil service recruitment


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