How Do You Know When to Walk Away From a Potential Hire?

Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 18 years and the economy is experiencing its longest streak of month-to-month job growth, Forbes reports. So, what does this mean for employers? Pressure to fill positions fast.

Filling positions quickly can be dangerous, but prolonged searches come with real costs, too. The more time you spend in interviews and putting an offer together, the more pressure to close the deal. Kelly Kinnard, vice president of talent at Battery Ventures, says sometimes you need to walk away from a great-on-paper hire. 

“As expensive and frustrating as it is to go through a long search, it’s even more expensive to hire the wrong person and watch them flame out,” Kinnard says.

Kinnard suggests five signs it might be time to walk away from that almost-right hire:

1. You can’t agree on compensation.
Hiring managers need to understand what really motivates a candidate. Although new laws prevent some states from asking about a person’s current compensation, you should try to determine whether they’re focused most on salary, or whether more equity, improved work-life balance, or incentives can boost their package.

Kinnard suggests that employers do market research on current compensation levels. Is the candidate’s salary demand reasonable in the current market? If so, then expect to pay accordingly or look elsewhere.

2. A key member of the hiring team raises a red flag.
Often times, companies let too many people weigh in during the hiring process. Four or five key people max should have a say in the decision, she says. Respect your team’s instincts about a candidate. Every interaction they’ve had with you is a data point. Don’t ignore this important information.

3. The candidate isn’t serious about the job.
We all know some candidates use offers as leverage with their current employers – there’s nothing you can do about that. However, gauge seriousness of the candidate from the first meeting. Don’t forget the importance of selling your company to the candidate – the market favors them, and they might be perfectly happy where they are, Kinnard says. 

As the process moves forward, note the candidate’s responsiveness. Are they asking detailed questions about the work environment? After interviews, are their follow-up emails insightful, showing they’re picturing themselves as part of your team? 

4. The logistics won’t work out.
If the job involves a heavy commute, a lot of travel, or a relocation, it’s acceptable to ask candidates frank questions about these potential deal-killers, Kinnard says. Never assume a logistical hurdle will prevent a deal, but seriously discuss these issues with the candidate before you get too far into the process. Is it possible you could find a way around the issue and save the hire? Don’t be afraid to walk away if your gut tells you the issue is insurmountable.

5. The candidate is a talented jerk.
Don’t ignore how an abrasive, albeit talented, personality can impact the company. Talented jerks can break your team, so be on the alert for unpleasant tendencies. Charles Schwab CEO Walter Bettinger invites final-round candidates to breakfast - but first, he asks the waiter to mess up the candidate’s order on purpose, Kinnard says. Why? To test their problem-solving and communication skills in a grace-under-pressure situation. It’s a good way to sort out challenging and/or overly passive candidates. 

The hiring process is full of opportunities to find out what a candidate will be like to work with down the road. These interactions, both big and small, will help you determine if this hire is right for the job. Pay attention to what these five signs tell you, she says.