Beware of extra-charismatic candidates; narcissists are bad for business


When it comes to hiring employees, businesses will go to great lengths to find the best candidates. Hiring the right people can be the difference between a successful company and one that loses money, making it essential that whomever oversees bringing in new people that they find the right candidates.

Here’s an example: Let’s say John has recently applied to your company. After scanning through his resume, you’ve decided that he has the right skills and experience to warrant a further look. From there he passes through the background check and drug screening, and performs well enough on some skill assessments. After that he has several face-to-face interviews with managers at your company, and all of them give their approval. Everything looks good, and so you decide to hire him.

Then, after a couple of weeks, John’s attitude begins to change. His work then suffers as a result, and eventually he begins to clash with executives at the company, ultimately leading to his dismissal. Now your company has wasted time on a bad hire, lost money in the process, and has to start from the beginning again to find another candidate. You had several layers of candidate assessment, so how did John slip through the cracks?

The problem is that candidates like to present their best selves, and this is not always reflective of how they will perform as employees. It’s been found that roughly 38 percent of job applicants embellish on their resumes, meaning that we need to go further when assessing extra-charismatic candidates. But what about those candidates who embellish on the other parts of the job interview process? How do we detect those?

How bad candidates mistakenly get hired

There are a few ways that a bad candidate can get past your screening and assessment. To be blunt, the first is simply that your hiring process is not good enough. Perhaps you didn’t put the candidate through enough testing, or you ignored some warning signs on their resume, or didn’t ask the right questions during the interview process.

If you’ve recently had a bad hire, it’s a good idea to go back over the hiring process and look for any areas where your company might have been lacking. Sometimes when there are multiple steps, people, or departments involved with an important hire, the process can get lost in translation. For instance, maybe an HR generalist is in charge of screening resumes for a new software developer, but they may not fully understand the complexities of the role and consistently and inadvertently ignore candidates who are in fact qualified for the position in question.

The second option why some candidates can get past your assessments is simply due to the employee being a good liar. Some people are able to expertly fake competence and charm their way through interviews. In some cases, this person may even be a classic narcissist – able to use their charisma in order to get what they want. While ideally your hiring process will be able to weed out a person like this, you’d hardly be the first person to be duped.

Pinpointing problems in your hiring process and fixing them

To keep your company from making a bad hire, you’ll need to fix your hiring process. This starts by taking a thorough look at your current practices, and looking for areas of improvement. Perhaps some of your methods are out of date, the questions you ask are ineffective, or your skill assessments are not relevant. Another possibility is that your company does not spend enough money on the hiring process, and that you need more resources in order to do the job properly.

Another option is to use an outside firm to conduct hiring for you. Companies that are dedicated to staffing have the resources to conduct thorough reviews of all candidates, allowing your company to save time and money. Since staffing agencies are only focused on the hiring process, they use the most current methods, interview techniques, and assessments available. A staffing agency will be better able to weed out those candidates who are embellishing on their resumes, or trying to charm their way through the interview process.

Spotting a narcissist

Finally, no matter which way you to decide to go about hiring new staff, you should know the warning signs of a narcissist. Narcissists will seem like great candidates when you meet them, but this is only a show they are putting on for your benefit. They seem to have a special sense for what will impress an audience, and they’ll use this to try and win a job. Here are a few ways to detect a narcissist during the hiring process:

  • They talk about themselves a lot – Pay attention to the conversation you’re having with a person, and see if they mostly talk about themselves, especially if it is in a self-congratulatory way. While self-confidence is good, a person that is over-doing it may be a narcissist.
  • They don’t back down under pressure – During an interview, consider grilling your candidate and really turning up the heat. A narcissist will rise to the occasion, while a non-narcissist will likely stumble and need a moment to collect themselves.
  • Put them in different situations – The more information you can gather on a candidate, the better. See if the candidate acts the same way around you as they do others, or if they are changing their demeanor based on their audience.
  • You notice they hop jobs oftenOne study on narcissists found that narcissism is negatively linked to commitment. Essentially, a narcissist always thinks they can do better. If your candidate job hops a lot, this could mean they quickly become dissatisfied with their work environment and decide to leave.
  • They actually admit to being one – Finally, consider simply asking your candidate if they believe themselves to be narcissistic. One study found that while narcissists are not very empathetic, they are at least honest when it comes to this question.

When noticing a extra-charismatic candidate, proceed with caution

At some point in our lives, all of us have probably fallen for a narcissist’s charms. If you’re lucky, you didn’t form a lasting relationship with this person, as it typically doesn’t end well. When it comes to your company, it is especially important that you weed out the narcissists from your job applicants, as you want to avoid the costs associated with a bad hire. While a narcissist may look good on paper, and even do well in the interviews, eventually the relationship will turn south, and your company will be the one that ends up paying for it.

The solution is to either spend more money and resources improving your current hiring processes, or to let an outside recruiting agency handle it for you. In the end, getting the best people into your company, and avoiding the bad ones, will be well worth your investment.

Photo credit: Strelka Institute photo Design for entrepreneurs: Business models and plans via photopin (license)

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