Toxic Behaviors and How to Identify Them in an Interview

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Whenever you’re faced with the task of interviewing new candidates for your company, we’re certain that one thing you look for is their ability to easily integrate with your existing team. You want to make sure they are the right fit and not someone you’ll regret choosing because they winded up being a bad hire.

Hiring the wrong person can have great repercussions on your company’s budget and the morale of your team. That’s why it is so important that you’re able to recognize possible toxic behaviors in candidates, so you can weed them out before they can do any harm.

But before we dive into recognizing them, let’s define a toxic worker. There’s no standard definition but most recruiters would agree that a toxic worker is someone who disrupts the proper functionality of your team. In other words, someone who makes the life and work of your staff harder than it needs to be. They have been known to damage company culture and image, cost money or, in some extreme cases, sexually harass or threaten the lives of their coworkers.

This type of workers always manages to put a negative spin on almost any situation, they are quick to shift the blame for their shortcomings on anyone else, and will rarely admit their mistakes.

So, how can you spot a potentially toxic worker and save yourself the trouble?

It all comes down to the interview. There are some key questions you can ask during this stage of the hiring process that will definitely let you know who you’re really dealing with ─as well as some attitude issues you should look out for. So, let’s dive into it.

1. Ask them about difficult situations in their past jobs and how they dealt with them. Toxic people love to play the victim. Remember, nothing that goes wrong will ever be their fault! If they tell you a story about how everyone else in their previous job was completely useless and a waste of space, you may have a toxic person in front of you. Don’t believe any story about how they were the only ones trying to do their job, but couldn’t because others wouldn’t let them

2. Ask negative questions. Toxic people thrive on the negative side of things. If you ask them about the things that they didn’t like about their previous job they will go on and on forever. When you ask this question, you want to hear a quick, concise, and objective answer, not an overdramatic tale of incompetence and betrayal.

3. Ask positive questions. Leave it to a toxic person to put a negative spin on anything, even good things. Psychologically speaking, it is preferable to first ask about negatives and then positive aspects of previous jobs. The good aspects will act as a mental palate cleanser and leave the person on a positive state of mind. When you ask a candidate about the things they like the most about their previous job, there are two ways a potentially toxic worker would answer: one would be to simply list trivial and superficial things like office parties or free stuff they’d get; the other is to start off with positive things, and then somehow shift the conversation back to the negative aspects.

4. Ask about team accomplishments. While toxic people love to shift the blame on other people when something goes wrong, they also adore taking all the credit when things go right. Chances are that teamwork is a big deal for your company, so you need to make sure that you bring in a real team player. Whether they were the leader of the team, or just a regular member at their previous job, a toxic person will always claim that every good thing that happened was only because of them.

5. An overly-inflated ego. It is a common trait of toxic people to put themselves on a very high pedestal, while holding everyone else in very low regard. We’re talking about people that rarely think about how their actions affect others, and we’re sure that’s not a trait you’re looking for in your next hire. There’s also the matter of overconfidence to the point of arrogance and it is often easy to detect those qualities.

And there you have it! Five simple ways to help you weed out toxic workers during the interview. Avoiding this type of people will ensure that you are protecting not only your company’s interests, but also those of your existing employees.

Edu Rojas
Content Marketing Editor at Neuvoo