Alison Green, the mastermind behind Ask a Manager, published an old message she recieved from a job seeker. The situation was as follows:

The job seeker found a great job in a city a few hours away. He/she accepted the position, but due to an extensive background checking process, wouldn’t be able to start for about two months. The same job seeker was also offered another position closer to home that started immediately, but it paid less. So the question at hand: Is it acceptable to use this job until the other job and background investigation are done?

9097142_sFor many people in this situation, it would seem like a no brainer – do what you have to do. But for the employer, this is a costly problem that all too many hiring managers are familiar with. So what are you supposed to do to protect yourself from such hires? Ask good interview questions. 

Most job seekers are going to tell you what they think you want to hear. So when you ask, “what is your biggest flaw?” or “what are your greatest weaknesses?” chances are the candidate is already going to have a “good” answer in mind. Now you certainly shouldn’t attempt to catch the candidate off guard – that isn’t going to benefit anyone. But what you should be doing is asking questions that will not only encourage to answer truthfully, but where their non-answers will be just as benefical as their answers.

One way to do this is to ask, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What about in 20 years?” While the candidate’s answer to these questions wouldn’t have alerted the hiring manager in the above situation as to the candidate’s plan to leave the company, it would help the manager to better understand their plans for the future, and be able to determine whether it aligns with the future for the company. 

But the best way to help guard your company against new hires not planning on staying long is to ask:

“How has the job search been treating you so far? What other types of jobs have you been interviewing for? Has anyone issued an offer, or, are any offers pending? As I mentioned earlier, our company’s interview process takes about 3 weeks to complete – does that timeline work for you?”

This would have provided the candidate in the above situation the perfect opportunity to alert Company B than he/she was planning on leaving in two months. While it could have impacted his/her chance of getting the job, it’s very possible that the company would have been willing to hire them on as a temporary employee until a full-time person could be hired. 

Not all candidates are going to be honest, but evaluating the person’s body language and answer to the question can help to alert you to any discomfort potentially caused by an untruthful answer. And at the very least, you’re giving the candidate an opportunity to think about all that is involved in your hiring process, and if it doesn’t fit their needs, they can tell you then and there or follow-up with a call or email. 

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