We’ve all been there before. You exit an interview that more closely resembled a meeting with a motivational speaker. Or maybe a tent revival. You’re overcome by warm feeling of optimism and a sense of genuine excitement. You make the hire, assuming you have your superstar employee of the future. What follows is mediocre performance review after mediocre performance review.
You just got taken in by the “all-talk” candidate. They had the verbal dexterity of an industry-shattering Silicon Valley disruptor. Unfortunately, they had the actual skill level of your average entry-level employee. It’s the recruiting equivalent of a slick politician or an untrustworthy used–car salesman.
How can you prevent this from happening? How can you tell if you candidate is all talk or will actually “walk the walk?” Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Watch for Buzz Words
The central aspect of an all-talk candidate: they can talk. Almost by definition, they will impress you during the interview. The key is to listen closely at what they are saying. Think of it like the close reading of the text of a dense literary novel. Pick apart their words to see what they are really saying…and what they are working hard not to say.
One major red flag comes in the form of buzz words. Watch out for jargon and name-dropping. Sometimes, using these terms comes about as a natural result of intricate industry knowledge. But other times, all-talk candidates use these phrases to mask a deeper lack of understanding.
Identify Red-Flag Verbs
Certain words have concrete definitions. There is no doubt what they mean. Others have vaguer implications. Watch out for these looser-meaning red flag words.
Look for moments when the candidate tries to attach themselves to other people’s achievements. They use words like “contributed to,” “participated in,” or “was part of a team that.” Notice when a candidate’s so-called accomplishments never become reality. Think verbs like “conceived,” “organized,” or “proposed.”
Of course, these terms might point to important contributions on a crucial project. But you should ask for more details. Make sure the information involves an actual individual success for your perspective employee, and not just piggybacking on other’s work or rambling brainstorming that didn’t lead to any meaningful initiative.
Look for Measurable Accomplishments
Some things can’t be faked. Look for accomplishments that can’t be talked into existence. Search for measurable achievements related to the role you’re looking for the candidate to play in your organization.
For example, your candidate claims that they were the “best salesperson” at their previous employer. You can take that with a grain of salt. However, if they won the annual sales prize, that carries more weight. It’s not a qualitative judgement…there’s a material result backing up the claim.
Drill Down on Excuses
Part of an all-talk candidate’s routine comes from their ability to verbally tiptoe around their lack of concrete success. They have the bombast and the force of personality. But their resumes are suspiciously skimpy on significant achievements.
Ask them about this discrepancy, and they always have a reason. (That’s what puts the “talk” in “all-talk candidate.”) They’ll tell you that their employer ran out of money and couldn’t implement their vision. Or office politics got in the way. Or the economic cycle turned against them.
Any one of these excuses could seem plausible in isolation. But you need to drill down on the explanation and determine how much to take them into account.
The recruiting process isn’t perfect. Stellar resumes and awe-inspiring interviews can lead you astray. It helps to have an expert guiding your hiring endeavor. By teaming with a strong staffing agency, like Recruiting In Motion, you maximize your chances of cutting through the fluff and finding a real contributor.