Knockout Factors When Hiring
The literature is rife with articles, books, blogs, magazines, and online posts on the art of interviewing and hiring. How to interview, what to look for, what questions to ask, use of psychoanalytic tools, and reference checking can all be part of the process.

The intent of this post on hiring is to provide some food for thought on what are the factors that should eliminate someone from consideration, even if on all the other factors they appear to be qualified. Needless to say, the type of job, the level of seniority, and whether it is a management or individual contributor will determine if these make sense in your hiring environment.

I also suspect that what one considers a knockout factor someone else will consider an attribute. It is also important to note that, of course, none of these are absolute. The objective is to weed out applicants who have a lower probability of success earlier in the interview process. I hope this creates some discussion and debate, which leads to slightly better and more efficient hiring programs.

Knockout Factors

I interviewed about a dozen hiring managers with decades of experience who have cumulatively hired thousands of people. Here are some of their anonymous responses.

First job is post-college

This hiring manager felt that there was too much risk in hiring someone who has never had a job. They potentially had too much handed to them and there is no way to ensure how effective they will be in the workplace. Let them walk.

Significant decrease in income

This is one my knockouts. In my experience, we all feel we deserve whatever the highest level of income and responsibility we have attained. We may take the lower paying, lower title job, but the minute we can get back to our previous level, we will be gone. Time to pass.

Cannot access a back-door reference

This CEO just does not trust references provided by the applicant. If he is unable to find a credible backdoor source, he will not hire. This one bites the dust.

Recent significant life event (divorce, death in the family, layoff)

We all experience life’s challenges, applicants who are still in the throngs of one of these moments has a lower probability of success. Catch them later.

Significant reduction in job title

Once someone has been the boss, the VP, the GM, CEO or whatever level, much like income, it is challenging for many to go backward. While the applicant may state that the title does not matter, do not underestimate someone’s pride. Thanks, but no thanks.

Relocation away from friends and family

This one is rather obvious. The applicant may indicate that relocating to a new state or region is ok, but if they have spent their entire life in the same town, they may look to return at the first opportunity. See ya.

Desk job for someone who has always been a road warrior

This was one of my knockouts when I was building sales teams of Inside and Outside Sales Professionals. I found that someone who had spent most of their career in an outside role struggled with sitting at a desk all day and the skills that good Inside Reps use do not always translate outside. Here’s the door.

Unprepared for the interview

Perhaps, this the most obvious knockout of all. It was suggested by many of the hiring managers I interviewed. If the applicant did not take the time to prepare for the interview, move on!

Do not treat the support staff with respect

One manager, who put applicants through an extensive hiring process, always included the receptionist in the analysis and review of the candidate. The receptionist was rarely wrong in assessing good versus poor hires. Hit the road, Jack.

Appear desperate

When someone is trying too hard, appears to be in financial distress, over communicates, it is a red flag that something is driving this behavior. The specifics do not matter. Walk away.

Introduce taboo subjects in the interview process

Did the application bring up religion, politics, or some other potentially divisive topic during the interview? This clearly speaks to judgment. Given the polarizing nature of contemporary politics, if someone is voicing their positions, even if they agree with you, run, don’t walk.

Lack of humility

If an applicant cannot describe mistakes or efforts of judgment made in previous roles, they are either not being truthful or are delusional. Head for the hills.

Embellishments on their resume

Most of us use our resume or LinkedIn profile to “spin” a good story on our past accomplishments. However, if they cross the line from spin to misrepresentation, thank them for their time.

8 AM

A CEO who hires financial services sales pros said anyone who said they roll into the office at 8 AM was an instant goner.

What are your hiring knockout factors?

These are some of our ideas. What are yours? Agree or disagree with these knockout factors? Let us know. We enjoy a healthy debate.

Warren Dodge

Highly accomplished entrepreneur and senior executive with 30+ years of success in healthcare services, IT, software, pharmaceutical distribution, and group purchasing. He has a proven record of raising capital, developing products as well as sales and marketing strategies, negotiating strategic partnerships, and positioning companies for acquisition to ensure positive returns for shareholders.


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