No practice ever sets out to hire the wrong employee, but it still happens for a variety of reasons.

Unclear expectations, personality clashes, poor cultural fit, and a lack of suitable skills or training can lead to low staff satisfaction and high turnover. But what happens when a bad hire turns out to be truly toxic?

Toxic behaviour poisons the atmosphere, affecting everyone on the team.

Research reveals:

Having just one toxic staff member on a team of 20 makes the 19 “good” employees 54% more likely to seek employment elsewhere.

Prevent Problems Before They Start
By the time you identify toxic behaviour in an employee it’s too late; the damage to your team and your practice may already be done.

Prevent problems before they start by screening for red flag issues during the interview process.

Watch for these critical behaviours from candidates; each is a strong indicator of toxic personality traits:

  • Over-confidence and cockiness
  • Exaggerating skills and accomplishments
  • Rude or disrespectful behaviour towards those not involved in the interview: the parking lot attendant, receptionist, your office assistant, etc.
  • Arriving late for the interview
  • Badmouthing past employers and co-workers
  • Blaming others for poor results and difficult work situations rather than taking responsibility

Ask the Right Interview Questions
Asking the right interview questions is key to identifying potential problems. Don’t just settle for the first answer, which may have been prepared in advance.

Encourage candidates to give two or three different examples when answering each of the questions below:

  1. Describe three times when you had to deal with stress or conflict at work. What did you do?
  2. When have you failed at a task? Describe how you handled two or three different circumstances and what you learned from the experience.
  3. What kind of people do you find it most difficult to work with? Tell me about three different experiences in which you had to handle difficult people at your job.
  4. What three words would your former manager use to describe you?
  5. What three words would your former subordinates use to describe you?
  6. Describe three situations in which you showed exceptional leadership skills

Do Your Due Diligence
The best way to avoid hiring a toxic employee is to do your due diligence.

Check credentials and qualifications carefully and follow up with multiple references – both personal and professional.

As well, turn to your own network of sources who should know the candidate: former coworkers, past clients, or those in the same social circle as your potential hire.

As with the interview process, asking the right reference questions provides key insight into possible personality conflicts or areas where the applicant’s values don’t align with those of your practice:

  1. How well did he/she collaborate with others?
  2. How did subordinates feel about reporting to him/her?
  3. Did the candidate’s behavior ever reflect negatively on your organization?
  4. Would you re-hire him/her if the opportunity arose?

Screen for Fit First
There’s no way around it; hiring a toxic employee is a costly mistake.

The best way to avoid it is to attract the right candidates and screen for “fit” at every stage of the hiring process.

That’s why we created, a unique platform which uses cutting-edge behavioural science to help practices like yours take the guesswork out of hiring.

We identify the traits most critical for success in your position – and most likely to indicate potential problems – and pre-screen applicants for you. You’ll receive a detailed analysis for each candidate, ranking them in order of likely fit with your mission, values and specific position description.

We even provide a customized interview guide that tells you exactly what to ask each applicant to ensure they are the right fit for your role.



Jan is the co-founder and president of Fit First Technologies, a company that applies its predictive analytics to the task of matching people to roles. Those algorithms drive platforms such as TalentSorter, FitFirstJobs and, which are relied upon by organizations to screen high volumes of candidates for “fit” in their open positions.


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It’s no secret that “fit” is one of the most important characteristics to assess when evaluating potential new hires.

At, we believe so strongly in the value of measuring fit first, we built an entire platform designed to help practice owners and managers do just that.  But should fit ever trump experience?

Let’s be clear; the ideal candidate should be both qualified AND a good fit for the role and your office culture.

Recommending that employers hire for cultural fit is not the same as recommending that practices hire unqualified or incompetent applicants.

Nobody benefits from that scenario. But if you have a choice between a highly-experienced candidate who is a poor fit, and a candidate who is an excellent fit, but less experienced, who would you hire?

Qualifications Still Matter – To a Point

Most job postings include a list of required academic credentials, professional experience and skills – and with good reason.

Your practice needs employees with the fundamental knowledge and skill to perform the tasks expected in their role.

Training is time-, cost- and labour-intensive so it makes sense to prioritize the more experienced candidates who should require less time and less training to get up to speed.

However it’s important to note that while any employee can learn new skills, processes and procedures, cultural fit isn’t something which can be taught.

When Experience is a Disadvantage

A landmark 2009 study set out to examine the links between experience and job performance, expecting that prior related experience in a previous role would lead to better performance in the new role.

In fact, the results showed that any benefits of that prior job experience were completely negated by poor cultural fit.

While employees bring the skills and experience workers gained at previous positions to their new jobs, they may also bring with them certain expectations, routines, patterns of behaviour and fixed ways of thinking that prevent them from adapting successfully to the new work environment.

Why Fit Matters More

Numerous studies of employee engagement have identified a strong correlation between culture and performance.

  1. 83% of executives and 84% of employees ranked motivated and engaged employees as the #1 factor contributing to a company’s success. (Deloitte)
  2. Candidates who are a good fit are 20% more likely to become top performers (Achievers)
  3. New hires who are a good fit are 27.2% less likely to leave during their first 18 months of employment. (Achievers)
  4. Over a period of seven years, companies with more engaged workers grew revenue 2.5x as much as companies with less engaged workers. ( Bain & Company)
  5. Happy employees are 12% more productive. (Fast Company)

Fit with office culture is a defining feature of employee success, which leads to financial success.

Focusing on fit over experience when hiring doesn’t mean compromising on essential skills.

It means committing to finding employees who will support your company’s vision and providing them with the tools and training which they need to succeed.




Jan is the co-founder and president of Fit First Technologies, a company that applies its predictive analytics to the task of matching people to roles. Those algorithms drive platforms such as TalentSorter, FitFirstJobs and, which are relied upon by organizations to screen high volumes of candidates for “fit” in their open positions.


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