When it comes to hiring the right candidate, how do you know for certain if they are a good match for your needs? You might have felt like you’ve found the perfect new employee, only to find that despite a solid resume, smooth interviews, and a good recommendation or two, they’re gone within a year (or less), leaving you holding the bag yet again. 

So you might be wondering where you went wrong. Maybe you’re thinking that next time out you should go through a staffing professional. The reality is, a trained, experienced recruiter can  identify key candidate archetypes and thus help you avoid costly misfires. 

Simply put, the wrong candidates fall into three basic categories, what I’ll call ‘hoppers’, ‘shoppers’ and ‘duds’.  The problem is, what remains may not be a good fit for your needs, either, but once you know some of the common red flags, avoiding the avoidable ones should become easier. 


Hoppers are just as the word implies: these are the candidates who don’t stick around at a job for any length of time. They get bored easily and tend to move on when the job doesn’t present a challenge anymore. 

Recognizing them seems easy. Their resume will show short stints at various different jobs. Right off the top, you’ll probably wonder what that implies, and it’s worth finding out. The “not-easy” part is asking: are there credible reasons for their short stints? Or if not, can you leverage their brilliance by keeping them active and happy? 

Truth is these candidates can be brilliant for short term, project-based stuff. If that’s your need, then hiring them could actually work out well. But you don’t want to start depending on somebody for the long-term only to get the carpet yanked out from under you. Keeping them interested may also be more trouble than it’s worth. If you don’t have the time to manage such a personality, maybe it’s not a good fit after all, no matter how good they look otherwise. 


As recruiters, we can identify a shopper immediately. They are, essentially, passive job seekers who may still be firmly ensconced at their current job. Most of the time, they aren’t even looking for a new position, so really they are just wasting your time. Shoppers quickly ask questions about transactional things like salary, schedule, and title. 

So draw a shopper out by calling their bluff: I like to call it strip-lining, a term that comes from fishing. You let the candidate swim away before reeling her or him back in. It’s about playing to their ego and giving them the opportunity to end the interview quickly. If the money or title is make-or-break, it clarifies whether they are really in the market or just kicking tires. If you make a move to kill the deal and they jump back in the boat, you might have just landed your diamond in the rough. 


Duds. They are always easy to spot, right? Wrong. Have you defined what a dud is for you? If not, then a recruiter can’t do it for you. Said ‘dud’ may be cleverly disguised as the ideal candidate, presenting the perfect combination of appearance, affability, assertiveness, and articulateness, also known as ‘the four A’s’. Here are a few things to watch for if you want to get past first impressions and avoid a dud:

  1. Don’t be fooled by a good first impression. It doesn’t automatically mean that they will be good for the position. Keep in mind that the only measure of a candidate is their track record, and make your decisions based on real data. 
  2. Don’t ignore the situational and cultural fit. If the candidate is not going to be a good fit with the person who is overseeing their position, it will never work no matter how ‘great’ they are. 
  3. Motivation to get the job is not the same as motivation to get the job done. Make sure the candidate knows exactly what the position entails before moving forward. 
  4. Soft skills are just as important as technical skills. A person can be absolutely brilliant at the one thing they are hired to do, but if they aren’t working alone and can’t get along in a team environment, they’re never going to be a good fit. 
  5. Don’t rush to judge. While first impressions count, a negative first impression can sometimes be turned around by asking the right questions. Tie your questions to the actual job your candidate will be doing, and don’t avoid asking tough questions of the candidates you like the best. 

Say it with me: “No more hoppers, shoppers, or duds!” There, don’t you feel better already?

What’s Left Over?

So now that you’ve made your way through a long list of potential candidates and weeded out the dreck, what’s left? In a practical sense, hiring the right candidate means finding that person who is the best match for your needs. It’s a delicate balance of skill, experience, personality, passion, and work ethic – plus being clear about what’s essential and where you can tolerate shortcomings. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re getting closer to the goal:

  1. Don’t rush the process just to fill the position. You might be in a hurry, but a bad hire can cost you more in the long run. Take your time and find the right person. Having clearly identified what the standards of the job are – beyond the skill requirements – you will be better able to ‘know’ the right candidate when you meet them. 
  2. Act quickly if you realize you’ve made a mistake. A bad hire doesn’t only cost you, it costs the team as a whole. The best thing you can do for everybody involved is to fix the mistake as soon as possible. Think of it as a compassionate act. 
  3. Look for core values first. Most companies hire for experience and skills and then fire for not aligning with company culture and core values. Turn that paradigm upside down and you’ll be more in line with what might actually work. 

How a good recruiter or search firm can help

Polaris Placement specializes in recruiting for the healthcare field, though our insights extend effective recruiting to all industries and business sectors. We work with hiring managers to improve the chances of on-boarding a professional who will go the distance. 

With the right healthcare recruitment strategy, you can avoid the candidates who don’t intend to stick with your company, who are passively job seeking, and who are just plain incompetent. Let Polaris help you find a qualified hire that will add to your value proposition.

Contact us today.