When should you turn down a qualified job applicant?

Job applicants

You’ve gone out to market with a job ad, had some great candidates apply for your vacancy and arranged interviews with your qualified candidates. In theory, you should have an array of ideal candidates if their resumes state they meet your key criteria.

Alas, our expectations aren’t always met, particularly in the complex world of recruitment. There are times when a qualified candidate still might not be the best fit for your organisation and you should question hiring them. Consider the following scenarios next time you run into a candidate who doesn’t quite match-up to your expectations.

If you question their abilities

Oftentimes, a business owner or hiring manager will say they saw red flags in a candidate before they made an offer. While these red flags are often overlooked with the hope they will work themselves out, this can be a risky strategy. Red flags always come back to haunt you as they often don’t resolve themselves. No matter how qualified a candidate is, do not make a job offer if there are any red flags and other candidates that may be better worth your investment.

When there is no cultural fit

Cultural fit is key to team cohesion, especially in SMEs. It is important new hires believe and support the values of your company and are committed to building its future. You can test whether a candidate has cultural fit by bringing potential employees in for group interviews with the team they would join or ask a variety of personality questions. If they do not mesh, it is usually wise to turn them down.

If their salary expectations don’t match your budget

It is important to have discussions about salary requirements. Sometimes a qualified candidate will request a salary that your business simply cannot pay. Use industry salary standards to determine what your candidates should expect and use it as a tool for salary negotiations. If they are unwilling to compromise, then it is time to choose another candidate.

Saxon Marsden-Huggins is the managing director of Recruit Shop, which offers recruitment services to small businesses in Australia and New Zealand. 


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5 years ago

Hi Saxon,

Great article, thanks. I agree with all your points, especially the point about cultural fit – you can teach someone the finer technical points of a job but without that fit it’s never going to end well. Never be in so much of a hurry to recruit that you take someone who isn’t quite the right fit – it won’t ever save time or money.

I also think it is critical to have more than one person on the panel when interviewing and that way you can be each other’s sounding board and talk through your concerns. For example, my red flag about someone may not be a red flag for the other panel member so being able to discuss this and not necessarily have to rely on your own instinct is always helpful.

It’s always useful to have a structured interview as well, that way you ask the same questions of each candidate (more or less) and can be more objective about the overall outcome.