How to Avoid Bad Hires in 7 Easy Steps

Hiring good people is… hard.

Really hard, expensive ($), time-consuming—and even risky.

(It’s one reason I’m so proud of what we’re building here at AutoGrow. 

It’s because we address this problem by letting our clients skip all that and get their marketing tasks and projects done.)

So anyway, like I was saying, you’re taking a real risk every time you look for applicants to fill a job opening for your company.

And actually, the cost of a bad hire can end up being nearly $15,000 for some positions (and that doesn’t count impact on brand, reputation, team morale…).

Excuses, late submissions, lack of communication skills, bad attitude—in the end it all comes down to spotting several key red flags early in the process.

Knowing those red flags to watch out for can help you save time, headaches, money and grow your team with only talented, business-driven people.

In today’s article, I’ll tell you…

  • The 7 red flags you must pay attention to when filtering candidates in your hiring funnel.
  • How you could end up stuck in second gear if you don’t avoid those red flags (not to mention the thousands of dollars you’ll waste).
  • And why bad hiring decisions can be the most expensive mistakes you can make in your business.

Ready to start weeding out bad hires from your hiring funnel?

In a rush? Want to download this article as a PDF so you can easily take action on it later? Click here to download this article as a PDF guide.



Red Flag #1 to Avoid in Potential Bad Hires: Lame Excuses for Not Submitting Their Work Sample or Skill Test on Time

This red flag is very typical.

How many times have you heard excuses from potential hires on why they “can’t” complete a task on time?

Here at Autogrow, we hear those excuses all the time.

But listen, someone really interested in working for your company will fit into it like the missing puzzle piece you’ve been desperately looking for.

Candidates who are eager to make it into your organization won’t use excuses to get there.

They’ll make it work no matter what.

A study by CMD Recruitment shows that 76% of employers say that attracting quality candidates is their biggest challenge.

Hiring? Not an easy process…

We’ve actually also listed some of the top cheap and affordable job posting sites to help you optimize your hiring funnel.

Because we know it’s tough. It’s tough hiring “the one.”

That’s why we actually take the headaches of hiring off of your plate. 

With AutoGrow, you don’t get to hire—you get to delegate work to us through our web app.

But if you prefer hand-picking your hires, then the first red flag you must avoid is lame excuses given to not complete a work sample on the given date.

Giving excuses so early in the hiring process shows:

  • Lack of flexibility
  • Lack of commitment
  • And lack of interest

There’s a Chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

To put it simply, someone who’s really interested in making it to your team won’t come up with excuses. At least not so early in the process. 

Not filtering those bad apples could affect your business. 

U.S. corporations spend nearly $72 billion each year on hiring.

In fact, nearly 3 in 4 employers have been affected by a bad hire according to a CareerBuilder survey.

But don’t be too harsh on yourself, it happens to most companies.

As a matter of fact, 74% of employers say they’ve hired the wrong person according to Career Builder.


And the average cost of a bad hire is nearly $15,000 according to CareerBuilder.

We recently assigned an on-spec project to a content writer applicant.

When given the deadline, the candidate immediately agreed. But right before she was supposed to submit the completed project, an excuse came up…

We made the mistake (yes, it was a mistake on our part) of being flexible and agreeing on pushing the deadline.

You know, we were trying to be nice and understanding.

But to make a long story short, when the completed on-spec project was submitted, it wasn’t good. It was like, really bad…

And when we pointed out those issues to her, she admitted it and agreed she didn’t do her best.

We have seen a lot of people giving excuses or ghosting lately.

Like a month ago, after revising a Digital Marketing Strategist’s application, we decided to move forward with her.

We even assigned her the on-spec project which she agreed to but… she ghosted us.

She never messaged us on why she had not completed the project.

And last week, she actually messaged us basically saying sorry and asking us if she could reapply…

Again, someone who’s genuinely interested in working with you and your company will move heaven and earth to do so.

What I’m getting at here is that people genuinely interested in working with you will 1) comply with the work sample deadline you set up for them, and 2) do their best to prove to you why you should hire them.

After all, they should want to be hired more than you wanting to hire them.

Red Flag #2 to Avoid in Potential Bad Hires: Refuse to Not Complete the Work Sample If They Don’t Get Paid for It

Salary is the #1 reason why employees change jobs according to a recent Glassdoor survey.


Money is important to both employers and employees.

In fact, 58% of employees say they would not apply to work for a company where there is a pay gap according to Glassdoor.

And 75% of passive candidates are more difficult to hire because they tend to respond at much lower rates according to CMD Recruitment.

People are simply often driven by money and your applicants won’t be the exception.

But the challenge here is, you must aim to hire business-driven people.

People who would help you grow your organization and strengthen your team with ideas, enthusiasm, and constructive feedback.

People who won’t expect to be paid for a work sample AND actually refuse to move forward in your hiring funnel.

Attracting those types of people isn’t a piece of cake, sure. Otherwise, all companies would only have perfect hires (which is a bit unrealistic).

But the bottom line is you should avoid considering applicants with that mindset.

Odds are they’ll eventually get fired or quit anyway.

In fact, according to a study by Leadership IQ, 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within the first 18 months. And only 19% will achieve resounding success.

This means you should always, always avoid people who would refuse to complete a work sample if they won’t be compensated for it.

Because at the end, a work sample is a win-win solution.

It’s where applicants prove how worthy they are of being hired (like free promotion). And in return, they get hired (and compensated) with possibilities of long term scaling.

With a work sample, both sides win.

Employers gain a new hire who will bring in talent and skills to the organization, and employees gain consistent compensation for their talent and learning opportunities.

But yeah, finding talented applicants who would be willing to complete a work sample with no compensation PLUS great abilities and skills is rare to find.

In fact, according to LinkedIn, 92% of employers say that soft skills are equally or more important than hard skills. 


And 89% said that when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s because they lack critical soft skills.


So when a candidate only talks about compensation and benefits, you should immediately be wary. 

Working for an organization isn’t always just about money. 

It’s also about finding a team member who is truly passionate about the work and the company. 

Red Flag #3 to Avoid in Potential Bad Hires: Late Submission of Work Sample or Skill Test 

An applicant’s first commitment to your company will be to submit their work sample on time.

That’s actually our second step in our hiring system.

A work sample evaluation or skill test is the most effective assessment method because it shows 29% of an employee’s performance according to Furst Person.


But if an applicant isn’t able to submit this first task on time, consider that a major red flag.

Because it’s like a promise they made with you that they can’t break but they’re breaking.

And by doing so they’re being irresponsible and disloyal to you and your company.

Someone who’s eager to work with you won’t put up with excuses.

So don’t waste your precious time with an applicant who is late for any work submission during the hiring process.

Red Flag #4 to Avoid in Potential Bad Hires: Showing Up Late to the Interview (or Not Showing Up at All)

Don’t you get annoyed whenever you make time for an appointment, or you simply go to a place to meet someone and the other person is late, or even worse, doesn’t show up at all?

We all do.

It’s annoying. It’s disrespectful. It’s time-consuming.

With all the talent competition out there, the thirst for wanting to be hired by a company should be more than a goal for applicants.

It should be a competition or a race against other candidates. 

Because from X number of candidates, only one will make it.

Like a funnel where you add a bunch of people, and only a few will make it to the end.

And as Glassdoor puts it, from 250 resumes, an average of 4 to 6 will be called for an interview and only one will be offered the job.


This should be a race your applicants want to win fast.

In fact, the average length of a job interview process takes 27.5 days according to CMD Recruitment. 

That’s a lot of time you’re investing and that you can’t simply afford to waste.

And luckily, nowadays a lot of companies are leaning more towards hiring a team virtually.

That actually means less time invested in the hiring process.

No driving to a place to meet someone, no calling on the phone to schedule a meeting—it can all be done online.

In fact, it is estimated that there will be an increase of 50% in the number of remote employees this year according to MarketWatch.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. companies have employees that work remotely. And more than 35% of the U.S. workforce are freelancers according to Forbes.


And research indicates that remote work will equal, if not surpass, fixed office locations by 2025 according to CNBC.


As data shows, remote work is ruling the hiring process worldwide.

It has plenty of advantages.

In fact, there has been a 13% increase in productivity in employees who work from home according to LinkedIn.


So if an applicant is eager to work from home and be hired by an awesome company like yours, then showing up on time to the interview has to be the rule.

Bad hires often hold this huge red flag—being late to interviews with hiring managers or simply ghosting you entirely.

Bad hires will put out lame excuses on why they couldn’t make it to the interview.

“Sorry, I got the time wrong.”

“Sorry, there was a lot of traffic.”

Occasionally, a candidate may have an unavoidable excuse for being late for a job interview. 

But more often tardiness may be a sign a person isn’t reliable, disciplined, or respectful.

And it’s not about not empathizing with the person. It’s about not accepting behaviors that could potentially hurt your business.

Chances are if you hire someone who’s late for their first interview, they’ll be late for calls with clients too.

Red Flag #5 to Avoid in Potential Bad Hires: Zero Knowledge About the Company or the Job Position They’re Applying for

Do candidates know your company’s mission? 

Have they read your website? 

Do they know what products or services your business sells? 

Did they read the full job description? 

Those are all questions you must be answering yes to right now.

In fact, 3 in 4 employers say it’s easier to attract top talent when the candidate knows about your organization. This according to CMD Recruitment.

And job seekers also want to know about your company.

In fact, 89% of applicants believe it’s important for employers to have a clear mission according to Glassdoor.

This is great because 77% of U.S. adults think that companies are becoming more mission-driven. And this could help companies stay at the top of mind for job seekers.

That’s why a potential hire must be well-informed prior to being interviewed.

They must know basic information from your company if they’re truly interested in working with your organization.

If you’re a credible and legitimate company (which I’m sure you are), applicants should have easy access to this information on your website or social media platforms.

So be sure to ask a lot of questions about your company to the applicant during your interview to see how well they know your business.

Lack of preparation for the interview and lack of research could mean they didn’t put the time or effort to prepare for the interview.

Red Flag #6 to Avoid in Potential Bad Hires: Doesn’t Follow Instructions for the Work Sample

45% of employers say they can’t find the workers with the skills they need according to Manpower Group.

It’s tough finding skilled and talented candidates.

But if an applicant doesn’t follow clear instructions for a work sample, don’t be so hopeful that that won’t be the case when they’re hired.

Following instructions and guidelines should be an easy skill or ability to test.

And when you revise your applicant’s skill test or work sample, make sure to filter the ones who weren’t able to get the instructions right.

If something is unclear in the skill test or if they have any questions, they can reach out to you for guidance and clarity.

Remember, the cost of hiring the wrong person could be really high (nearly $15,000). And that’s money that comes out of your pocket.


We assigned an on-spec project once to a content writer.

We shared the training with her and a very detailed and specific video with all steps and guidelines to follow.

Well, the end result was, she wasn’t able to follow instructions.

There were no images where they were supposed to be. No crisp sentences instead of long paragraphs. And no sources linked where they were supposed to be.

This person didn’t get the instructions right in more than 3 revisions.

Of course, we dismissed her (although we should have done it the first time we saw this red flag).

So when writing your job ad in any job posting site, add full and detailed directions on how applicants should apply. 

This way you’ll ensure they don’t come back to you saying that the instructions were unclear.

Red Flag #7 to Avoid in Potential Bad Hires: The Work Sample Is Not Up to Your Company’s Standards

If applicants have checked all of the boxes, great! 

You’re very close to bringing in the missing piece to your puzzle.

BUT your hiring funnel doesn’t stop here.

There’s one more red flag you should not let slip by you under any circumstances.

If after reviewing the applicant’s work sample it is good but not great, then you should stop there for a second before you make any decision.

Are you looking for someone who provides good work for your company or excellent work instead?

Are you looking for someone below your organization’s high standards, or are you looking for someone who exceeds them?

The quality of the first work they do for you and their performance will be a critical indicator of how much value they can add to your business in the future.

Sure, they can always learn and improve and eventually get better and better over time.

And you’ll train them to become a successful member of your team. 

But you can’t afford to spend time, money, and effort on someone who doesn’t do great on their skill test.

So raise the bar and make them not only reach out for it but exceed it.


Download the “How to Avoid Bad Hires in 7 Easy Steps” so you won’t forget to take action on it later. Click here to download it now.

Bad hiring decisions are the most expensive mistakes you can make in your business. 

You can’t simply afford to make them. 

Instead, you want to bring  new hires on to your team who are open to learn and continuously improve.

A great team member is like a missing piece of a puzzle you’ve been desperately looking to find.

And when you add it to the puzzle, the whole thing works and makes sense.

When filtering applicants, always always make sure to pay attention to red flags.

These will be an indicator of how much of a risk it could be hiring those candidates in the future.

These are the red flags you must watch out for:

  • Red Flag #1: Lame Excuses for Not Submitting Their Work Sample or Skill Test on Time
  • Red Flag #2: Refuse to Not Complete the Work Sample If They Don’t Get Paid for It
  • Red Flag #3: Late Submission of Work Sample or Skill Test 
  • Red Flag #4: Showing Up Late to the Interview (or Not Showing Up at All)
  • Red Flag #5: Zero Knowledge About the Company or the Job Position They’re Applying for
  • Red Flag #6: Doesn’t Follow Instructions for the Work Sample
  • Red Flag #7: The Work Sample Is Not Up to Your Company’s Standards

And if you want to take the hiring headaches off of your plate, AutoGrow is here for you.

You can delegate all your digital marketing projects to us through our web app and we take care of the staff that will work for you.

Or you can also visit our Marketplace and look for specific individual projects you want us to complete for you—without the hassles of hiring!

Now tell me something about your hiring funnel.

Do you have a dedicated hiring manager who does all the hiring for you?

What are the biggest red flags you watch out for when filtering out candidates?

I want to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments below.

Keep AutoGrowin’, stay focused.

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