During recruitment, you may meet a candidate who has negative work experience from his last job – especially in a bad economic situation, when not all employment contracts end in the best possible way. A positive attitude and an open mind seem to be the safest choices for employers. Nonetheless, it is not right to automatically assume that a candidate is not suitable for your company. The aim of this article is to offer some suggestions on how to react in such a situation.

Do not automatically assume the candidate is not suitable for the job.

Having an unpleasant work experience does not mean that a candidate is guilty. Even if he is, there is still a chance that he has learned from his experience (even if he does not talk about it). You can glean this information from the candidate’s behaviour. You may even encounter a candidate who is sufficiently strong and self-aware to admit this to you.

Create an atmosphere of trust, be empathic and use active listening techniques.

It takes more time, energy, empathy and skill to conduct an interview with a candidate who has previously had a bad work experience. At first, you must be able to create an atmosphere of trust, to encourage the candidate to have an open conversation. You must also be empathic, an excellent listener and able to collect as much information as needed while interviewing. You should be advisor and recruiter at the same time. The candidate will benefit from this meeting as he can analyse the situation and heal as a result. In addition, the recruiter will gather information that he would not have been able to obtain during a routine interview. The candidate’s experience during the meeting must be a priority as it helps to create a positive employer brand. It is then easier to move onto a new, potential working relationship when the initial meeting is positive.

Encourage the candidate to have an open conversation.

There are different kinds of people. Some people like to talk about everything; others do not. The one who does not want to talk about a bad work experience in the past might be afraid that you will contact his previous employer, and that this could ruin his chance to secure the job. Generally, if you explain why it is important for you as the recruiter to understand what happened in a previous job, the candidate will understand. It is clear that if one person tries to hide something, then the other person will not feel secure enough to consider that person as his new team member. While interviewing, you will discover useful information about how much a candidate has healed from a bad experience, because – obviously – it is a topic that needs to be analysed and managed by the candidate. As we know, work results are very much related to employee emotions at work.

Having had a bad experience in a previous job, a candidate will be highly appreciative of a future employer with a good reputation.

The employee will be highly motivated and will not be open to new job offers in this case.

Identify whether the candidate has a negative or positive outlook.

Understandably, the candidate may be depressed. Fortunately, you have a good opportunity to find out whether the candidate sees the whole world in dark colours or whether is it just a single bad work experience.

Find out if the candidate takes responsibility for what is going on in his life.

Try to figure out whether the candidate has tried to make things better. It helps to understand whether the person is responsible and determined while solving problems or prefers to blame others.

Notice whether the candidate is always polite.

It is especially useful to observe whether the candidate is polite, even while talking about negative things. There are unpleasant situations in every job and being polite to team members and clients is crucial.

Collect useful information about the candidate’s principles and values.

Complicated situations show if the candidate truly follows his principles and values. It is important for you to find an employee who follows the same principles and values as your company.

Assess the candidate’s analytical skills.

Through observing how the candidate analyses and explains matters, you will learn how he may do this in your company

Annika Melsas, TeamCreator, HR partner