New hires often complain that the job isn’t what it seemed to be in the advert. But what about when the opposite is true? What about when an employee doesn’t have the skills they claimed

It happens surprisingly often that a new hire doesn’t fit in as well as expected. They require more training than expected, ask seemingly basic questions, need repeated guidance, and struggle to solve problems on their own. Is it possible that they exaggerated their abilities during the hiring process?

Do Candidates Exaggerate Their Abilities?

The short answer is, yes, candidates exaggerate their abilities. They may not mean any overt deception, and may not go so far as to falsify their CV, but they may often overstate their skills and experience. Candidates are trying to get the job, and therefore trying to project both ability and confidence, the very qualities that are likely to be successful and get them hired. The pressure on candidates to “sell themselves” is very high, and it can lead to some exaggeration. 

In fact, most hiring practices tend to reinforce, rather than detract, from these behaviors. Studies show that 42% of HR professionals want to hire confident people, while 72% of them don’t want overconfident people, which can put candidates in a difficult position. As companies increasingly hire for cultural fit rather than for demonstrated skills, candidates are being screened for personality rather than ability, which favors candidates who are more extroverted, confident, and likely to overestimate their own skills. (Read our blog The Power of Introverts in the Workplace here)

Managing an Under Qualified Employee

Naturally, a truly underqualified employee may simply be a bad hire (read our blog The Hidden Costs of a Bad Hire), and you may need to start over again. But just because a new addition to your team doesn’t show all the abilities they promised during the interview doesn’t mean they are a lost cause, and hiring a new person is expensive and time-consuming. Instead, here are some strategies for managing an underqualified team member:

  • Switch up your training. Not everyone learns the same way. If a new hire has gone through your training process, but still struggles to follow your procedures, consider alternate training methods. Ask the employee how they learn best, and consider using different teaching methods that match their learning style. 
  • Offer increased mentoring. Set aside time to meet with the employee and offer detailed feedback. If necessary, redirect their constant questions to specific meeting times or learning sessions. If possible, seek out an experienced employee and ask them to coach and mentor the new hire. 
  • Ask questions. It can be tempting for feedback sessions to become overly critical, which can demoralize a struggling new hire. Make sure to ask questions and listen with an open mind. Ask them how they feel about their performance, what they are excited and motivated about, what they would like to learn, where they think they can improve, and then support them in reaching their own goals

In other words, an overconfident new hire who is struggling to deliver on their promises becomes a challenge for their leader, who needs to work harder to educate, support, and mentor them. But this challenge in leadership is a growth opportunity on both sides and can offer learning opportunities for leaders as well as for struggling employees.  

How to Avoid Hiring Under-Skilled Candidates

The best option, of course, is to avoid hiring these candidates in the first place. Here are some things that companies and recruiters can be alert for: 

  • Be aware of likely exaggeration points. If a candidate isn’t outright lying on their CV, there are still several places where they may be likely to exaggerate their accomplishments. Common exaggerations are:
    • Taking credit for a team effort. A candidate may say that they did something that was actually done by a team or group. 
    • Exaggerating their role. A candidate may claim that they “led or managed” an initiative when they simply participated in it. 
    • Over-stating the relevance of experience. A candidate may have given in-class presentations and use it to claim public speaking experience. 
  • Check references and credentials. If you have doubts about a candidate, ask specific questions of their references, verifying their role, participation, and performance in specific areas. 
  • Re-examine your hiring process. The truth is, companies know ahead of time exactly what they want employees to do, while candidates can only guess. Instead of assuming that education and experience are equivalent to the skills you are looking for, ask direct questions about the skills themselves. Ask specific questions and ask for specific examples, and be suspicious of vague answers (“I’m great at product development! I have been developing products for years.”). 

If your FMCG company is struggling to hire the right people, call Grapefrute today. Our expert recruiters take the time to really get to know candidates, verifying their skills and abilities, and ensuring the right match for every role.