Questionable Work Histories and How to Evaluate

questionable work histories in employees

Are you overlooking qualified candidates because they don’t have what you consider to be an acceptable employment history? Rather than immediately tossing these resumes into the rubbish bin, take a moment to understand why a candidate with this type of employment history makes you uncomfortable and how you can evaluate this individual fairly and effectively.

Here are three common types of questionable work histories that Hawaii employers face and evaluation techniques for each.

The Issue: No local experience

As a Hawaii business owner, you may think twice before hiring someone who is new to the island. You question whether a candidate who has never worked in Hawaii will know how to adapt to and fit in with the local work culture. Then there’s the chance that island life won’t live up to the person’s expectations, and the employee will leave sooner than expected. Although it’s right to be cautious, remember that a new employee is your company’s opportunity to bring new ideas and direction to your company. If you always hire the exact same type of person, it can lead to a stagnant organization.

How to Evaluate: Put emphasis on cultural fit during the interview. The best way to do this is by focusing on questions that evaluate past accomplishments in relation to work environment, job structure, and managerial relationships. For example, some questions could include, “how would your former coworkers describe your work style?” or “in what type of environment are you most successful?”

The Issue: Lack of employment diversity

Though generally preferred over job hoppers, candidates that have been with the same company or in the same position for years on end still make some employers uneasy. The fear is that this person might lack motivation, have an antiquated skillset, or be unable to follow new rules. However, don’t let this type of employment history turn you away completely. In a business market that thrives on relationships, employee loyalty and the ability to stay with a company through the years are valuable traits.

How to Evaluate: Take a closer look at the candidate’s responsibilities. Was the person ever promoted during his/her many years with the company? Did his/her duties evolve or expand? What do the candidate’s references have to say about his/her work ethic?

The Issue: A history of self-employment

As one of the country’s most entrepreneurial states, Hawaii is full of professionals who work (or have worked) for themselves. You may be wary of candidates with “self-employed” listed on their resumes because this type of candidate tends to be comfortable doing things his/her own way and may have a difficult time conforming to a more structured work environment. Then again, this could also be an opportunity to add a uniquely motivated hard worker to your team. This person may also have valuable insight into your business and a professional network that you can tap into and utilize.

How to Evaluate: Use the interview to understand how well the person will adapt to a controlled environment. Ask questions like, “What challenges do you foresee coming from a self-employed background to a 9-5 office environment?” Look for evidence that the candidate has already thought about these types of questions and understands the difference between these very different career paths.

Remember: don’t immediately dismiss a resume because it contains questionable work history. As Hawaii continues to face a challenging labor market, learning to evaluate these non-traditional candidates and spot their potential may be the secret to finding the best employees and improving the quality of your hires.