Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

How to Spot 4 Problematic Employees During an Interview

Employee archetypes have become the inspiration for comedy in shows like The Office. When it comes to problem employees, eccentric, overconfident, and apathetic are all well and good to watch on television (who doesn’t love to hate Dwight?). However, we’re going to give you a few hiring tips so that you can avoid dealing with them in your office. Here are some hiring tips to avoid 4 common- and well-known- problem employees:


Let’s start with Mr. Schrute; the quintessential problem employee. Dwight is well-known for being overzealous, conniving and slavish, with a healthy dose of crazy. How do you spot this during an interview? Look for obvious things like absurd devotion to (or hatred of) a former boss. However, also look for more subtle behaviors, like a candidate agreeing with everything you say, or making grand claims about what s/he can do for your company. Also ask about a candidate’s relationships with past co-workers. You can imagine that a Dwight wouldn’t have anything good to say about his Dunder Mifflin compatriots.


Dwight’s sometime-paramour, Angela is a problem employee in a subtly different way than Dwight. She is incurably uptight, inflexible, and unfriendly. Angela might come across well in an interview, because her attention to detail could seem positive. However, you can spot an Angela with the same hiring tips you use to spot a Dwight. Ask about the work performance of the candidate’s previous co-workers. Also ask about how the candidate deals with unexpected challenges, and recovers from mistakes.


The wiki for The Office has this note about Stanley: “Stanley works hard at his crossword puzzles.” Stanley is just an apathetic employee, who is actually happy to hear in Season 1 that he was getting laid off (even though it later turned out to be a rumor). Although Stanley might be likable enough, he’s really a problem employee. Hiring tips for avoiding a Stanley? Ask questions like, “Describe a leadership role that you took at your previous job,” or, “Describe a difficult situation at work, and the steps that you took to overcome the situation.”


Michael is the biggest problem employee to watch out for; he’ll be gunning for a management position. Michael is a lot like Dwight, without the hostility. Spot a Michael in an interview by looking for a few things: inappropriate jokes, leading the interview off-topic, and lack of basic knowledge of how the world works. On a more serious note, Michael’s main flaw as a boss and employee is his lack of social skills, and inability to admit to mistakes. Discover these flaws in an interview by asking about a candidate’s flaws. Don’t fall for a fake flaw like, “caring too much” or “working too hard.” Find a candidate who admits an honest weakness (we all have them), and you’ll find someone with a good dose of introspection–something you would never find in a Michael.

What hiring tips do you have for avoiding problem employees? Leave us a comment.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by makelessnoise

Kristin Anderson

Kristin has a B.A. in English from the University of Iowa, with an emphasis in creative writing. In her free time she enjoys long walks, kitchen adventures, and making puns.


  • Love this. lol Especially the “lack of basic knowledge of how the world works” in Michael’s description. 😛

    Though sadly.. I have to say there really are a lot of “Michaels” in the world… yikes!

    • Thanks Devan! We certainly take precautions in our hiring to prevent any “Michaels” from coming around here…hope you do too.