Five Red Flags to Watch For During the Hiring Process


Better safe than sorry is a prudent approach to a lot of things, but it’s particularly key to the art of bringing the right people into your organization. While there are plenty of ‘intelligent risks’ you’ll likely to need to take now and again, proceeding with caution is a wise strategy in the recruiting world, especially with your most crucial positions.

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With that in mind, here are five serious warning signs to be on the alert for during the hiring process.

  1. Passive Interviewing

It might not always be the case, but it’s safe to assume that the way someone interviews with you will be the same way they work for you. So be on the lookout for someone engaged, prepared, eager to share their ideas—and their concerns. A candidate who doesn’t ask any questions themselves and just seems motivated to provide the answers that you want to hear reflects someone looking to take any job they can find. Eagerness is great, desperation not so much.

  1. Overlooked Details

There’s a reason so many job postings direct respondents toward putting an exact wording in the return email subject line. They’re seeing who pays attention to the small but important details and follows guidance closely. The big picture is obviously crucial when hiring, but make sure your candidate is doing the little things right as well. One way to test this aspect of a candidate is to be specific in your initial job posting—for example, don’t just ask for reference, ask for three references. And don’t be afraid to request something extra, such as feedback on why they’re interested in the job. That can be handy info to consider, but also tells you who is paying attention to the post—and who is on top of the little things.

  1. Frequent Job Movement

In this day and age people change their employers and even entire careers far more than in previous eras, but that doesn’t mean stability can’t be a good sign. If your candidate has a history of changing companies every year or two, that trend is likely to continue. So if you’re seeking a quick fix at a certain position, you might not weigh such a factor so heavily; but an organization seeking long-term stability might want to nail down a professional with a more stable background.

  1. Non-Verbal Cues

During an interview, try to look past simply what your candidate tells you to their body language and how they carry themselves. Signs of possible deception can include shrugging (indicating uncertainty) as well as inconsistent body movement—such as constant toe-tapping while the upper body remains calm. Another negative cue can be someone with their arms folded constantly, considered a sign of defensiveness. On the flip side, positive indicators to watch for are a firm handshake, steady eye contact and someone who is clearly listening attentively to your every word.

  1. Overconfidence

Clearly confidence is a trait most employers welcome warmly, but there’s a difference between believing in yourself and thinking you’re above any fault. Experts say to watch out for a candidate who can’t share a past problem they worked through, or a work mistake they made and what they learned from it. We all make mistakes now and then—and it’s so much better to have an employee who can recognize their error/s and find a solution than someone who just can’t admit to being wrong.

Of course, try to keep in mind that—like the legendary ‘purple squirrel’—there are no perfect employees out there, and one red flag doesn’t necessarily mean you should give up on a candidate. But if they start to add up, it’s probably time to wave a white flag of your own and give up on that particular individual.

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