Employers need a checklist of dos and don'ts about how to interview prospective employees. Some actions by the candidate, though, are immediate red flags. When the employer heeds these red flags, the candidates selected are more likely to succeed in your employment. If you find yourself wondering, "whatever was he thinking," following the interview, you've hit a red flag. Run, don't walk, to hire another prospect.
These red flags are all deal breakers and you’ll recognize them most effectively in a well-thought-out, consistent, employee selection process. Here's more about how to interview potential employees and more red flags to regard.
More About How to Interview and Select Employees
- 5 Interview Red Flags for Employers
- Share Your Resume and Cover Letter Red Flags
- Your Favorite Interview Questions
- Checklist for Hiring Employees
How to Interview and Catch Red Flags
You’ll want to pass on candidates who exhibit these 5 interview red flags. These candidates:
Exhibit Inappropriate Communication Behaviors to Interviewers
With all sympathy to candidates, because employers realize that an interview is an anxiety-producing event, but poor communication will kill an applicant’s chances. Should it? In my experience - yes. You don’t expect that every candidate has the communication skills of your best salesman or presenter, but effective communication is critical for success in most jobs. In fact, it is one of the skills most frequently listed by employers in their job postings.
Candidates talk too little and you never learn enough about the person to make a favorable hiring decision. Other candidates talk way too much. I remember one memorable candidate who answered my first interview question with a twenty minute run on sentence. If my memory serves me, I never asked a second, just escorted him to the door. He had applied for a position in which the key skill needed was listening to and drawing out customer needs.
In another memorable interview debrief, the women present were uncomfortable with the nonverbal behavior of the interviewee. They were struggling to identify the behavior that had turned them all off, until one of the employees said, “I’ll just tell it like it is. I felt like he was talking to my breasts the whole time – not to me. “ The other women concurred. Whether nervous or transfixed, the candidate, had indeed, stared at them, breast level, as he answered every question.
Want more? Without going into a psychological analysis, another candidate, faced with an interview team of three women and two men, would not look at the women. No matter who asked the question, he faced and replied to the men. Unfortunately for him, the hiring manager was one of the woman.
As you evaluate a candidate’s qualifications, do notice his or her communication skills. What shines forth in the interview will come back and bite you on the job.
Fail to Respond Effectively to Follow-up Questions After Their Initial Answers
Prepared interviewees have effective, articulate sound bites developed and rehearsed to answer common and expected interview questions. Candidates expect that you will request details about their resume and cover letter claims – and follow up those questions with questions that probe for even more information.
The proof of experience, appropriateness, and knowledge is demonstrated in their answers to your follow on questions. Can the candidate provide the detail you need to assess his or her competence in the area you are evaluating?
Sample follow on questions that encourage the candidate to elaborate and provide details might include: Tell me more about how your team accomplished the project you just described for us. What role did you play on the team? We approach most projects using teams in our company; how often have you participated in a team approach to project planning? What problems have you experienced with team members who were not performing and how did you address these issues?
The proof of knowledge for your interviewers is in the specific information and details that the candidate provides. The details give you a picture of the candidate’s skills, experience, his potential fit within your cultural, and a look at what he views as important – all critical areas for you to assess in the job interview.
Your follow up and follow on questions are critical in your assessment of the candidate. If she can’t tell you why, how, what, when , where, and who, she’s likely embellished her credentials and accomplishments. At best, she hasn’t a clue about what created her results. Okay, next candidate.
Don’t Plan to Stay Very Long at Your Job
One candidate mentioned that his girlfriend was working in Las Vegas and that he needed a flexible schedule so that he could spend time with her. Another told the interview committee that her husband was completing his degree at the local university and that they’d relocate where he could find a job upon graduation.
Employers face an additional problem in the current economy. Job searchers are looking for a job – any job – just to bring in a paycheck. And, some of these job searchers never stop looking even when they accept your position. So, yes, some people seek a career transition and there are other legitimate reasons why an individual might accept a job for which they are overqualified, but many more are settling, until they can find something better.
Candidates provide all sorts of clues about their plans, if you listen. While I realize that these are not objective criteria about qualifications, I have a tough time hiring an employee whom I know will stay for a short period of time. Especially when you have other qualified candidates, why would you invest training, mentoring, and lost opportunity time in a short term employee?
Talk Inappropriately About Their Former Employer
People have bad bosses and bad companies exist. Some coworkers are bullies and a free spirit has difficulty adapting to a formal, hierarchical work environment. But, why would a candidate spend precious interview time bad mouthing his or her former employer?
Unfortunately, the candidate is sending a powerful message to you. If he talks negatively about his former employer in an interview to you, you know that he’ll talk negatively about you – perhaps even while he is still employed.
Since the quality of the candidates you attract is partially dependent on your reputation as an employer of choice, why hire an employee who will, rightly or wrongly, drag your reputation down?
Particularly noteworthy are candidate answers to questions such as: Why are you leaving your current job or employer? Why were you fired from your last job? Describe your relationship with your former boss. How did you handle your relationship with a difficult coworker?
Listen carefully and heed your candidate's responses.
Fail to Dress With Care for The Interview
I've hired candidates who were not perfectly cleaned up and appropriately attired for an interview. Most notably, we hired a young mom who had delivered a new baby just ten days before the interview. Expecting new baby problems, the interview committee fixated on that possibility and missed the message she sent with her dirty, broken fingernails.
Retrospectively, when we fired the employee, her appearance should have telegraphed her potential work failings. Disorganized and messy, she had trouble tracking and addressing customer concerns and complaints in her customer service position. And, her lack of attention to detail caused her coworkers to have to review every active and former case she had handled upon her employment termination.
Yes, appearance, appropriate accessories, and especially, cleanliness and good taste matter. In the case of a candidate at an interview, what you see is exactly what you get. Don't talk yourself out of believing this. A fashion plate in expensive clothes you don't need, but, dirty, unkempt, wrinkled, and inappropriate are loud signals to skip this prospective employee.
These are five major red flags that employers need to heed when interviewing prospective employees. Selecting and hiring an employee is hard work, but think of the process this way. You are asking an unknown individual to come into your home. You will work with that person every day, possibly for thirty years or more.
Does it make any sense whatsoever to make hiring decisions based on a candidate's interaction with one employee in a single interview? More importantly, will you invite a candidate with a fatal flaw, that you identified and worried about during the interview, to join your team? I'd like to think - not.