Interviewing candidates is a crucial part of the hiring process. Interviews should be conducted in a structured way, and every question should be on target to gauge whether the candidate fits the criteria for the job. Phone interviews should be initially conducted as a quick, time-saving screening method; while in-person interviews should ultimately be conducted to assess a candidate’s fit with the role and the company. The interview process is an indispensable aspect of the hiring process, as it provides the interviewer with a chance for detailed insight into who the candidate is and whether they are the right person for the role. One of the many benefits of the interview process is the potential to reveal red flags which would otherwise have remained submerged below the surface. Here are some red flags to watch out for when interviewing candidates:


Interview Red Flags

Interview Red Flags

Candidate does not mention past failures

Ask candidates what tasks they are not particularly good at or what they do not wish to do. This question sometimes leads to a generic reply, but interviewers should persistently repeat the question, rephrasing it each time until they receive a substantial and honest answer. This should be followed up with a request to list examples of when the candidate had encountered that task and how they dealt with it. Candidates who continue to dodge the question after multiple attempts should be screened out, as there is a strong chance they are hiding something by refusing to address it.

Candidate exaggerates his or her answers

Confidence is a beneficial quality in the workplace, since people who lack confidence will also lack the strength to take initiative in their jobs. Yet there is a fine line between confidently discussing one’s accomplishments and embellishing them. Strong candidates will not need to embellish anything, because their accomplishments will be impressive as they are, and any hint of an embellishment can easily be verified by a quick reference check. A candidate who tries too hard to look like an expert can be likened to a child trying to look like an adult; they can put on their parent’s shoes, but they are far from a good fit.

Candidate takes credit for the work of others

This is a serious red flag, as it questions the integrity of the individual in their workplace. It signifies a lack of respect for colleagues, a dishonest nature, and the willingness to take any measures necessary to come out on top regardless of the welfare of others. These individuals compromise the security of the company.

Candidate speaks poorly of past employers

Intelligent candidates should know that it is not in their best interest to badmouth their former employer. There may be multiple reasons for why this still occurs; such as a lack of restraint from voicing one’s opinions, the social inability to find common ground and communicate effectively with their employer to resolve any differences, and the inability to view or explain the situation from the employer’s standpoint, which is a crucial element in effective interpersonal communication.

Candidate cannot explain job moves

When evaluating a candidate’s work history, the interviewer should be satisfied with the candidate’s response to each job move or transfer. Any inconsistencies or lack of clarity regarding this should be addressed, and if the interviewer is not impressed with the reason provided by the candidate, they should be screened out. Yet interviewers must be sure to clarify the candidate’s replies and not jump to any conclusions ahead of time, as there may be a legitimate reason for a candidate quitting or being dismissed which does not reflect poorly upon them in any way.

Candidate seems more interested in compensation and benefits than the job itself

This may imply a lack of passion or knowledge of one’s field, financial desperation which may lead to a security compromise at the company, or a lack of retention stability which may lead to the candidate jumping ship at the first opportunity of a higher salary elsewhere.

People most important to the candidate are unsupportive of the job change

Consider the example of a man seeking a job as a police officer, while his love for his wife is his major priority in life. He takes the job, but his wife worries about his safety, and his odd work hours prevent him from spending time with her. The man is likely to quit his job if he wishes to keep his wife. Consider another example of a woman who plans to relocate to another state, while her family has an established history and strong roots in the state in which they currently live. These scenarios may lead to the candidate not only regretting their decision to take the job, but will also negatively impact their work-life balance and relations with family members.

A managerial candidate who has never hired or fired anyone

People can guess all they want how they would react in a stressful situation, but nothing is known for certain until it happens. In the case of filling a managerial position or above, it is important for the candidate to possess at least a brief history of hiring and firing other employees. Many people are more sensitive than they are willing to admit, and someone who has never dealt with hires or dismissals may be unable to handle the task when the moment comes. If they do follow through with it but are overwhelmed by their emotions during the process, mistakes may be made and legal repercussions may arise from the inappropriately handled employee relations scenario.

Reference: Smart, G. & Street, R. (2008). Who. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

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