Dear Liz,

I enjoyed your column “I Would Never Hire a Candidate Who Did This” and I fully support your advice to Hank. I manage a 14-person team and I can’t imagine why any manager would need to know a job-seeker’s complete job history just to make a hiring decision.

Speaking for myself, I’d rather not know about a six-month stint in a totally different field or a short-term job that someone held 20 years ago.

Still, with your experience in recruiting you must have a list of red flags that show up on job interviews. What are some of the things that tell you “This is not the right person for the job!” during an interview?

Thanks Liz!



Dear Samir,

You’re right — there are red flags that tell me “This is not the best candidate for this job!” Here are five of them:

1. The candidate knows almost nothing about our business.

2. The candidate has no questions for me, or only questions about the dental-plan deductible and the size of the workstation — no questions about the actual work.

3. The candidate gives me vague answers to my questions and when I press for details, changes the subject.

4. The candidate cannot explain his or her career choices and shifts.

5. The candidate is openly rude or hostile.

These days there is no reason to go to a job interview without having researched the company first. You must be able to answer these questions about your possible future employer:

• What does the company do?

• Who does the company sell its products and services to?

• How old is the company, and how large? Where does it do business?

• What are the major initiatives the company is pursuing now? (Read its press releases to find out!)

You would be surprised how many job applicants come to a job interview and ask, “What does this company do?” That’s not a good question to ask! You need to know the answer before you arrive.

I get concerned about a job applicant who has no questions about the job. You need to think about the role before the day of the job interview, and compose questions to ask your interviewer. It’s not that you have to ask questions just to show me that you’re awake and aware — if you the right candidate for our company, then you’ll also be asking me questions to decide whether or not it’s the right job for you!

Ask your interviewer what the primary purpose of the job is, and what the history of the job is. Was there someone in the role before, or has it just been created?

We all get tongue-tied in stressful situations and a job interview certainly qualifies. Still, the only way I can learn about your amazing background is to ask you questions about it, especially if you are not comfortable telling your story unprompted.

Some job candidates prefer to answer questions rather than to speak extemporaneously about their career, and that’s fine. If you get a question, though, you need to answer it in a commanding way!

If I ask the question, “How interesting that you moved from Inside Sales to Branch Operations — tell me the story!” it’s because I see a movie playing in my head. In my movie you were doing such an incredible job in Inside Sales that the Branch Operations Manager grabbed you and said, “I need to get your brilliance into my department!”

Tell the story so that an interviewer who is hearing it for the first time can see how your internal transfer came to be. Sadly, too many people don’t know how to tell stories — even their own! They will answer this way, instead:

Me: So, I see that you moved from Inside Sales to Branch Operations — sounds like there’s a great story there! Can I hear it please? How did that transfer come about?

Job-Seeker: The Branch Operations Manager needed help so I was put into that position.


Liz Ryan

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