Hiring the wrong candidate can be a costly and time-consuming mistake. To help you find the right person for the job, use job-related criteria to thoroughly evaluate each candidate and lookout for these red flags:
#1: Errors on resume and/or application.
Errors on a resume and/or application may reveal carelessness or a lack of attention to detail. Take into account the nature of the job and the types of errors when deciding to what extent you will consider these mistakes during the hiring process.
#2: Discrepancies between resume and job application.
It’s a best practice to ask candidates to complete an application even if they have provided their resume. Applications can help you identify any potential discrepancies and may elicit information not typically provided on a resume. If you do spot a discrepancy, ask about it during the interview and then make an assessment based on the explanation you receive from the candidate.
#3: Late for interview.
Being late for an interview can demonstrate a lack of planning and could foreshadow tardiness issues on the job. However, there may be cases or circumstances beyond the candidate’s control (such as a family emergency) or when their tardiness is otherwise protected (such as a disability that requires an accommodation for the candidate to access your workplace). If a candidate is late, listen to their reason why before making an assessment.
#4: Unexplained gaps in employment.
Be careful about how you address a prolonged workplace absence. Certain reasons for employment gaps may be protected by law. Make sure you understand what information you can and cannot consider. For example, if the candidate took time away from work to serve in the military, you generally would be prohibited from counting that information against them. In addition, a few jurisdictions prohibit employers from considering an applicant’s employment status when making hiring decisions. Instead, ask the candidate for the job-related reasons their previous employment ended.
#5: Evading interview questions.
In some cases, a candidate may have lost track of the question asked. In other cases, they may be evading the question entirely. If a candidate fails to answer an important question, rephrase the question and emphasize the information you are seeking. For instance, if you ask the candidate what they liked and disliked about their most recent job, but they only share the positive aspects, you could say saying something like “Ok, you’ve told me about the positives, but how about the negatives of your last job?” If you have given the candidate ample opportunity to answer your question and they don’t, you can take that into consideration as you move forward in the hiring process.
#6: Canned interview responses.
Some candidates may seem like they are really only telling you what they think you want to hear. If a candidate’s responses seem overly rehearsed, try more direct, probing questions to trigger more spontaneous answers. Unique questions may also prompt more honest responses. For instance, present the candidate with a hypothetical challenge they’d face in the prospective job and ask them how they would handle it.
#7: Overstating accomplishments.
Delve into information the candidate has provided to determine whether it is an accurate representation of their accomplishments. For example, if a candidate were to say “we increased sales by 20 percent,” on a resume or during an interview, you could ask how they specifically contributed to increasing sales. You can also try to verify the information during reference checks.
#8: Failing to ask you questions.
During interviews, a lack of questions from a candidate could be a sign that the candidate is unprepared, failed to research your company and industry, or that they have little interest in the job. Let candidates know they can ask questions throughout the interview and give them an additional opportunity to ask any remaining questions toward the end of the interview. To gauge their preparation, you can also ask candidates some open-ended questions about what they know about your company and industry.
#9: Unwilling to admit areas in need of improvement.
Many employers ask candidates about their biggest “weakness” and the response is often a dodge (“My biggest weakness is I am a perfectionist!”). To help you get a more reflective response, consider asking the candidate “What skill do you currently have that you would like to improve over the next year or two?” or “What new skill would you like to develop?”
#10: Inadequate professional references.
Applicants who provide inadequate references may be trying to hide negative job-related information. When you ask for references, be clear about the types of references you are seeking (for example, “three people with whom you have worked and who can vouch for your qualifications for the job, including at least one direct supervisor”). When speaking with the references, in addition to asking about the candidate’s qualifications for the position, confirm the reference’s connection to the candidate.
If you spot any of the above red flags, probe further to determine whether the concern is relevant to the job and whether it can be considered when making hiring decisions.