Interview Red Flags for Employers

5 Ways to Know That the Applicant Is Not Right for The Job

The applicant screening process is not foolproof. Sometimes an unsuitable candidate succeeds at getting in-person interview. They may have an impressive resume and telephone communication skills, however, in person they are not what you expected. They may display a lack of preparation, a poor attitude, or insincerity, which are all red flags to be considered.

These warning signs are indications that the person is not right for the job. You'll recognize them most effectively in a well-thought-out, consistent, employee selection process. You’ll also benefit if you involve your trained employees in selecting their prospective coworkers. 

You’ll want to pass on candidates who exhibit the following five red flags during an interview:

Demonstrates No Evidence That They Researched Your Company

Businesswoman holding portfolio, man looking time in background
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A candidate who demonstrates a lack of knowledge about your products, customers, or services has failed to do the most fundamental research to prepare for the interview. In fact, qualified candidates research a company and visit its website before they even apply for a job.

They know that their familiarity with your products, challenges, and needs will give them an edge on other applicants. Their resume and cover letter customization and company knowledge displayed at the interview, demonstrate their interest—and give you a key look at their abilities and work habits.

A candidate who goes into an interview not knowing about the company shows a lack of preparation as well as little genuine interest about the company and how their prospective role would fit within the company's goals and values.

Treats Employees Who Have Higher Level Jobs Differently

Three Business Colleagues Interviewing a Businessman to ensure that the facts on the resume are correctly stated, another interview red flag employers need to watch.
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An advantage of holding first and second interviews that involve a variety of employee interviewers is the range of resulting viewpoints. Initial interviews frequently include a hiring manager, human resources (HR), and one or two potential coworkers. Second interviews include these interviewers, additional potential colleagues, and in the case of a potential manager, several reporting staff members.

The different views from your employees resurrect a range of red flags for employers to consider. During one well-remembered second interview, several employees had negative interactions with the candidate.

The candidate may have talked over their heads, failed to look at them when responding to questions, frequently checked their watch, or rolled their eyes in annoyance at the employees' probing questions. 

The only difference between the first and second interview was that  the two executives who were very impressed with the candidate were not present at the second interview.

Cannot Provide Details, Examples, or Proof About Resume or Cover Letter Claims

Businessman conducting job interview and attempting to clarify the details on her resume, another potential red flag for employers.
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Effective interviewers make sure to check a candidate’s stated claims on their resume and cover letter. They ask probing questions to solicit details about the candidate’s job performance and their successes and failures. In a behavioral interview setting, nothing is as telling as a candidate who cannot provide a detailed answer or a past account of a work event when the interviewer requests details.

For example, a candidate who claimed to have managed six employees was unable to provide specific information such as the steps they took to handle an employee whose performance was unacceptable. It was quickly apparent to the interviewers that, while the candidate may have had a leadership role, their job responsibilities were not managerial.

Another candidate was asked how they had approached selecting a human resources information system (HRIS) for their former HR office, a success they touted on their resume. HRIS familiarity was posted by the interviewing employer as a job requirement. Their vague, meandering answer quickly eliminated their candidacy.

A candidate may also tell you that they are unable to provide the names of most of their previous supervisors. Excuses include their supervisors are deceased, moved to another unspecified company, or retired to an unknown place. This is suspicious and may indicate the candidate is trying to hide information. 

Arrives Late for the Interview

Focused businessman interviews a potential employee while looking for red flags about hiring her.
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Late or tardy is not just a hallmark of a careless, unsuccessful person, it is a demonstration of a lack of respect for people and their time. Most candidates never recover. They are flustered, unprepared, and apologetic while the interview team is composed, prepared, and waiting for the person to arrive. With so many qualified candidates, why would employers ignore this interview red flag?

Employers sometimes ignore the message sent by a late candidate, usually for a job for which they have few skilled applicants. To their sorrow, they find that the candidate’s late behavior is the norm.

This type of person predictably keeps meetings waiting to start, visits customers on their own schedule, and violates company smartphone guidelines by constantly calling to say they'll be late. If a candidate cannot arrive for the most important meeting of their career, why would an employer expect different behavior on the job?

Doesn't Take Responsibility for Failed Projects, Teams Gone Awry, or Mistakes

Three interviewers preparing to conduct a board room intererview while looking for red flags against hiring the interviewee.
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Another red flag is a candidate who doesn't admit to any responsibility for past mistakes and, instead, blames others such as coworkers, bosses, a lack of resources, or a lack of skilled team members.

If the candidate was fired by a former employer, it's important to listen carefully to their reasons. If they indicate they are blameless and cannot admit to errors, you likely do not want to hire them. The right candidate will admit to errors, make thoughtful mistakes and fix them, and always take responsibility while they own and repair a problem.

Before making a job offer to a prospective employee, pay attention to signs that the person is not suited to the position. There are five major red flags that employers need to heed when interviewing prospective employees, however, be alert to anything else that doesn't seem right. Selecting and hiring an employee involves keen observation of a candidate's professionalism and answers to specific questions. Take the time to find a suitable candidate by recognizing red flag warnings. Doing otherwise can cost your company valuable time and money.