Interview Red Flags for Employers

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

From lies to lack of preparation, poor attitude, and insincerity, you can pick up on signs and collect evidence during an interview that the potential employee is not for you. If you know what you are looking for, employers can successfully spot these job interview red flags—before making a job offer to a prospective employee.

They’re all deal breakers and you’ll recognize them most effectively in a well-thought-out, consistent, employee selection process. You’ll benefit, too, if you involve your trained employees in selecting their prospective coworkers. After all, who has the most to gain—or lose—from missing these interview red flags for employers.

Interview Red Flags That Nix Hiring

You’ll want to pass on candidates who exhibit these five interview red flags to employers.

Demonstrate 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 the company and visit the website before they even apply for the job.

They know that their familiarity with your products, challenges, and needs will give them an edge on your 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.

Talking with an employer recently, they shared this story. An applicant for a software development job informed the interview team that he had been too busy to look at their website to review their products. But, he was sure that his skills were compatible with whatever they thought that they needed.

Candidate gone.

Treat 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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One of the positive advantages of holding first and second interviews, using a variety of employees as interviewers, is your receipt of a range of viewpoints. First interviews frequently include the hiring manager, Human Resources, and a potential coworker or two. Second interviews involve these interviewers, more 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, the employees were totally turned off by the candidate's interaction with them.

He talked over their heads, failed to look at them when responding to questions, frequently checked his watch, and rolled his eyes in annoyance at their probing questions. Midway through the interview, he impatiently asked how much longer they expected the interview to take.

The only difference between the first and second interview? Two executives, who were totally bowled over by 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 check out the candidate’s stated claims on the resume and cover letter. They ask probing questions to solicit details about the candidate’s job performance and her successes and failures. In a behavioral interview setting, nothing is as telling as a candidate who cannot provide a detailed answer or an example when the interviewer requests details.

For example, a candidate who said she managed six employees failed to respond with any clarity to questions such as, “Tell us about a time when an employee’s performance was unacceptable. What steps did you take as a manager to address the problem? It was quickly apparent to the interviewers that, while she may have had a leadership role, her job responsibilities were not managerial.

Another candidate was asked how she had approached selecting an HRIS for her former HR office, a success she touted on her resume. HRIS familiarity was posted by the interviewing employer as a job requirement. Her vague, meandering answer quickly eliminated her candidacy.

Another candidate told the interviewers that they'd have trouble verifying his employment history; all of his former supervisors had died, moved to other unspecified companies, or retired to places unknown.

The interview team passed on these candidates—rightly.

Arrive 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, ready - and waiting, waiting, waiting. 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.

He predictably keeps meetings waiting to start, visits customers on his own schedule, and violates company smartphone guidelines by constantly calling to say that he will—just one more time—be late. If a candidate cannot arrive on time for one of the most important meetings of his career, why would an employer expect different behavior on the job?

Don'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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Have you ever met a candidate who was never responsible for anything that went wrong at work? Most HR staff members have. They’re a sight to behold as they blame coworkers, bosses, a lack of resources, and the lack of skills in their team members for every failure they describe.

Was your candidate fired by a former employer? Listen carefully to her reasons why. If none of them involve anything she controlled or had responsibility for, run, run, as fast as you can. You want to hire employees who admit errors, make thoughtful mistakes and fix them, but always take responsibility while they own and repair the problem. Applicants are human. We all make mistakes. But, it’s the candidate's fundamental approach to responsibility and their humanness that counts.

Late candidates are never responsible for keeping the interview team waiting either; they traveled to the job interview with time to spare. But, their best intentions were foiled: by the accident, the overlong train, the unexpected detour, the poor directions provided by the employer—yadda, yadda, yadda. Something—not themselves—always prevented their timely arrival.

Employers, it’s a red flag to heed, for more than the obvious reason. Believe it.

Concluding Thoughts

These are the 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? Surely—not.

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