Maybe it’s showing up late to an interview. Maybe it’s mean words about a previous employer. Or maybe it's constantly rescheduling phone calls and delayed responses to emails. All of these behaviors are recruiting red flags, and should give you serious pause when trying to decide which candidate is best for a position.
It can be difficult in a pressed-for-time recruiting environment to get the full picture of a candidate. A glance over their resume and a quick phone call can only tell you so much about whether it’s worth asking them to come in for an in-person interview, let alone how the candidate would perform long-term at your company. To save time — and potential disappointment — during the recruiting process, looking out for red flags at the beginning can help you quickly pick out job seekers who won’t be a good fit. If you see a candidate doing any of these 11 behaviors, it’s probably time to say goodbye.
1. Badmouthing Former Employers
If the candidate has nothing but bad things to say about their previous employers, there’s high reason to suspect they’ll do the same to your company when they leave — and that it will show up in your Glassdoor reviews. To be clear, bad-mouthing is different from constructive criticism. Having measured, well-thought-out criticisms of their previous employer can show that a candidate is constantly thinking about how their organization can improve and grow. But insults, bad language, unwarranted attacks or playing the blame game? That’s not the type of behavior that will help your company flourish.
2. Vague Description of Their Accomplishments
Most brilliant resumes have something in common: they are able to easily convey a candidate’s success in terms of clear metrics and concrete accomplishments. For example, “raised social media traffic by 38 percent in Q3 and Q4 of 2017” packs much more of a punch than “managed social media channels.” If a candidate isn’t able to speak clearly about their past accomplishments, and instead defers to simple descriptions of what their role was, it may be because they weren’t able to accomplish much during their previous tenures.
3. Unexplained Employment Gaps
Resume gaps aren’t a red flag in and of themselves — explained, reasonable resume gaps can, in fact, be an asset for some candidates. The problem arises when a candidate isn’t adequately able to account for their time. If a candidate is shifty about what they were doing with their time — or worse, if you catch them in an outright lie — it’s a cause for concern. One way to look into this further is to cross-reference the resume they send you with resumes they may have posted on websites like Glassdoor or LinkedIn.
4. They’re Constantly Changing Jobs
You look at the candidate’s resume and discover that they’ve had seven jobs within the past two years. This is one of the biggest red flags out there, and it’s crucial to determine why their turnover was so frequent. Was it due to fights with coworkers, dissatisfaction with their managers or a constant need for something new? If so, the chances that they’ll stay at your company any longer than they’ve stayed at their previous positions aren’t very high.
5. Asking for Info That was Already Said (or Easily Found)
It’s great when a candidate asks questions during an interview — but if the answers to those questions can easily be found on your website? Then, it not only shows lack of preparation on their part, it’s a blatant waste of your time. If you find yourself continually answering questions that can easily be found on your company’s FAQ page, it’s time to move on to the next candidate.
Flakiness can come in a variety of forms. It might be that the candidate keeps rescheduling phone calls and interviews. Or maybe they are slow to respond to emails. Perhaps they said they would send you something that they haven’t sent yet. Flakiness is a habit that doesn’t go away after the interview process is over — unless the candidate is simply too qualified to pass up, proceed with caution.
7. Their Career Goals Don’t Align With the Company
If the candidate tells you that their dream job is to be a graphic designer and they’re applying for a position in your sales department, you probably can’t count on them to be a successful, long-term employee. Finding candidates with personal goals that are aligned with the role they are applying for, as well as the mission and values of the company, is critical for retaining long-term talent.
8. They Always Have an Excuse
Having an excuse for strange, unprofessional or flaky behavior on their part isn’t a red flag on its own. Sometimes there is genuinely a huge traffic jam, a computer malfunction or missed call. But continually having excuses like this? Not a good sign. A good candidate should continually exceed your expectations — not fall short of them.
9. Failure to Provide Good References
It is a candidate’s responsibility to make sure that the references they provide will be available to vouch for them and speak directly with hiring managers if need be. If a candidate’s references are chronically unavailable, or the contact information they’ve given is out of date, it may be a cause for concern. Same if the only references they can provide are from many years prior, and not from recent positions they’ve held. And if they can’t provide references at all? Don’t call them back until they can.
10. Not Answering Questions Clearly
Not only is it difficult to understand candidates when they skirt around the answer to your questions, it’s cause for suspicion. What might they be trying to hide by not coming out with a straight answer to your questions? If a candidate can’t give a clear answer, particularly after multiple attempts to ask, they may not be the one you’re looking for.
11. Arriving Late
If a candidate can’t arrive on time for an interview or a phone call, what does that say about their ability to show up for work on time every day? Chronic late-arrivers do not bode well for future employment prospects. Especially if the excuse they give — such as faulty transportation or sleeping through their alarm — might be an ongoing cause for them to arrive late.