Most recruiters are aware of the red flags they should watch out for in candidates: showing up late, trash talking a past employer, excessively vague answers, etc. But we don’t seem to talk about “green flags” as much — indications that a candidate is perfect for the job.
Keeping an eye out for these green flags (or a lack thereof), though, can give you a better idea early on of whether a candidate should be moved to the next round or cut from the competition, helping you do your job more efficiently and effectively.
Wonder whether a candidate you have in the pipeline is the right fit? Think about whether or not they exhibit these six signs — if so, they might just be the one you’ve been waiting for.
1. They Know Their Stuff
Informed candidates — those who have done their research on your company and the position in advance — make for high-quality hires. They tend to be better culture fits, come in with the right expectations and are able to get ramped up more quickly. So if a candidate shows that they’ve taken the time to really dive into your organization, they might just be right for the position.
“The perfect candidate shows up to the interview armed with lots of knowledge about our company, but is also eager to learn more about our products and our customers. I love when it’s obvious that candidates have thoroughly combed through our website, read our newsletter, and done some Google sleuthing,” says Caro Griffin, Director of Operations at Skillcrush. “Taking the time to research us before their interview shows me that they can be self-directed, which is important at Skillcrush, and that they are genuinely interested in the company.”
Candidates shouldn’t just be knowledgeable about the hard facts of your business, though — they should also be knowledgeable about your company culture.
The ideal candidate knows “the company mission statement, core values and history of the organization,” says Pamela Shand, CEO of career coaching firm Offer Stage Consulting. “This tells me they're genuinely interested in the organization and not just looking for a job. It means they will want to build a career with us and not jump ship the minute someone offers a larger paycheck.”
2. You Can Sense Their Enthusiasm
It’s not just about what a candidate says — it’s about how they say it. The right candidate should be just as interested in your company as your company is in them, and if you can see the enthusiasm in their body language and excitement in their voice, it’s a great sign.
“I love to hear candidates take pride in their previous work, and the work they could do in this new role. This kind of enthusiasm shows that they are truly interested in their field, instead of just looking for any way to pay the bills,” Shand says. “We want employees who care about their work, and will want to do it for a while.”
3. They’re Honest — Warts and All
Recruiters often talk about the “perfect” candidate, but the truth is, every candidate will have some flaws. The truly phenomenal ones, though, will own up to it.
“The candidate [should be] open about his/her weaknesses. For example, a candidate that's great at technology, but willing to admit that in-person presentations are scary, is one I'm more likely to think of as self-aware. Self-awareness is a critical interpersonal skill that makes a candidate a great find,” says Laura Handrick, Career and Workplace Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com.
Similarly, “rather than paint a rosy picture of prior work history, I prefer someone who tells me about a work mistake, and how he/she recovered and learned from it,” Handrick adds. “As an HR person, I recognize no one is perfect. The perfect candidate, however, is one who is willing to learn and grow, not one trying to convince me that they've never made a mistake. Having employees with learning agility is critical if you want people able to learn and grow with the company."
4. They Communicate Quickly and Clearly
Without a doubt, one of the most time-consuming parts of being a recruiter is simply the coordination. Scheduling phone screens, interviews and presentations between so many different schedules can feel near impossible, especially if candidates are slow to respond. But the best candidates “respond quickly and concisely throughout the process” to help things proceed smoothly, says Jessica Eberley, CEO of HR & recruiting firm HRT Solutions.
“This is key because I typically recruit in fast-paced environments, and if they are unmotivated to respond quickly during the recruitment process they are less likely to be responsive once they are on the job,” Eberley adds. Plus, a prompt response demonstrates their interest in the company and position.
5. The Interview Flows Perfectly
Sure, you want candidates to thoroughly answer your questions — but in interviews with great candidates, you won’t be the one who’s always driving the conversation. Instead, there will be a natural back-and-forth.
One sign that the candidate you’ve found is the one is if “the interview was painless for both of you — it felt like more of a conversation, not an interrogation. They had thoughtful questions prepared for you and seemed deeply interested in the company culture, learning about your experience working at the company, and you both seemed to ‘click’ during the conversation,” says Valerie Streif of technical interview platform Pramp. “If you’re looking forward to working with them before you’ve even hired them, this is a great sign that they will fit in.”
6. They Bring Ideas to the Table
It’s great when a candidate has a track record of success, but they also need to be forward-thinking and show what they could specifically bring to the role.
“Coming to an interview with concrete ideas of what they would do in the role shows that a candidate both understands the work well and wants to make contributions as soon as they can,” Griffin says.
“For example, when you ask the person how would they handle 'x', the individual responds with a great idea that your organization hadn't thought of before. This great idea is one that your company could implement right away, adding value from day one,” Handrick adds. “That makes the person a great candidate because he/she is already in the mindset of contributing to the company.”