You know that feeling in your gut. You comb through a resume or listen to a candidate answer interview questions, and there’s something fishy going on. You may not be able to put your finger on it or vocalize what you feel, but you can see one or more hiring red flags are flapping in the breeze in front of you.
In most cases, trusting that feeling is the way to go. However, you should not always. You need to check your assumptions and biases before deciding to pass on a candidate, but more often than not, your instincts are right.
Understanding these guttural feelings is the first step toward using them appropriately. Let’s look at the biggest hiring warning signs, when to heed those hiring red flags, and when to disregard them.
1. Arriving late to the interview
Many things can factor into why a candidate shows up late for an interview: missed alarm clock, traffic, getting lost, etc. Candidates should prepare for the unexpected. Delays can happen, but candidates need to build in time so that employers never see the logistical hiccups. If all goes according to plan, the candidate will spend half an hour in the parking lot waiting for the appropriate time to walk into the interview.
An interview is even more important than the first day on the job. Without a good interview, there’s no opportunity for a start date. If a candidate is late for the interview, how long will it take before that person as an employee begins showing up late for work?
2. Typos on the resume
The resume and cover letter combine to make a candidate’s first impression to an employer. Candidates should pour over these documents until they can’t stand to read them anymore. If a resume has typos in it, one of two things is going on. First, the candidate did not put enough effort into the resume. Second, the candidate is incapable of catching these types of errors. Either way, you probably don’t want to hire such a candidate.
3. Bad references from past employers
Every story has at least two sides, so don’t necessarily take a candidate’s former employer’s word as gospel. That said, a past boss’s opinion carries significant weight. A hiring manager should investigate whatever claims a prior boss makes on a reference check. In today’s litigious environment, many employers are unwilling to divulge anything beyond verification of a former employee’s employment dates. So, when a candidate’s former manager tells some unflattering tales, they need to be taken seriously but not as objective facts.
4. Lack of research about the job or company
Interviews are a two-way street. It is amazing how many candidates do not ask questions when they are given the opportunity at the end of an interview. This is a golden opportunity for candidates to show they’ve researched the job and the company. It is disappointing when they have no questions relevant to job duties, management expectations, or company culture. It should make the hiring manager question whether such a candidate even wants the job.
5. Excessive negativity
It’s one thing to talk about a disappointing workplace situation. It’s quite another thing to harp on problems with former co-workers, managers, or companies. When a candidate has nothing but bad things to say about a past workplace, it makes you wonder what they’ll say after they’re done working for you.
On top of that, you don’t want to bring a negative person into your workplace. These people destroy high functioning teams and drive away the best employees.
When you know, you know
Listen to those nagging inclinations about hiring red flags. In most circumstances, your instincts will steer you correctly through the hiring process. If you need input from others, gather opinions from people on your interview panel or from trusted colleagues. Take time to evaluate your feelings and to decide how to respond to them.