Job interviews are the most critical part of the hiring process. Often the interview is the only opportunity to meet the candidate face to face and get an impression of the person behind the CV/resume. If the wrong person is hired the costs are: huge amounts of time and energy spent addressing the problem, as well as the opportunity cost of not having the right person in the role.
There are warning signs that must not be ignored when interviewing a candidate. Some are well known, such as the candidate arriving late, disheveled, or clearly unprepared for the interview. While the interviewer should never be too quick to judge, as there are exceptions and extenuating circumstances that can affect a person’s behavior, as a general rule, candidates should be bringing their best selves to the interview.
In addition to the obvious warning signs mentioned above, here are five red flags to look out for when interviewing a candidate:
- Speaking negatively about past employers
When answering questions regarding why they left a previous job, if a candidate complains about a former workplace or boss, even when the story is true, it is inappropriate and shows a lack of good judgement. Having had the negative experience in itself is not a red flag, but bringing it up in a job interview is.
- Being vague in responses
A key purpose of a job interview is to delve into the details of the candidate’s experience and qualifications, beyond their CV/resume. If you ask a clear and direct question you should get a clear and direct answer. If the candidate is vague, evasive, or rambling in their responses, then either they are trying to hide something or they are simply unable to articulate their thoughts. Either way, it’s a red flag. If you need a quick thinker who can relay information in a concise way, screen for it in the interview, and don’t ignore what you see.
While self-assurance is by all means a desirable trait in a candidate, beware of mistaking arrogance for confidence. Arrogance can be detected by any number of signs; for example, bragging about other job offers, spending the entire interview talking about only themselves, or treating a receptionist rudely. Someone who makes it clear that they think they’re the most qualified candidate for the job, or who is unable to admit any weaknesses, is likely to be problematic when it comes to working in a team, taking other people’s input, and accepting constructive criticism. A candidate needs to show a willingness to learn and adapt and should exhibit a balance of confidence and humility.
Employers should be on the alert for a mismatch between a candidate’s CV/resume and their interview answers. Many job-seekers will lie about things like education (for example listing a college degree before earning it), the dates they were employed, their job titles and their skills. CVs/resumes should always be very carefully reviewed and compared to answers given during the interview. Ensure that there are no inconsistencies with things like dates, reasons for leaving, or lapses between jobs. Warning bells should sound if a candidate pauses or hesitates when asked direct questions that should be relatively easy to answer.
- Asking no questions
The purpose of a job interview is to discover if the position is a match. A good interview, therefore, is a conversation, with both sides engaged. It’s a red flag if the candidate is only responding to questions you ask, and not asking informed questions about your company; it may be that either they aren’t interested, they believe they already know everything to know about the position, or they’re trying to hide a lack of understanding of the role. Whatever the reason, it is something to be wary of in evaluating the candidate’s suitability to the role.