10 Red Flags to Watch For When Interviewing Job Candidates


Any hiring manager who sets out to fill a staff position has a lengthy check list of professional credentials to assess potential candidates.  Interview questions gauge how well the interviewees' experience correlates to the job description.

Yet, when the hiring manager finally makes an offer, the ultimate decision has less to do with who best fits the qualifications, and revolves instead around the applicants' social skills during the interview.

A 2015 study found that most interview gaffes stem from thoughtlessness or poor etiquette. They often become deal breakers. Interviewees who show up empty-handed or repeatedly check their phones leave a negative impression, even when their credentials appear promising.

Hiring managers need to pay attention to any quirks in a candidate's appearance or behavior. They can reveal important signs that it would be best to circumvent an applicant when making their hiring decisions.

10 red flags to watch for

Take note of these 10 interviewing faux pas and treat them as important red flags when considering a job candidate's employability:

  1. Arriving late -- Even with a legitimate excuse, applicants who arrive late will test your patience. Worse, still, is showing up late and unprepared. Unless they can make up their lost ground by outshining the other candidates with their exceptional poise, relevant questions, and astute observations about the company, scratch them off the list.
  2. Making a meek first impression -- At the initial handshake, it's easy to ascertain the strength of the interviewee's character. A weak grip, lack of eye contact, and neglecting to smile all imply a lack of confidence and a timidity that won't cut it in most work environments.
  3. Wearing inappropriate attire -- Even if your organization has a relaxed work environment, any legitimate job candidate will know to dress professionally for an interview. When an interviewee dresses casually, it's reasonable to assume the person will have a similarly casual approach to the job. Or, if the attire suggests an evening of clubbing, it could imply an inability to read social cues.
  4. Exhibiting improper body posture -- Body posture reveals a great deal about an applicant's personality. Fidgeting denotes nervousness; slumping signifies a lack a confidence; and arms crossed against the chest demonstrate belligerence or arrogance. Pay close attention to the cues communicated through a candidate's body posture and read them with care.
  5. Using unsuitable language -- Poor grammar is code for poor communication skills -- both written and verbal. Colloquial phrases ("I just wanna say…"), or substituting "good" for "well," ("they did good") can be career crushers. Additionally, inappropriate or derogatory language equates to a lack of sophistication or self-censorship. End the interview as quickly as possible.
  6. Appearing excessively chatty -- Interviewees who act overly familiar or who prattle on in their answers could later become the employees everyone seeks to avoid. Save yourself and your staff from this person's unchecked verbosity by sending a kindly worded rejection.
  7. Detecting discrepancies in their job histories -- Watch for inconsistencies between candidates' own explanations, resume items, or LinkedIn profiles, and what references have to say. Job applicants who pad their skills or work histories are also likely to over inflate their performance once they arrive in the workplace.
  8. Trashing a former employer -- Speaking negatively about a former employer to a potential employer exposes a double-red flag: This person not only tends to place blame on others, but also doesn't discern the inappropriateness of criticizing a former boss to a potential future boss. Steer clear.
  9. Displaying a lack of curiosity -- Every prospective employee should come with a handful of questions to ask an interviewer. Some questions may have been covered earlier, but others will arise during the discussion. Interviewees who have no questions to pose -- or who ask only about the pay scale -- either lack preparation, interest, or depth. Rule them out.
  10. Sharing unprofessional communication channels -- You've culled though your lineup and selected a finalist. But when you call to make the offer, the voice mail picks up and you're blasted with heavy metal music and the slurred voice of your prospective employee. Or, you're about to send an email asking the candidate to come work in your firm, until you see "hot mama" in the handle. When that happens, it's better to go with your runner-up candidate.