5 Red Flags During an Interview

InterviewerHiring is one of the most cumbersome tasks assigned to any manager, especially when their compensation is almost never based on finding the right people. Instead, the hiring process is buried in a mire of platitudes that aim to help the manager but actually do nothing in practical terms.

In this article, instead of telling you what to look for in a potential employee, I’ll give you five simple red flags that you can communicate to your managers that they can, in turn, use to immediately disqualify the worst of their applicants. It is not an ideal solution and it needs to
be applied in the proper manner but it can go a long way towards keeping you from hiring the
bottom of the barrel.

With these things said, here are the five disqualifying things that a potential employee can do during an interview:

1.  Wearing Inappropriate Dress

It is less than amusing to have potential employees arrive for an interview in tee shirts, shorts, short skirts or other non-business attire; it is a waste of valuable management time. While I have hired less than impeccably groomed candidates for warehouse positions, anyone expecting a position where they meet the public or clients should have enough sense to show up for an interview in the appropriate work clothes.

Similarly, a seemingly well-dressed candidate who neglects minor details such as their fingernails or their breath can also be expected to neglect details about their clients. While a candidate, man or woman, need not be dressed in the height of fashion, they should have the sense and wherewithal to arrive in a clean, well pressed and non-garish business outfit.

2.  Communicating in a Haphazard and Unfocused Manner

While many interviewers go into the process with little or no preparation, an interviewee should at least have the basic answers down pat. Hesitancy in answering the simplest of questions such as, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” indicates lack of preparation and an associated lack of commitment. Applicants who cannot adequately prepare their answers to the “universal” interview questions don’t deserve the slightest consideration when it comes to employment.

In a similar vein, a candidate seeking a service or retail industry position must be able to make a marginal degree of small talk or they will be absolutely useless in that type of position. Also, beware of the candidate who doesn’t know when to stop talking. In many ways, they are even worse than the person who engages too little.

The bottom line to this disqualification is whether or not the candidate is paying attention to your verbal and non-verbal cues. He should engage at the appropriate time, making focused comments in response to your questions. These are the basics of human interaction and cannot be affordably taught in a business setting.

3.  Being Surprised at Follow-up Questions

While many candidates eliminate themselves from consideration in the first ten minutes of an interview, there are others who can creditably present themselves throughout the initial screening. In general, these candidates are articulate and well-spoken in their first answers but have significant trouble with follow-up questions.

An experienced interviewer will never rely on the first answer. Instead, another question that builds on the candidate’s response is essential. In this way, the ability of the candidate to “think on their feet” is readily determined. Candidates without this ability should be avoided at all costs.

While the question itself should have some relevance to the ‘how and why’ of their previous answer, it is far more important that the candidate is simply able to frame a reasonable and logical response. A dumbfounded look or one of surprise to a follow up question is the same one you will get whenever a problem arises if you hire this candidate.

4.  Ignoring the Future

As previously mentioned, the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question is important and the answer should figure considerably into your assessment of the candidate. Not only can it tell you about the desire and motivation of the candidate but it can also give you clues as to whether the job is just a convenient stepping stone or sideline to other aspirations.

Whether out of pride or ignorance, people are remarkably candid about their future plans. A good interviewer can easily establish a rapport with a candidate and determine their plans over the next several months. Obviously, you are looking for people who want to develop a lasting relationship with your company. Avoid the rest.

One potential dilemma in this situation is that there are many, very qualified people who are searching for a job and that means any job. They will undoubtedly work hard and provide your company with an excellent return on its investment. Unfortunately, they may also leave at the next sound opportunity. I can’t answer the question of whether or not that person is worth hiring but, in my experience, they should definitely be given the benefit of the doubt

5.  Talking Inappropriately about a Former Employer

There is no doubt that employees are not always to blame for their departure from a company. Nevertheless, certain decorum is required and, after all, there is really nothing to be gained by denigrating a current or former employer. The interview process is about how a candidate can benefit the new company.

A failure to recognize this fact reveals a fundamental character flaw in a candidate. Their previous employer, most likely, was good enough to recruit and employ them but not good enough to retain them. Where exactly does the problem most likely lie?

A Concluding Sentiment

It may seem brutal and somewhat unjust to judge a person so harshly during the interview process. But what is the process for, after all? You want to find the best, most talented people with the least amount of cost and effort. Hiring is hard, tiresome work. Utilizing these five red flags, you can avoid many costly mistakes. Use them wisely and judiciously and understand that mistakes will be made. The real mistake, however, is not using them at all.

Download our complimentary white paper on attracting and retaining top talent...