5 Red Flags To Watch for in Your Next Candidate Interview

May 12, 2016 Guest Contributor

In Hollywood and pop culture, the rite of passage into adulthood is often characterized by a myriad of zany events. In reality, most of us face the transition when we move out from under the wings of our parents and begin to live our own sovereign lives. For me, what I remember most was a sit-down conversation I had with my father. It began with him beckoning me from my bedroom into our kitchen, where I found him sitting at one end of the table with a seat pulled away for me at the opposite end.

Over the course of about two hours, we meandered through topics ranging from paying my bills on time to tips about where to find the best bargains on food and furniture. For the most part I entertained his conversation, nodded my head and pretended to be interested. Then, in the last 20 minutes or so he laid out some important warnings that I still reflect on to this day. He discussed various situations in which I could put myself in jeopardy. “Don’t ever leave a drink unattended,” “Always remember to be polite and act like a lady,” and finally, “Heed the little voices in your head, as your gut instincts will usually be the correct ones.”

Over the years, his final point of guidance in particular has proven useful, both personally and professionally. As a recruiter, identifying and acknowledging potential red flags a candidate may exhibit has helped me to hire better employees, as well as continue to sharpen this important skill set.

As you head into your next interview with a candidate, here are five red flags to look out for.

Where’s the Focus?

There is a symbiotic relationship between every employee and the organizations for which they work. The employee earns a living and is provided benefits, while the employer is able to generate profit, thus creating a give-and-take cycle. If you find the person on the other end of the phone or table is too focused on their own personal gain, your “Spidey senses” should begin to tingle. While candidates should definitely be interested in the opportunity on a personal level, there should also be a strong interest in how they can contribute to their potential new teams.

Earnest Enthusiasm.

Yes, the candidate should be jazzed about the opportunity; however, any recruiter worth their salt should be able to see through overly fake enthusiasm. Of course, job seekers will show interest, but pandering in order to get the offer often leads to quick turnover. In order to dial into and get to the bottom of your suspicions, directly inquire about their passion. If they cannot describe why they have passion, you may be best advised to move to the next candidate.


“Time and tide wait for no man.” Sure, Mr. Chaucer uttered these words hundreds of years ago in reference to man’s inability to stop the clock, but modern professionals should, at a minimum, be respectful of the clock. There are circumstances outside of our control (car accidents, deaths in a family, and so on), but unless there is very good reason, a candidate who is tardy to an interview needs to be evaluated carefully. Consider that within functional teams, breaking deadlines can often have rippling effects on the bottom line. Additionally, over the years I’ve found that those who are late to an interview typically continue a similar pattern in their daily work lives.

Lack of Preparation.

As professionals, we prepare for each interview we conduct. A candidate has a similar responsibility. If they show up to an interview without having done their homework, it suggests that they will likely lack preparation in their day-to-day role within the organization.

Inability to Admit Weakness.

Not every interview conducted contains a question around weaknesses and failures — and it certainly isn’t an absolute necessity. That said, on the day of the interview, if your counterpart is unable to cite examples  of where they have made mistakes, it’s a good indication they haven’t yet realized how to learn on their own. We all make mistakes. Those of us who realize this move forward and work to improve our performance.

Filling our organization’s ranks with great candidates is a difficult role. It takes patience, countless hours of work and a desire to make the organization better with each and every hire. Paying attention to these sometimes subtle red flags will help you to be that much more successful in all that you do each day.


See what you should look for during the interview process. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: As the editor and content manager at ResumeEdgeMichelle Kruse has helped countless job seekers find success. With more than 10 years of experience recruiting for companies like Novartis and IBM, she has firsthand experience of what recruiters are looking for, and she shares that insight with those who need it most. She writes regularly to provide advice on resume writing and interviewing not only because it’s her job, but because it’s her passion.


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