Hiring the Right Employee – 10 Red Flags to Watch Out For

There are far fewer good candidates than there jobs. And, someone looking great on paper may not necessarily be the right person for your company or the job opening. You must look out for some red flags or warning signs that can lead to grave hiring mistakes.

Every company makes hiring mistakes. While most recruitment managers admit that their regrettable practices of hiring employees are just not right, bad hires are not as much a rarity. It happens all the time.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that onboarding a bad hire does not come at a price. Hiring employees with red flags must be avoided for the following reasons:

  • Bad hires can hugely and negatively impact the existing teams.
  • The company stands to lose if they keep hiring the wrong candidates.
  • Hiring mistakes are cost and time-effective and affect the company’s overall culture.

Not to rub it the wrong way, but hiring is only getting difficult. It’s challenging to find the right candidate. There are far fewer good candidates than there jobs. And, someone looking great on paper may not necessarily be the right person for your company or the job opening.

Therefore, if you or your recruitment agency are updating your hiring process, you must lookout for some red flags or warning signs that can lead to grave hiring mistakes.

These are some deal-breakers that you must consider while hiring employees:

1. Being late for the interview

Turning up after the scheduled time is an absolute no-no. Tardiness demonstrates that they’re too complacent about the opening, cannot manage time and/or have little to no respect for other’s time. Not being punctual says so much about the candidate’s character.

If a candidate is late for something as critical as a job interview, it’s one of the danger signs that indicate that they are weak planners, failing to prioritize crucial meetings. This could be a pattern that might repeat with clients as well, which can negatively impact the company’s reputation. It could mean that they lack utter enthusiasm and interest in the job as well.

So, when you see a candidate who’s not punctual and is casual about it, say no to the candidate politely.

2. First impressions are important

When looking for green or red flags in a candidate, keep an eye out for how they behave from the moment they walk in through your company’s doors. If the applicant is abrupt or excessively curt with passers-by or the receptionist, this could be a telling sign that they will potentially treat the support staff or direct reports in a less than pleasing manner.

With diversity being a key business driver and equality at the workplace having become a non-negotiable aspect in today’s times, hiring or onboarding such a candidate is definitely among the most important hiring mistakes.

3. The job hopper

When you post jobs on multiple portals and social media handles, you are sure to get an array of applications. But, because hiring or onboarding new employees comes at a time, resources and money cost, it is critical to make as few hiring mistakes as possible. Candidates with an unsteady work history might suggest that they have a tendency to hop about between jobs. They are pretty likely to leave your job too soon enough.

While you must be unbiased during the recruitment process, you must also be cautious. Understand that the applicants might have really good reasons to have job-hopped to this extent, consider the risk that such candidates post to the business if they were to leave in a few months of joining.

4. The perfect or too-good-to-be-true candidate

Hiring managers see this all the time and it is more common than you may want to believe. Every now and then, perfect candidates present themselves. They are all you wanted. They have the perfect resumé, come with the right amount of experience, check all the boxes for the skills the company needs and have a ton of enthusiasm. They seem so perfect that you find it difficult to find even a singular instance of weakness.

Being too perfect or good to be true is a really big warning sign, so be cautious. While it is possible that the candidate may actually be right, there is just as much a chance that the candidate may just be trying too hard to look perfect and get into the system. You know the saying: “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

This does not mean you must say an outright ‘no’. Try and distinguish between the must-have and good-to-have skills and competencies. And then, make a thought-through decision.

5. The ‘I, me, myself’ candidate

While a candidate can explain her/his skills and work history well in an interview, it is equally important for them to express from a POV of how they can contribute to the company and business.

Candidates who feel the need to talk about themselves a lot more than other things may just have shown you hiring red flags. When questioned about past projects, if their focus is on their singular contributions and not on the team’s efforts, know that this is a warning sign.

6. Unprepared, uninterested and/or vague

When you post jobs and call for interviews, be vary of the may kinds of applicants you might meet. While many quirks are acceptable, the presence or lack of some crucial attributes must be dealbreakers.

If your candidates show up unprepared, it is a big red flag. They must come prepared with extra copies of their portfolios, resume and all other additional documents that might provide an insight on their skills. If they come unprepared, they may not be serious about the vacancy. This job might just be their plan B.

Similarly, if they show up not looking presentable and professional, this might be a reason to reevaluate their candidacy. Candidates must show up looking the part.

Yet another potent warning sign might be their lack of interest in what you’re saying and/or showing. If the candidates avoid eye contact, lack enthusiasm and display an uninterested body language, they are probably a misfit for the organization and job.

Also, if your candidate seems generic at the interview, read it is one of the danger signs. If they give typical and vague answers to your specific questions, it might mean that they’re not right for the role. They probably applied to your job along with many other jobs, all different.

7. Having no questions or too many demands

As far as hiring mistakes go, these are quite common.

Candidates must have questions about the company and role. It shows their interest and the need to understand if they want to be part of the firm’s culture. Having no questions is a red flag.

Alternatively, if all they want to know is related to monetary compensation and benefits, this may mean that they are not really interested in the job per se. You may not want an employee who is not vested in the company’s growth. Compensation is key and there is no denying that. But, that cannot be their only thought.

Also, there is a lot of difference in negotiating rational employment conditions/provisions and making non-negotiable and upfront demands. Although it is okay to think they have the upper hand in the negotiation, making outright demands is a warning sign that shows that this behaviour may continue as an employee too.

8. Overfamiliarity

Confidence thrills, but cockiness kills!

When you post jobs and end up meeting a cocky person during the interview, consider this a danger sign. Here’s an example to explain what we mean by ‘cocky’.

The candidate must not call the interviewer by his/her first name unless specifically requested. Using an endearment term or a nickname is unforgivably rude. They must also refrain from making inappropriate jokes, using strong or explicit language, oversharing, etc.

9. Speaking ill about past work relationships

At an interview, candidates are expected to be the best versions of themselves. The millennials are, however, a more relaxed generation and may not seem too uptight. That said, nothing, absolutely nothing, opens up the floor for badmouthing or negative portrayal of past work relationships.

It is unacceptable for candidates to badmouth former partners, employers and/or team members. Talking negatively about past work relationships is a definite hiring red flag. This is one of those instances where you must stop and reject them right away.

10. Questionable online presence

While this may not be an absolute dealbreaker, in today’s information age and digital footprint, a lack of or questionable online presence can put candidates in the red flags’ box.

Candidates today can find out all they want to about their prospective employers by simply looking them up online. Simultaneously, companies also can find all they want to about their potential employees.

If you look them up on Google, skim through their social media profiles, read their blogs or posts, etc. and find questionable comments and/or photos, you might just not want to go ahead with this candidate.

Look for previous employer bashing, negative comments on posts that don’t match his/her ideology, sexist or racist comments or shares, etc. are massive red flags. If you find any or all such activities regularly, that is a STOP sign screaming out to you.

The next time you or your HR team is hiring, look out for these danger signs and red flags to avoid making at least hiring mistakes. However, while some candidate behaviours or mannerisms may ring alarm bells, it is important to not become biased or judgemental. Do not make assumptions without looking into the list of potential warning signs and assessing them accurately.

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