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Tips for hiring the best candidate: spotting interview red flags.


Tips for hiring the best candidate: spotting interview red flags. Tips for hiring the best candidate: spotting interview red flags.

Key Takeaways

  • Master the art of spotting interview red flags (warning signs) and green flags (positive indicators) to assess a candidate's potential fit within your team.
  • To identify red flags in an interview, watch out for inconsistencies between resumes and answers, negativity toward past employers, frequent job hopping, and evasive or overly confident communication.
  • To identify green flags, look for preparation, a positive attitude, a growth mindset, clear and concise answers, genuine engagement, and a willingness to collaborate.
  • Interview tips for hiring managers include researching candidates, being organized and preparing your questions, active listening, taking notes, and showing enthusiasm during interviews.
  • Clarify any uncertainties and conduct thorough reference checks to confirm your initial impressions.

We've all been there. You spend hours interviewing candidates, someone seems perfect, you hire them … then reality hits. They just don't seem to fit in, and the skills they talked about in the interview seem to mysteriously vanish. But what if there were ways to avoid this sinking feeling altogether?

The answer lies in honing your intuition during interviews. By learning to spot interview red flags (warning signs) and green flags (positive indicators), you can gain valuable insights into a candidate's potential fit within your team.

Spotting interview red flags and green flags

Ignoring red flags in an interview can lead to costly mistakes. You waste time training someone who isn't a good fit, and company morale can suffer. Conversely, recognizing green flags early on can mean a smooth onboarding process, a happy new team member, and long-term success.

The telltale signs of interview red flags

Red flags can come in many forms. Here are a few common ones to keep an eye out for:

  • Lack of preparation: Did the candidate research your company or the role? If they seem clueless about your mission or what the job entails, that's a red flag.
  • Inconsistencies between resume and answers: For example, a candidate might mention years of experience in a specific software program on their resume, but during the interview, they struggle to answer basic questions about it. This inconsistency raises a question about their true level of expertise.
  • Negativity: Does the candidate constantly badmouth their previous employers? This negativity can be a sign of someone who struggles to take responsibility or who might bring a toxic attitude to your team.
  • Job hopping: A history of frequent job changes (especially under a year) might suggest someone who lacks commitment or struggles to find the right fit. Note that this does not include freelance or temporary roles, which are typically short-term by design.

How to spot interview red flags

Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues. Look for things like:

  • Evasive answers: A candidate who dodges questions or gives vague responses could be hiding something.
  • Overconfidence or arrogance: While enthusiasm is great, an overly self-assured candidate might lack humility and struggle to collaborate with others.

Here's a real-life example: Aquent Recruiter Robin Legator shared a story of working with the fiancé of a candidate she had previously placed, who had recently become unemployed. During an introductory interview, the candidate frequently resorted to profanity in his responses. His evasive answers to specific questions suggested a lack of the necessary experience or leadership skills. Consequently, Legator decided against recommending him for any position and expressed concerns about his ability to represent himself appropriately in interviews with clients or hiring managers.

Interview green flags that signal potential fit

Unlike interview red flags, green flags indicate a candidate who could be a valuable asset to your team. Look for things like:

  • Preparation: Did the candidate research your company's culture and mission? This shows genuine interest and initiative.
  • Consistency: Their resume and interview answers should align, showcasing a clear picture of their skills and experience.
  • Positive attitude: A candidate who speaks well of past employers and shows enthusiasm for the new role is a good sign.
  • Growth mindset: Does the candidate's career history show a commitment to learning and development? This suggests they'll be eager to learn and grow within your company as well.

How to spot interview green flags

Here are some ways to identify green flags during interviews:

  • Well-articulated answers: Can the candidate explain their experiences and skills clearly and concisely?
  • Genuine engagement: Do they ask insightful questions that demonstrate a genuine interest in the role and your company?
  • Team player: Does the candidate talk about past teamwork experiences and show a willingness to collaborate with others?

A green flag success: Aquent Recruiter Gloriane Yi shared an example of a candidate who demonstrated exceptional preparation and enthusiasm for their dream company. This candidate extensively researched the company, tailored their responses to the job description, and even personalized their thank you note with a creative animation featuring the company's logo. As a result, they not only secured the job but excelled in their role, proving to be a dedicated and valuable team member.

Interview tips for hiring managers to uncover green and red flags

Effective hiring manager interview questions are key to uncovering both red and green flags:

  • Behavioral questions: Ask about specific instances where they demonstrated key skills.
  • Open-ended questions: Ask candidates to elaborate on their experiences. “Tell me more,” is a great phrase that encourages candidates to go deeper.
  • Situational questions: Pose hypothetical scenarios to see how they would handle them.

Here are some additional interview tips for hiring managers to identify green and red flags in an interview:

  • Be organized: Have a clear interview structure and set of questions prepared.
  • Be an active listener: Pay close attention to the candidate's responses and ask clarifying questions.
  • Take notes: Document key points to aid in your decision-making process.
  • Research the candidate: Look at their resume and LinkedIn profile beforehand to understand their background and previous work.
  • Prepare your questions: Don't just rely on generic interview questions. Tailor your questions to the specific role and the candidate's experience to get a deeper understanding of their skills and thought processes.
  • Show enthusiasm: A positive and welcoming demeanor can put the candidate at ease and create a more productive interview.

The importance of follow-up and reference checks

Don't stop at the interview. Following up and conducting thorough reference checks can provide valuable insights and confirm your initial impressions.

  • Follow-up questions: After the interview, reach out to clarify any uncertainties or ambiguities that arose during the conversation.
  • Reference checks: Speak with former employers and colleagues to verify the candidate's skills, experience, and work ethic. 

Conducting reference checks and diligent follow-ups is key to making sound hiring decisions. This is highlighted by a recent story shared by Gloriane Yi about a particular candidate. The candidate was asked why they left their last employer after only eight months on the job. They explained that the role turned out to be vastly different from the one they thought they were taking, and when they asked for support, they weren't given any. They said they were essentially set up to fail. Believing this was a single instance and not a recurring theme, the hiring manager brought the candidate onto the team. Within a few weeks, they learned that there was a pattern in this person's behavior; there were constant complaints from this team member without solutions, which became toxic to the team culture. This is a poignant reminder of the value of comprehensive reference evaluations and post-hire monitoring in ensuring team harmony and success.

Don't forget that interviews are a two-way street

The interview isn't just about spotting red and green flags in candidates. Just as you're assessing their skills, addition to your culture, and long-term potential, they're evaluating your company as well. Think of it as a two-way street where the interview becomes a chance to showcase your employer brand and attract the right talent.

For candidates, red flags in an interview might include a lack of transparency about the role or company culture, a disorganized interview process, or a rigid, unwelcoming atmosphere. Green flags, on the other hand, could be a clear understanding of the position's expectations, a team that seems genuinely engaged and happy, and a company culture that values work-life balance and personal growth.

So, how can you ensure your company puts its best foot forward? The key is authenticity. Be up front about your company culture, showcase the genuine personalities of your team members, and highlight the opportunities for growth and development. Don't be afraid to address challenges honestly, but also demonstrate a commitment to overcoming them.

By fostering a transparent and engaging interview experience, you'll not only identify the best candidates for your team but also attract individuals who are truly aligned with your company's values and mission. This two-way evaluation is the foundation for building a winning team, one where both the company and its employees thrive together.

Want help recruiting the right talent for your team? We can help you find the right candidates, develop a strategic hiring plan, and build a team that propels your company forward. Get in touch.