5 Red Flags to Watch Out for When Interviewing a Candidate

September 25, 2015

Based on the Quora thread, “What are some of the biggest red flags in an interviewee?”.

Obviously, hiring is important. Really, really important. And one of the most critical parts of hiring is the job interview - your one chance to really get to know the candidate.

Science tells us structured interviews with structured assessments work best, but that does little to inform us on what to look for. Or, in this case, what not to look for - the “red flags” that signal a candidate might not be right for you.

So, what are some red flags to look out for when hiring? Well, that exact question was posted on Quora, and here were some of the most noteworthy answers.

1. A candidate who refuses to admit to any failures 

Posted by Dan Holliday

One question Holliday – a longtime recruiter – always asks candidates is “tell me about your worst failure on a job, where you thought you were going to get fired.”

The worst answer? Glossing over the question and refusing to give a specific moment. In Holliday’s mind, that means the candidate is either not bold enough, because “bold people take risks and sometimes those risks backfire,” or they are lying.

2. When a candidate says they want a new job because they are bored

Posted by Sarah Smith

Smith, the vice president of HR and user operations at Quora, always asks candidates why they are interested in the offered role. If they say they want it because they are “bored” at their current company, she sees it as a general lack of intellectual curiosity by the applicant.

“I've worked in some very mundane jobs earlier in my career and have never been ‘bored’,” Smith wrote. “There is always something to learn.”

3. Someone who is late and blames the commute

Shared by Mira Zaslove 

If a candidate shows up to an interview late, Zaslove, a manager at HP, always sees it as a red flag. But, it is particularly bad if the person blames the commute.


“I've had a few good people quit after only a few weeks on the job because the commute was just too much,” Zaslove wrote. “Some people can handle the extra time or will move for the right opportunity, but many will be repeatedly late for work, or just quit.”

4. People who ask questions just for the sake of asking questions

Shared by Benjamin Holder

One of the most common red flags recruiters cited in responses on the Quora thread was when a candidate didn’t ask any questions in the interview. Holder – the manager of college recruiting and marketing for GradStaff – agreed, although added that candidates who ask interviewees questions just for the sake of it are equally worrisome.

“I interview candidates everyday that seem to be asking questions just for the sake of asking questions,” Holder wrote. “It's almost as if they think they made it through the interview, and the only remaining task is to check a few questions off of a prepared list. Don't do this. Interviewers can see right through it.”

5. Someone who applies to every job at your company

Shared by Erin Berkery-Rovner 

Berkery-Rovner, a longtime recruiter and career advisor, raises an eyebrow if a candidate applies for multiple jobs – or, in same cases, every job – at a company. As she writes, it might work for someone looking for an internship, but full-time professionals should have enough focus and self-awareness to apply for only the job they are most qualified for.

Any red flags we missed? We want to know! Tweet them at us at HireOnLinkedIn.

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*Image from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

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