These Candidate Red Flags Should Make Any Recruiter Think Twice

September 15, 2016

When you’re hiring, the job interview is the one chance you have to sniff out what a candidate is all about. If it’s not until after they come onboard that you realize they were a bad hire, it’s a little too late (immediately firing them wouldn’t look so good).

That's why taking note of any red flags that pop up is key. Not only will it help you quickly realize a candidate isn’t a good fit and you should keep looking, it will also save you time replacing that person down the road.

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 answers.

1. A candidate who hasn’t even used your product

Posted by Sarah Smith

“I have little patience for candidates who have not used our product,” says Smith, the VP of HR and User Operations at Quora. If they are about to spend 50% of their time working on a product, shouldn’t they have used it and be interested in it?

To Smith, this shows a candidate hasn’t done the easiest thing to prepare for an interview – get to know what they’d be working on. This signals they aren’t actually passionate about the job and didn’t even care enough to do a little research.

2. Someone who isn’t 100% sure what role they want

Posted by Adam Seabrook

When interviewing, Adam Seabrook, Co-founder at, always probes candidates to find out what other roles they are interviewing for. Why? Because if they’re applying for roles nothing like the one he's hiring for, that’s a bad sign.

“Many candidates start hunting for a job before they have a clear view of what role they want,” says Seabrook. And when that’s the case, he usually turns them away. That’s because in these cases he has found that the candidate will get to the offer stage and then withdraw, or accept and then switch jobs very quickly when they realize they want something else.

3. A candidate who brags about other job offers

Posted by Mira Zaslove

According to Zaslove, a top writer at Quora, when candidates blatantly brag about other offers, it signals that they aren't committed to this particular job. “It's a red-flag that indicates they will probably accept another offer, using my offer as leverage,” she says.

When this happens, Zaslove worries that the candidate will always be thinking "what if." “I've seen these candidates quit when the going gets tough, to take another "greener pasture" position,” she says.

While it’s not a bad thing if a candidate brings up that they have another offer, make sure they do it at the appropriate time (not right off the bat) and that they seem to genuinely want your role.

4. When it doesn’t seem like a candidate is listening

Posted by Josh Doody

“If they're not listening carefully and giving thoughtful answers, that makes me worried,” says Josh Dooby, a Salary Negotiation Coach and Consultant. “This is especially true for client-facing roles, where escalations can be avoided by listening carefully and demonstrating empathy. If they don't listen in the interview, that could mean a lot of unnecessary escalations in the future,” he says.

While many people dislike interview curveballs, Doody says they can come in handy when you want to make sure a candidate is paying attention. “When I ask a curveball question, I don't usually care about the answer as much as I want to see how well the candidate is listening and how they react in the moment,” he says.

5. A candidate who only uses “I’s” or “we’s” instead of a mix

Posted by Ramkumar Balaraman

Balaraman, a Business Intelligence Solutions Architect, says that when candidates describe past projects and accomplishments, he “expects a health mix of ‘I’ and ‘we.’”

“Too much 'we' could indicate a freeloader, and cause me to probe further on individual contribution,” he says. On the other hand, too much 'I' when describing projects that are obviously team efforts can indicate a poor team player who does not attribute credit where it's due.

6. When a candidate’s body language shows they lack confidence

Posted by Marina Zayats

For Zayats, a Communications Consultant, candidates “lower their chances significantly due to a body language that gives away nervousness and lack of confidence.”

If a candidate sits with their shoulders sunk and a crooked spin, that is a sign they lack competence, self-confidence and energy. The best candidates will make an effort to sit, stand, and shake hands professionally. Not to mention, they’ll make good eye contact!

7. A candidate who’s low energy

Posted by Adam Seabrook

Another one from Seabrook, who says what while he doesn’t “expect candidates to blast into the interview like a 100m sprinter,” if they come across as low energy, he finds it very hard to get past that.

When digging into details of how a candidate works, it is often clear they are happy to coast along and are not a great fit if you’re looking for someone who is self-motivated and driven.

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

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