Anyone who interviews job candidates should be on the lookout for certain warning signs during a candidate’s interview. Although these signs may not knock the applicants out of contention, they should alert you to the need to tread cautiously.
Specifically, be aware of candidates who:
- Arrive late for the interview and don’t explain why. Even a lame excuse (“I had car/bus/train trouble”) is better than no excuse. It may indicate that being late is a habit.
- Use “they” or “them” when talking about a former employer and co-workers. The use of these plural pronouns may signify that the person felt detached from his or her former co-workers. This may mean that the person could fail to build rapport with a new team.
- Left jobs without giving sufficient notice. In some professions, as soon as someone announces he or she is taking another job, that individual is asked to leave immediately. This usually happens in creative-type companies (e.g., advertising agencies) where confidentiality is an issue. In other cases, employers would expect an employee to give adequate notice, which is normally two weeks. Someone who leaves abruptly may have something to hide.
- Seem overly focused on money. Salary is, of course, a primary issue in any job interview. But most candidates wait until the interviewer raises the subject, and they do not place all their emphasis on that topic. Other aspects of the position (responsibilities, quality of assignments, chance for promotion) should be on the person’s mind as well.
- Give references reluctantly and ask for a day’s lead time to warn those references of your phone call. The person may want to brief the references on what to say. In any case, you probably won’t get the honest responses you were hoping for.
- Have a history of job-hopping. Many companies would view a candidate who has averaged more than one job every two years as a poor employment risk. However, because of the volatile nature of some professions, as well as the way some corporations are still downsizing, there may be extenuating circumstances. If you feel the prospect is otherwise a possibility, probe more deeply into the reasons behind his or her job track record.
- Seem nostalgic about a past job. This person wishes to turn back the clock and return to a past employer. He or she keeps talking about how things were done there. You might not be able to bring this person into the present, let alone the future.
- Talk more in terms of own needs. Do candidates talk about the job solely in terms of what it would do for them, rather than pointing out what they could do for the company?
- Talk more about duties than results. You want a person who gets things done. Someone who sees a job as a list of chores, without looking for the higher good to the company, is probably not going to be very productive.
- Let you ask all the questions in the interview. You don’t want the interviewee to give you the third degree, but it’s reasonable to expect that he or she will ask some well-thought-out questions.
- Were rude to your staff. Ask around after the interview to find out how the candidate was perceived by the receptionist and other workers. Someone who puts up a good front for you but presents another side to staffers should be regarded with caution.
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