Hiring Managers: Five Signs Your Interview Candidate is a Bad Fit

Finding a qualified candidate for a job can be a difficult and exhausting task for hiring managers, especially with so many people trying to find work. With 6.3 percent of Americans suffering from unemployment, the job market is still highly competitive, so it’s okay to be picky when selecting applicants for an interview. In fact, it’s prudent.

So how can you be sure your interviewee is worth your time?

Well, you can’t—at least not until you hire him and start working together. But there are a few red flags you can look out for during the interview that could save you from hiring the wrong candidate. While there are always exceptions to the following, here are five signs your interview candidate could be a bad fit:

1. Dresses Inappropriately

From a logical standpoint, if an applicant doesn’t put time into dressing appropriately for an interview, then it only makes sense that he puts the same careless attitude into his work as well. Again, there are always exceptions to this, but it’s only rational to think this way—especially if you’re interviewing a smelly, unshaven person dressed in a tee shirt and torn jeans.

Some people may argue, “But you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.”

Isn’t that what you’re doing in an interview? You don’t have a way to evaluate someone’s inner character—you only have a résumé and a person sitting in front of you to base your decision. While you should never dismiss an applicant for an illegal prejudice (e.g. age, race, gender, etc.), it’s not shameful to reject an applicant for having bad hygiene, overgrown facial hair, or inappropriate clothes.

Your gut is often the first to tell you when something is wrong, and if you choose to ignore this when you’re interviewing someone because you don’t want to make any assumptions, then you’re heading down a dangerous path.

2. Arrives Late to the Interview

This is a no-brainer. When an applicant shows up late to an interview, it shows a lack of respect for your valuable time. It’s an obvious sign of unprofessionalism, and it’s an incentive to start perusing through the stack of résumés piling up in your office. Do you really want to hire someone that you have to constantly keep track of? Of course not! If your interviewee can’t show up on time to an important interview, then it’s probably true that he will do the same for a client meeting. It’s not worth the risk to your business. Dismiss the candidate.

3. Exhibits Poor Communication Skills

Granted, it’s only humane to give a little sympathy to a nervous applicant—after all, job interviews can cause people to feel overly anxious. But how can you identify between nervous talk and nonsensical rambling?

Watch out for filler words such as “uh,” “um,” and “like,” as these are usually signs of a nervous talker. This doesn’t necessarily mean your interviewee is a poor communicator; so don’t write him off just yet. But if your applicant is talking in circles or he’s not answering your questions, then this could be a sign of bad communication skills—in which case it’s not a good fit. Why? Because it’s unrealistic to expect that a person can be successful in a job if he can’t have a logical and coherent conversation.

Pay attention to non-verbal queues and body language as well. Is the candidate maintaining good eye contact when speaking to you? Is he slouching during the interview? Is he fidgeting? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it could be a negative omen for your candidate.

4. Slanders Previous Employer(s)

Some people have a genuinely bad experience with a previous employer, but an interview is not the time or place to talk badly about them. As a hiring manager, this should be an immediate red flag because it’s means that he could do the same to you if employed. Why jeopardize your reputation? If your interview candidate is defaming the very name of his previous employer throughout the entire interview, run (don’t walk) to the nearest exit.

To understand just how much your interviewee respects the reputation of his former employer, consider asking/discussing the following:

  • Why do you want to leave your current job?
  • Describe your work relationship with your former boss.
  • Why were you let go from your previous job?

5. Unable to Substantiate Claims in Résumé

If an interviewee can’t fully explain or prove the bold statements in his résumé, then you immediately have a trust issue—and you can’t rely on an employee without trust. Of course, we all know that applicants often bend the truth a little bit to make their résumés look stronger, so pay close attention to details about past accomplishments, credentials, dates of employment, and education.

Always conduct a thorough background check if you can, but don’t get too tied down on details—you can’t substantiate everything in a résumé. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.


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