26 Common Red Flags to Watch Out for When Interviewing Candidates

You take a risk each time you set out to fill an opening with the perfect candidate.

Can you fully understand your candidate’s work style, attitude and personality (essentially, all the things that matter in an employee) from just a few documents, phone calls and meetings?

Not likely.

Most eager candidates are on their best behavior during an interview. They give you the answers you want to hear in an attempt to make it obvious that they’re the right person for the job.

But there are ways to weed out the true prospects from the ones who don’t quite fit the bill.

Knowing what “red flags” to watch out for during the interview process can help save you the future costs of a bad hire. And who better to know the most common of these signals than those who meet with new candidates day-in and day-out?

We talked to Insperity’s seasoned recruiters and gathered 26 telltale signs to look out for the next time you meet with prospective candidates.

26 common red flags to watch out for when interviewing job candidates

1. Lack of eye contact

“When candidates can’t maintain eye contact and consistently look down, it can indicate confidence issues, which could mean they won’t be able to drive processes or they have something to hide.”

Kim Castro | Director, Recruiting Services

2. Suspicious work history

“The best prediction of future behavior is past behavior. Employers should always ask candidates to walk through their work history and why they left each position.”

Angi Lewis | Senior Recruiting Specialist

3. Inconsistent career path

“If candidates’ resumes show multiple career path changes, it could mean they get bored quickly and will grow tired of the routine aspects of the job.”

Joe Flores | Director, Recruiting Services

4. Lack of specific work examples

“The inability to use specific examples to answer technical and behavioral interview questions brings up concerns regarding candidates’ experience. They may not have an example for all questions, but they should have real world, working answers for most of them.”

Michele Anderson | Recruiting Specialist, Accounting & Finance | Twitter: @Ander_Michele1L

5. Leaving jobs due to disagreements

“Candidates who have a history of leaving companies because they don’t agree with their managers or company directives tend to carry this behavior into future roles.”

Angi Lewis | Senior Recruiting Specialist

6. Job “hopping” from one location to another

“Constantly relocating for new jobs never allows candidates to get established in one place or position long enough to gain seniority or follow through with major projects.”

Tony Lewis | Senior Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @TonyLewis711

7. Gaps in employment

“Unexplained employment gaps may imply that your candidates have trouble obtaining or keeping jobs due to performance or personality issues.”

Joe Flores | Director, Recruiting Services

8. Gossiping about former managers or employers

“We don’t expect candidates to like all of their previous companies or managers, but they should keep the complaints to a minimum and keep it professional while interviewing.”

Dani Baird | Sr. Recruiting & Outplacement Specialist

9. Missing or outdated email addresses

“If candidates don’t provide email addresses on their resumes or their email address is anything@aol.com, it could indicate that they lack the technological knowledge or electronic communication skills necessary for certain roles.”

Tony Lewis | Senior Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @TonyLewis711

10. Arriving late

“If candidates are late to the interview, it could mean they have trouble managing their time and struggle to keep a schedule.”

Joe Flores | Director, Recruiting Services

11. Up-front demands

“Candidates that immediately start laying out demands (e.g. I can only work this schedule, I need paid parking, cell must be covered, I require X amount of vacation, etc.) during the first interview will most likely be high-maintenance employees.”

Dani Baird | Sr. Recruiting & Outplacement Specialist

12. Missing home addresses

“Candidates who fail to include an address on their resume may currently live out of the area. They’ll omit their address so that hiring managers don’t immediately rule them out. If hired, their start date could be delayed, as they probably won’t begin planning their move to the location until the position is confirmed.”

Tony Lewis | Senior Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @TonyLewis711

13. Overqualified

“If candidates are used to making a lot more money or are overqualified, they may not stay in the position long term.”

Becky Resendiz | Corporate Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @BeckyResendiz

14. Poor listening skills

“Candidates who unknowingly ask repetitive questions, reply with answers that are unrelated to the questions asked or appear lost during conversations may not have a genuine interest in the role or know how to show respect for others’ time.”

Joe Flores | Director, Recruiting Services

15. Missing interviews

“Candidates who continually reschedule or miss interviews may be unreliable and disorganized.”

Dani Baird | Sr. Recruiting & Outplacement Specialist

16. Using “like” too much

“Overusing the word ‘like’ in the interview conversation sounds very unprofessional and, if hired, could make the individual appear less credible in conversations with current or potential clients.”

Tony Lewis | Senior Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @TonyLewis711

17. Not asking questions

“Candidates who never ask questions may be less ambitious. They may be unwilling to dig deep to find solutions and take on new tasks. Or, they may be trying to hide a lack of understanding of the role in general.”

Joe Flores | Director, Recruiting Services

18. Background check issues

“Discovering multiple small issues with candidates’ background checks, such as poor driving records or unsavory comments from former coworkers, sparks questions of how responsible they are.”

Becky Resendiz | Corporate Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @BeckyResendiz

19. Resume errors

“Multiple errors in their resumes and email communications could imply that candidates lack attention to detail and rush things.”

Dani Baird | Sr. Recruiting & Outplacement Specialist

20. Inappropriate language

“Use of inappropriate language or cursing during the interview shows a lack of respect for the role, company and the interviewers.”

Tony Lewis | Senior Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @TonyLewis711

21. Rambling

“Talking too much or rambling during the interview can indicate that candidates aren’t good at organizing their thoughts.”

Becky Resendiz | Corporate Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @BeckyResendiz

22. Lack of factual support

“When candidates can’t back facts on their resumes or answer direct questions, they may have something to hide or have over-inflated their skills to appear more qualified.”

Rachel Shaw, | Manager, Corporate Recruiting | Twitter: @rachshaw2222

23. Arrives unprepared

“Coming to the interview with no resume or additional documentation to support their potential as strong candidates may indicate that candidates are not serious about the job.”

Tony Lewis | Senior Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @TonyLewis711

24. Bragging

“Candidates who spend their interview talking all about themselves or bragging are most likely not team players.”

Becky Resendiz | Corporate Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @BeckyResendiz

25. Inconsistent transportation

“It’s important to understand your candidates’ transportation ability. Whether they have a car or take public transportation, their method for getting to and from work needs to be consistent and reliable.”

Cari Quinn | Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @CariQ7

26. Unprofessional appearance

“When candidates come to the interview with a sloppy appearance or dressed unprofessionally, it may mean they are lazy and don’t care.”

Becky Resendiz | Corporate Recruiting Specialist | Twitter: @BeckyResendiz

Final thoughts

So while you might not be able to determine whether candidates are perfect fits by handshakes and hurried conversations, little cues in how they handle the interview process may be more telling.

And with these 26 red flags in mind, you’re better equipped to make the right decision.

Interested in additional information to help you improve your hiring process?

Download our free e-book, Talent Acquisition: 13 Secrets to Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent, to discover useful tips for attracting the right candidates and effective strategies for organizing your workforce.