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6 red flags every interviewer needs to know

According to the Harvard Business Review, poor hires account for almost 80% of turnover rates in business and our own substantiated calculations show it can cost a company $697,000. In addition to costing cash up front, bad hires reverberate endlessly taking up limited resources and negatively affecting morale which also costs money in the long-term.

The problem is that even the savviest and most successful CEO’s, hiring managers and human resource executives can be tricked once in a while.  A candidate may be disarmingly charming, extremely well-rehearsed, or have a solid list of referrals that in reality were just their college drinking buddies.

In order to avoid this plight, companies should enlist experts who specialize in hiring and can differentiate the contenders from the pretenders.  It is key to think of interviewing like peeling an onion, one must understand how to get through the layers to find out what is really underneath.

As the CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, Eliot Burdett has overseen the interview process for top sales candidates and world-class companies for more than 25 years.  Here are the top 6 red flags that Burdett says every interviewer should recognize and act on.

  1. CRITICIZES FORMER EMPLOYER: Jobs and careers can often be messy and much of it is out of a person’s control.  However, acting like a professional is something that is very much in our control.  If the candidate bad mouths their current employer or boss, it is time to wrap the interview up quickly.  Chances are that person may bad mouth you in the future. Professionals focus on their own behavior and what they need to do to be successful.
  2. ONLY DID SURFACE RESEARCH: If a candidate does not know standard facts about the organization, its products, services or leadership, it is hard to believe they are legitimately serious and they should automatically be removed from consideration.  However, in today’s world where information is available at the click of a mouse, employers should take it a step further.  Any candidate that can’t offer thoughts on how their employment would help take the company forward does not deserve the role. While they should not be expected to solve all problems before their first day, a thoughtful speech about why they can make a difference should be required and expected.
  3. HAS TROUBLE WITH MONOGAMY: While it is true that a person may need to move around to find their place, be wary of the candidate who changes jobs every six months.  Perhaps they have commitment issues, perhaps they get out before the employer realizes they can’t produce, I leave this to the philosophers and psychotherapists.  What I can tell you is that when you invest in an employee, and follow a structured and rigorous hiring process, the expectation is that they will be a consistent producer for years or decades to come.  That is how a company achieves true growth.  Not to mention that an employee needs time to develop and learn company culture before they can truly contribute.
  4. DIDN’T BUILD IN EMERGENCY TIME:  If you are not five minutes early, you are late.  Anyone who starts a new job should show up early and leave late, even if just by 30 minutes on each end.  This establishes good will and lets employers know the new hire means business.  Similarly, showing up late for an interview is truly a disqualifier.  There are rare cases where the car may have in fact broken down, the subway lost power or the dog ate the car keys, but in all honesty the candidate should have built emergency time into their planning.  This is a huge red flag and in my experience a sign of things to come if the person is hired.
  5. TAKES ALL THE CREDIT FOR THEIR SUCCESS: No matter how skilled or accomplished the candidate may be, it bodes well for them to exhibit signs of teamwork by interchanging ‘I’ vs. ‘we’ we discussing past successes.  Too much ‘we’ could indicate a lack of personal influence, but too much ‘I’ could be a prelude to a bad teammate.  This red flag is often harder to spot, especially when the interviewer is truly hoping to find someone very strong, but no less important.
  6. INABILITY TO DISCUSS THEIR WEAKNESSES: This is a big one. The most successful people are highly self aware and are able to admit past mistakes and discuss their weaknesses.  After all, we are all human.  A person’s DNA is so critical in hiring, someone who can demonstrate how they overcame adversity and showed resilience is very attractive.  Be wary of the person who never made a mistake or always gets it right.  It is unrealistic and fool’s gold.

These red flags, will help green and seasoned interviewers alike be able to weed out bad candidates.  The ability to bring in the right people is the engine of growth for companies across every industry.

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