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5 Interviewing Red Flags Every Employer Should Watch For

Human Resources

Every employer hopes to uncover positive traits during an interview with a job candidate — qualities like intelligence, related experience, and an ability to articulate interest in the position and company. But certain interviewing red flags should act as a warning sign that all isn't right with a potential new hire.

Here are five interviewing red flags to watch for:

  1. Doesn't show up on timeThere are many seemingly valid excuses for showing up late for an interview. But when you consider that making a good impression on a potential employer can be among the most important events in a person's life, there's little reason to expect that someone who’s late to an interview will behave any differently once they're on the job.
  2. Is unfamiliar with your company  Any candidate worth serious consideration will demonstrate some basic knowledge about your business — the products or services, types of customers, challenges to the industry, etc., which they can glean from a simple Web search. A person who demonstrates a complete lack of awareness or fails to ask any relevant questions may lack the drive and initiative employers are likely looking for in a new hire, regardless of the position.
  3. Is vague or evasive in answering your questions  Some job seekers have the ability to present themselves as comfortable, articulate, and even charming. But sometimes these qualities are superficial, with no substance behind them. This is something you can discern by asking follow-up and probing questions about their professional background, with special attention given to any claims they make on their resumes. If, for example, they include a successful team project they either led or played a key role in, ask for details. What specifically did they contribute to the project? What obstacles did the team encounter and how did the candidate help overcome them? If the answers are vague or evasive, it may be a sign they're claiming more achievements than they actually accomplished.
  4. Won't take responsibility for past failures  A strong job candidate will acknowledge their part in previous initiatives that failed to achieve intended goals. By contrast, a job seeker's reluctance or inability to ever admit to an error can be a red flag. Everyone makes mistakes, but the most valuable employee is often the one who acknowledges when things go wrong and learns from them. A candidate who doesn't take responsibility for past failures won't likely behave any differently in the new position.
  5. Speaks badly about their former employer  Be on the lookout for a candidate who talks about a past employer in strictly, or even predominantly, negative ways. It’s unprofessional and in bad taste. Ask specific questions about why they left their previous position and the relationships they had with past bosses. Their answers, positive or negative, can tell you a lot about their attitude towards employers in general.

A job interview is your best opportunity to assess a candidate's potential for your open position. And if certain red flags present themselves during the interview, it may be time to look elsewhere.


This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.
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