Having interviewed thousands of candidates throughout my recruitment tenure, I have come to notice some commonalities among all-star candidates. On the flip side of the coin, candidates that are more of a hiring risk also demonstrate similar traits and behaviors. Some red flags are more of a deal breaker, whereas others are signs you need to dig deeper.

Here are the most common ones:

·         A resume full of typos / spelling mistakes. MS Word comes with a spell check – use it! If you are not fully proficient in a language, have a professional proof your CV.

·         LinkedIn picture or unprofessional (read: overly familiar) email address. Both make me question your judgement skills.

·         Cover letter where you misspell my name, the name of my company or address me as “Sirs”, Mr (I am not), or start the email with “Hey”. If this one requires an explanation, then we are really in trouble.

·         Not knowing which company I am calling from when you applied to me directly. Organized candidates keep track of their applications and do research – it makes them stand out and make a solid first impression.

·         Telling me that the timing of my call is not optimal because you are eating, brushing teeth or just stepped out of the shower (all true stories, by the way!). Simply asking if you can call back within a certain time frame is clearly sufficient.

 

·         Sounding disinterested, unengaged and unmotivated. I am yet to meet a candidate who sounds bored on the phone and then impresses me in an in-person meeting. To be frank though, these candidates usually don’t make it to the interview stage of the process.

·         Not available for an interview within 1-2 business days. We understand that it is difficult to schedule interviews during the day while employed. For that reason, we accommodate you and offer to meet after hours. If we are flexible and you are not, we question your motivation to look for a new job.

·         Re-scheduling interview with minimal notice and for no valid reason. Over the years, I have received much criticism over my stubborn lack of willingness to re-schedule meetings. A year ago, I made an exception for a candidate because of how promising he looked on paper. A couple of weeks into the recruitment process, he proved to be highly unreliable and we promptly dropped him from our candidate roster. I am yet to be proven wrong on this one!

·         Arriving to the interview late and unreasonably early. Emergencies, traffic and Google Maps happen to all of us – a quick call (before your interview was scheduled to start) will help you save face

·         Odd behaviour during the interview. Your feet should be firmly planted on the floor, not the chair you are sitting on or the desk in front of you. Sipping coffee, eating a bagel, answering your phone, never maintaining eye contact (or not blinking a single time throughout the whole meeting!), taking the resume out of my hands and writing on it, incessantly checking your watch constitute odd behaviour. All of the above are again true stories.

·         TMI. If the information you are about to share is not strongly relevant to the job in question, please do not bring it up. Despite the polite smile in response to your sharing, the person in front of you is feeling awkward and thinking of the most polite way to end the meeting.

·         Questions you ask. Top candidates focus on the challenges of the position in front of them, possibility of professional growth and ability to acquire new skills. If all the questions you have regarding a potential job revolve around salary and/or the hours, it is a sign that you are not one of such candidates.

·         Follow up / availability / de-brief. We keep evaluating our candidates through the process, even after the interview has ended. If it takes you days to return our calls and if you do not call us the day of the client interview to debrief, we conclude that we are low on your list of priorities. We then reciprocate.

When receiving the specs for the most difficult technical or senior position, we reassure our clients that our talented consultants will undoubtedly be able to recruit such hard-to-find talent. When our clients add that the candidate also has to be professional, we pause and inform them that this request makes the search particularly challenging. It is a joke of course, but don’t be the butt of it!
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