Interview Red Flags: Which Are Real Knock-Out Factors?

How quickly times change!

Just a few short years ago, companies had to wade through dozens of resumes from candidates scrambling to find any job in a tight economy. Today, the same hiring managers are still facing tough recruiting challenges -- but now, it's because top candidates can take their pick of jobs in a newly-booming economy.

In today's tight talent market, you can't afford to rule out an otherwise promising candidate for the wrong reason. You need practical advice for getting to "the truth of the matter" with each candidate and deciding whether a "red flag" signals mere caution or a reason to jump ship.

Here are several common "red flags" and tips on how to make the right decision:

Job Hopping
According to one CareerBuilder survey, 43 percent of hiring managers will toss out a resume that shows evidence of "job hopping," or staying only a few months with each employer before moving on to the next. Traditional wisdom insists that job hoppers are fickle, don't have a strong skill base, or simply cannot be trusted. After all, if they left their previous three employers after a few months, who's to say you won't be the next one?

In this case, the (near)-majority is wrong. In the recent volatile job market, job hopping can just as easily indicate a "rising star" who masters a position quickly and is offered an advancement opportunity by a competing company -- one their "current" employer simply can't match.

Find out whether the candidate falls into this category before saying "no thanks!" Added benefits of working with former job hoppers include their adaptability, broad professional networks, and the firsthand knowledge of your industry (including competitors) they bring to the table.

Create a culture that values advancement and initiative, and you'll be able to reap the benefits of a long-term relationship with a former job hopper.

Online Degrees
Coursework completed online has picked up a bad reputation, thanks to the worst offenders in the online degree business: Those "diploma mills" that simply issue a piece of paper to anyone who has the cash to pay for it.

But not all online degrees are so easy to obtain. Many programs provide the same academic rigor as a brick-and-mortar classroom -- and give candidates the same skills and experience they need to flourish within the walls of your business.

Whether a candidate comes with an online degree or a more traditional credential, ask the same questions:

  • What courses did the candidate take? What work did they complete within those courses? How do they apply to your specific hiring needs? A degree alone doesn't guarantee the candidate is prepared to work within your company's structure and culture, no matter who granted it.
  • Did the candidate complete any internships, work-study, or employment while taking classes? What skills and accomplishments achieved in these settings apply to your specific hiring needs?
  • What credibility, certifications, or accreditations does the granting institution have? This information can provide insight into the academic rigor and level of achievement expected.

(Seemingly) Underqualified Candidates
Every hiring manager has fielded a resume from at least one bright, enthusiastic, motivated candidate ... who lacks the experience demanded by the job posting.

Hiring these candidates isn't an automatic failure. In fact, it might be the best success you've made in hiring this year. According to a recent Leadership IQ study, only 11 percent of new employees fail on the job because they lack task-specific skills. Eighty-nine percent overcome this lack of skill with motivation to learn, a willingness to accept instruction and correction, and the ability to adapt to the stress of a steep learning curve.

An initially underqualified candidate who is nevertheless committed to learning stands a good chance of becoming your next superstar. With no "unlearning" to do, they're ready to tailor their work to the methods your company uses for success -- and with a keen sense of "beginning behind the starting line," they're more likely to do whatever it takes to perform well.

When to Lower the Red Flag
An initial sense of caution is natural when facing a potential job hopper, a candidate with an online degree, or someone who appears underqualified. Here's how to decide whether the candidate is potential star material before you make the mistake of passing them by:

Job Hoppers
Ask why they've left their most recent job or jobs. If the candidate moved up, or moved to a place with a better cultural fit, ask about their career goals and the contexts in which they do their best work to determine whether your company can keep offering a similar culture.

Online Degree Holders
Delve into their coursework and scholastic accomplishments to see if they match your specific hiring needs. Consider asking behavioral interview questions, such as "Did you handle ___ in your coursework? What did you do?" These questions provide insight into how the candidate tackled the problem in the past, which can help you determine how they will do on the job.

Underqualified Candidates
Look for candidates who stress a love of learning, and look for resumes and references that support this claim. Candidates who willingly took continuing education classes, who recently started a brand-new hobby, or who made the leap from one industry or job to another likely offer the motivation and willingness to learn that will help them succeed.

When All Else Fails
Unsure whether a candidate is right for your company -- or how to improve the quality of your candidate pool? Talk to a staffing firm with a focus on your industry. Your staffing partner can help you find the best talent for your company's culture, goals, and specific needs.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment