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The current job market is perhaps the worst the town has experienced in recent memory. Increasingly business hiring is becoming desperate as the pool of candidates remains very tight. However, there is truth in the statement that making a bad hire in the short term, will cost you significantly more in the long run through disruption, decreased productivity, employee counselling and finally having to replace the bad hire.

Despite the temptation to take ‘anyone’ to fill the hole, it’s never been more important to find and retain the right candidate. But how can you be sure you’ve found a quality candidate and what are the red flags you need to look out for?

Attracting, interviewing and hiring new employees is a time-intensive, painful and costly exercise, so it’s important to know the warning signs of candidates who aren’t going to be a good fit for your business.

First glance

Warning signs when reviewing a candidate’s resume

There are three main red flags to watch for when reviewing a candidate’s CV:

  1. Employment Gaps

Check for the gaps in the timeframe and ask a candidate to explain them- do the answers ring true? Employment gaps are absolutely fine, if the reason is logical, such as a break to travel, to further a learning degree or having a child.

While most candidates will have at least one gap in their work history, the red flag is periods of unemployment that are not backed up with a reasonable explanation. Also look for many roles with a short tenure. This could be a sign that the employee isn’t going to be around long and perhaps also not reliably going to turn up on time or regularly.

  1. Lack of attention to detail

Lack of attention can be a huge red flag.  A candidate should go through their resume and cover letter with a fine-toothed comb before hitting the submit button, especially if this is an important role in your business. Ultimately if there are errors, this lack of attention may reflect how they will behave if hired.

  1. Generic cover letter

A generic resume and cover letter that can be used for multiple jobs is a warning sign. If your role is specific, well paid and you are looking for a long-term candidate the documentation should be written with you in mind. The candidate should tailor their resume and cover letter to your business and focus on the role they are applying for and show exactly what they offer and how it relates to your role.

Interview red flags

There are certain attitudes or ways of communicating that should cause caution in a hiring decision about a candidate.

  1. Egotistical behaviour or arrogance

There’s a fine line between arrogance and confidence, but if a candidate presents as someone who knows it all or speaks only about themselves, it’s a warning sign that they may find it difficult to accept feedback and may not fit well within a team.

  1. Late or moving the interview

A candidate who is late to an interview or pushes the interview out should be a red flag. If your meeting is not a high priority when they are looking for employment and then this is likely to be a way of operating when they are hired. 

  1. Short on the details

A candidate who isn’t willing to provide necessary information or bring required documents to an interview (such as referee details or visa status) is a concern. It should start to get you to question their suitability. Why aren’t they willing to participate in basic checks? What are they trying to hide?

What to do if you have concerns

It’s tempting in the current employment market, to forgive or turn a blind eye to the warning signs. 

Employers need to give candidates the opportunity to explain their side of the story before making a decision. However, identifying the wrong candidate before it’s too late comes down to doing due diligence from the outset. If your short list doesn’t have a worthy back up candidates, this leaves you exposed. Reference checking is essential and speaking to two or three previous employers and being prepared to ask hard questions to persuade yourself that this truly is a worthy employee.

Finally, look at how the candidate presents themselves on public social media channels. These steps will help reduce the risk of the wrong employee being hired.