Recruiters share the red flags they look out for during the hiring process

Last-minute interview cancellations, full-on ghosting, and delayed or incessant emails are among one HR leader’s biggest red flags.
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When a mega Reddit thread sharing job seekers’ HR red flags emerged last month, it garnered over 6,000 likes and half as many comments. Such a pile-on wasn’t shocking to Jack Kelly, founder and CEO of Compliance Search Group, an executive search firm that places candidates at Fortune 500 companies.

“It’s much easier when you [say] what’s wrong with companies,” Kelly told HR Brew.

But even if candidates don’t draw the ire of r/humanresources, they commit faux pas, too—by actively showing too little or too much interest, or by committing more subtle transgressions, such as submitting an excessive number of applications, according to recruiting pros who spoke with HR Brew. In a white-hot labor market, recruiters may not consider such missteps consequential. But now that a recession looms, the stakes are higher.

To the beat: One, two, one, two. Like dancing, recruiting involves moving to a beat. Keirsten Greggs, founder of talent-acquisition consultancy TRAP Recruiter, said she looks to see who rushes the pace, and who moves too slowly.

When a candidate doesn’t respect her time, it tells her that they may be an inconsiderate employee. Last-minute interview cancellations and full-on ghosting are among her biggest red flags, as are delayed or incessant emails.

“I’m not saying that unsolicited emails…are not okay—they are,” Greggs said. “But it doesn’t take sending me LinkedIn messages, stalking me on social media, [getting] my phone number on my website, and then calling me.”

Crystal clear. If a candidate can’t answer who they are, what they’ve done, and why they believe they’re the right fit for the role “clearly [and] concisely,” Kelly said he sees it as a red flag that the candidate probably won’t interview well or pass muster with the hiring manager. Byron Slosar, founder of recruiting platform HIVE Diversity, said via email that he feels the same way if candidates fail to adequately research the role, company, and hiring managers prior to the interview.

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Greggs recommended that recruiters see what other roles candidates have applied for in the company’s ATS. If they applied for, say, 20 roles ranging from entry to C-level at locations across the globe, she takes it as a sign that they aren’t serious about any one job.

Similarly, Kelly considers having held three or more positions in five years to be a sign that the candidate isn’t invested and may continue to jump. “The odds are, they’re gonna probably leave us within three to six months, or nine months, or a year. And it takes three months or so just to train the person,” Kelly said. “It’s not worth it. Let’s check and find somebody else.”

Resetting. The recruiters interviewed for this piece agreed that it’s important to keep an open mind, no matter what kind of first impression a candidate may have made. After all, if they have the self-awareness to acknowledge mistakes, they can shed some light on their conflict management style.

“If candidates are willing or able to in real time acknowledge that a mistake has been made…not only can they make up for an error, but it can be a defining moment as to why they’re eventually selected for the position,” Slosar said. “Recruiters are looking for how candidates think, not just what they know. Not just [if] they’re perfect for the role, but how they handle mistakes.”—SV

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HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

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