8 Red Flags Recruiters May Find While Looking for a Candidate

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals, Recruitment Advice, Trends and Learning

During the hiring process, it’s crucial for you to check if the applicant is the right candidate who will fit your company culture perfectly. Since not all candidates are created equal, you’ll need to exercise good judgment in evaluating them based on what their résumé says and what they tell you during interviews. As a recruiter, HR professional, or business owner, you shouldn’t ignore warning signs or red flags that candidates might knowingly or unknowingly manifest.

This article will help you pinpoint those rough edges and help you decide if the candidate is worth hiring or is someone you should pass up on.


The candidate’s résumé is your first opportunity to assess his or her skills or professional experience. Here are things you should look into when reviewing a candidate’s résumé:

1. Structure

Considering that there are hundreds of résumé templates that can be downloaded online, it’s unforgivable if a candidate submits a CV that doesn’t have a proper structure. Maybe there are no clear section or paragraph divisions in the résumé, which isn’t helpful if you want to quickly find the most important details about the candidate’s educational background or technical skills.

Moreover, a poorly formatted CV doesn’t speak well of the candidate’s desire to make a good first impression about his or her presentation skills to a potential employer. If the candidate didn’t take the time and effort to come up with a decent résumé, it also raises doubts on the kind of work he or she is going to do in the future as an employee of your company.

2. Contact information of references

These days, it’s hard to imagine for employees or HR managers not to have a personal or work e-mail address, or a mobile phone number, where other people can contact them. If a candidate is unable to provide the contact details of his or her colleague as a character reference, it may be something to be concerned about.

In other cases, a candidate will list a reference from way back instead of one from a recent employment, making you wonder if the candidate is trying to dismiss a certain company from his or her employment history.

3. Spelling and grammar

Similar to the first item above, the internet has plenty of free tools that job candidates can use to help them check for spelling and grammar errors in their CV. Not using these tools could either mean that the candidate is not comfortable in using technology to help them improve their writing skills, or that the candidate didn’t bother to double check his or her document before sending it out. You might want to pass on this candidate if the job entails something as important as basic quality checking.

4. Employment history

When you come across a candidate who has a track record in job hopping or who is unable to explain employment gaps, you should clear this up with the applicant. Someone who is constantly changing jobs might be struggling to figure out what he or she really wants to achieve, or who has trouble working with team members. Meanwhile, unless the candidate tells you that he or she pursued further studies or other worthwhile endeavors, you should probably look into why the candidate had to take a break from work for some time.


The interview is another screening tool, which can give your recruitment agency or recruitment team valuable insights about a candidate’s soft and hard skills. Beware of these warning signs:

1. Arriving late

When an applicant fails to show up on the day and time of the interview, it’s a poor reflection on the candidate’s sense of professionalism. The candidate should know better and set an allowance for possible delays in traveling to your office. Whether it’s due to bad traffic, a road accident, or difficulty in finding the exact location of the recruitment agency, tardiness is a red flag. Since the issue of tardiness is usually associated with time management problems, you might want to think twice about hiring someone who may be unable to stick to a given schedule.

Beyond time management concerns, another implication of being late for an interview is that the candidate has no regard for the time that the recruiter loses in waiting for him or her to arrive. It could be an indication that the candidate doesn’t have an idea how unprofessional behavior might affect his or her future employer.

2. Vague responses

Your goal as a recruiter is to find out more about a candidate’s qualifications that haven’t been covered well enough in the résumé or in a series of assessment activities. If you’re not satisfied with the quality or amount of information that the candidate is giving, it’s enough reason for you to feel alarmed.

For example, you’d prefer if the candidate used the first person point-of-view (POV) instead of the third person POV. There’s a difference when someone says “we” when you want to know what the applicant sitting in front of you contributed to a project, not what he or she accomplished as member of a particular team.

3. Body language

Body language can tell you something about a candidate, such as how focused or how attentive the person is toward the interview process. If an applicant cannot make steady eye contact with the interviewer, it’s quite safe to assume that the candidate lacks confidence to communicate or interact with other people up close. It could also be a sign that the candidate is thinking of something else and is not aware that the lack of mental alertness shows in his or her body language.

While many of us may have a peculiar way of behaving based on how we’re feeling, you shouldn’t dismiss it when a candidate demonstrates poor posture, a nervous disposition, and other unacceptable forms of body language.

4. Lack of preparation

As an employer, you’d expect that the candidate has done some preparations for the scheduled interview. It may be as simple as bringing a copy of his or her resume, or a pen and paper.

You’d also want the candidate to have a general idea about the business or the position being offered, which is possible if the applicant has done some research about your company. Candidates should likewise anticipate and prepare for basic interview questions, so they can mentally organize their thoughts and won’t be caught totally off guard during the actual interview.

This type of red flag may signal that the candidate lacks initiative or is not serious about joining your company. Otherwise, he or she should have prior knowledge or preparation about what could transpire that day.

Bottom Line

When applying for a job, candidates should always put their best foot forward, but sadly, that doesn’t happen all the time. Luckily for you, it’s not entirely impossible to tell if a potential new hire is going to be a good one or the other way around. Your recruitment agency can help you look for these red flags, so you don’t make a bad hire with your next employee.