Hiring managers look for certain behavioral clues when interviewing, some reveal positive attributes, others don't. Here are some red flags to avoid!
The job market is a competitive place, especially when you are applying to very desirable organisations and companies. The reason jobs at certain companies are more sought after is usually because of the working conditions, employee benefits and career mobility. The reason the companies offer these perks to their employees is to attract the most talented, ingenious and creative candidates possible and they have numerous barriers to deflect candidates that don’t fit into their ideals and company culture.
During the interview process HR or hiring managers usually look for very specific tells (as in behaviours or responses that betray candidates’ shortcomings or deficiencies) to filter out applicants that may not fit in at their organisation. Here are some red flags recruiters look for that you should definitely avoid.
Although I really shouldn’t have to mention it, being courteous and polite during an interview is extremely important. If you have grossly under-developed interpersonal skills, you may want to work on building those up before you go to an interview.
Interviewers are increasingly looking for individuals with well-developed soft skills (a different way of saying interpersonal skills), in some cases preferring them to people with more hard skills who lack interpersonal skills. If you are unsure if you have under-developed soft skills here’s a list that might help you out:
- Do you have frequent emotional outbursts?
- Are you anxious in social situations even though you shouldn’t be?
- Do you have the ability to convey your ideas clearly?
- How persistent are you?
If you answered no to anyone of those items or answered negatively to all of those questions, then you might want to work on your soft skills. Luckily there are ways to do this; the most important component of soft skills is emotional intelligence (EQ) and unlike IQ which is consistent after a certain age, emotional intelligence can be developed and increased. According to the Harvard Business Review, emotional intelligence is a much better predictor of an outstanding employee, much more than cognitive intelligence and thus the reason interviewers look for it in a candidate.
Something else that interviewers actively look for in a candidate is being selectively truthful regarding their previous employment and reasons for leaving their last job. This is a double-edged sword, though, because although they are seeking the truth, they are also wary of candidates that are too candid with their responses. Being too open about interpersonal conflicts with management and co-workers or complaints about the company’s vision and goals will show disloyalty something that I doubt any interviewer is looking for in a potential employee.
On the other hand if you frequently change the subject when asked about the reasons why you left your previous employer or choose not to reveal the fact that you were fired, then this might also show the interviewer that you have a propensity for dishonesty. Remember that the interviewer might be able to contact your previous employer and might be asking you a question to corroborate what your last employer told them. The best way of approaching this is with empathy, if you were on the other side of the table or video call what would you want to hear?
Although at first glance an interview might seem like a one-sided process, it’s far from it. The reason hiring managers finish most interviews with “Do you have any questions for me?” is because this is yet another opportunity for them to extrapolate more information about the candidate. First off it shows critical thinking and cognitive agility especially if the question the candidate asks pertains to something said during the interview process. It also shows that the candidate came prepared, did research and actually invested time and effort into the process of getting a job with the company.
As with most interview related things, this comes with a caveat. Never, ever talk about monetary rewards, benefit packages or vacation days during this section of the interview. This rings especially true if you have no other questions regarding the position. Not having any questions at all, might be perceived as not caring or not knowing enough about the position and more broadly about the company.
To avoid this, as I mentioned above, and I can’t emphasise this enough: do your homework. Research the company’s culture, their goals, mission statement and even look at employee reviews of the company using websites like Glassdoor. Of course, while you research take note of things that you might want to ask at the end of the interview, things that pertain to the actual work, not the working conditions. If you draw a blank when you go to the interview, you can default to a question about the company or organisations goals, mission and vision for the future. Another great “cheap” question is the reason why there was an opening for your position. Just because they’re a little tricky doesn’t mean you can’t be too.
Changing careers is something that is becoming increasingly acceptable, but if you have frequent career shifts dotting your resume you might want to be weary. The way multiple career shifts may be perceived might also change depending on the company’s overall culture. New “hip” tech companies might appreciate an individual with diverse work experience and an interesting if not completely stable personal narrative, whereas more traditional companies (in more traditional industries such as banking, finance and real estate) might perceive multiple shifts as disloyalty and instability. One way to excuse your frequent job hopping is that you constantly strive to expand your set of transferable skills, in an attempt to stay relevant and competitive in a constantly evolving market. Ultimately, though, be honest. The reasons you left are reasons probably everyone has experienced at one point or another.
Finally reiterate that no matter what your previous job hopping might indicate, you intend on being a committed and loyal employee to the company you are applying to. Although it might be a difficult sale, you need to tell them everything you find exciting about the company and the reasons you want to work there. Finally, let them know what would keep you there, either because of the opportunity for upwards mobility, the ability to work within a constantly changing and evolving environment or working with the most brilliant minds in the industry.
This section spiritually succeeds the previous section; there is a special sect of career shifters that actually move from industry to industry without knowing anything about them, motivated by little more than impulse. Although some serial career shifters might have valid reasons, listless shifters don’t even know why they change other than it “seemed right at the time” or “I just watched Wolf of Wall Street and it looked like fun”. Don’t be a listless shifter, you pay for it in the coin of joblessness, know the industry that you're going into, do your homework and don’t do apply to jobs just because you thought “it seemed cool”.
Did I miss anything? Please let me know in the comment section below.