HR[preneur] Episode 4: Red Flags to Watch for When Interviewing Candidates

HRpreneur Episode 4

A poor hiring decision can be an expensive mistake. Knowing what to watch out for during the interview and hiring process can help save significant time and money.

Episode Info

Red Flags to Watch for When Interviewing Candidates (click to listen/download podcast)

Conventional wisdom is changing when it comes to interviewing job candidates. Frequent job changes or gaps in employment used to be major red flags on a resume, but now they may indicate that a candidate is ideal for the job. Learn more about why, and other important things to look for during the interview process.

Reference Shelf

Speaker Info

Kara Murray is the Vice President of Sales Operations for ADP's Small Business Client Channel. Kara has been with ADP for 9 years and has been in various sales and sales leadership positions while she has been with ADP. One of her primary goals is to educate our clients on the ever-changing HR landscape and how ADP can help them overcome everyday workplace challenges.

Kristin LaRosa is Senior Counsel for ADP's Small Business Services division. Prior to joining ADP, Kristin worked as an employment lawyer where she represented employers in litigation and provided legal advice and counseling on day-to-day employment and HR matters.

Meryl Gutterman is Counsel for ADP's Small Business Services division. Prior to joining ADP, Meryl worked as an attorney in private practice representing small businesses in employment-related matters.

Full Transcript

Kara Murray: Hiring the wrong candidate can be a costly and time consuming mistake. In fact, turnover can cost a business over two times an employee's salary when you factor in lost productivity and replacement costs. That's why it's important to spot red flags during the interview and hiring process. I'm Kara Murray and this is HR Preneur, a podcast by ADP. We know you work incredibly hard to support your employees and make your business a success. More than likely this means you wear lots of hats and one of those might be HR Professional. We're here to help you get the insight you need in order to tackle day to day workplace issues.

This week I'm joined by Kristin LaRosa and Meryl Gutterman. Both work as counsel for ADP Small Business Services. They're here to talk about some red flags to watch for when interviewing candidates. I also want to thank the ADP Client Appreciation Program for sponsoring today's episode. You can earn free payroll by referring ADP and if you want to learn more you can reach out to your local sales representative. So let's start with the resume since this will likely be your first introduction to a particular candidate. Kristin, what are some things that may raise concern on a resume?

Kristin LaRosa: So there are a few things you want to look out for. The first thing that may be a little more obvious are errors like typos, format issues or grammatical mistakes. And if a candidate is making these kinds of avoidable errors before they've even been hired when they're supposed to be putting their best foot forward, it could be a sign of carelessness or that they lack attention to detail. But certainly you want to take into account the nature of the job and the types of errors when deciding to what extent you're going to consider these mistakes.

Kara Murray: Great. Thanks, Kristin. So I've also read that some employers have concerns about gaps in an employee's work history. Meryl, would you say that is something to be worried about?

Meryl Gutterman: Perhaps. It's certainly becoming much more common in today's work force for employees to take time off to travel, to do freelance work or maybe to volunteer. But you should be careful about how you address a prolonged workplace absence because it could be protected by the law. And there are also some jurisdictions that prohibit employers from considering an applicant's employment status when they're making hiring decisions. So just be sure to keep that in mind when you're screening your applicants.

Kristin LaRosa: That's right. And there's also certain information you can't take into consideration when you're evaluating a candidate. So for instance, if the applicant took time away from work to serve in the military, that time would be protected. They may also have gaps in employment due to child care or family care responsibilities. So you don't want that to be a basis for rejecting them as a candidate. Also try to focus on the job related reasons they left their previous job.

Kara Murray: That's a good point, Kristin, and something we covered in our last episode on interview questions to avoid. If you haven't already, you'll definitely want to listen for insight on how some seemingly harmless interview questions may be off limits. Now what about job hopping? Is it a red flag if a candidate goes from one employer to the next over a short period of time?

Meryl Gutterman: Well, past behavior can certainly foreshadow future behavior. If you notice a candidate frequently changes jobs, this can mean that they get bored easily and may grow tired of the routine aspects of the job. So just ask the candidate to walk you through why they left each position and then make an assessment based on their responses.

Kristin LaRosa: But I will say job hopping has become more commonplace. Sometimes candidates are looking for opportunity for advancement or for more compensation. But there are other factors like work/life balance or work culture and social consciousness that seem to be driving applicants to continue to search for the right fit. And there will be some positive attributes these candidates may bring to your company like a fresh perspective and a willingness to take risks. So if you find that the candidate left their job due to a disagreement with a coworker or a manager, I mean that certainly could be a red flag.

Kara Murray: Let's talk more about that. Badmouthing former employers definitely seems like a major red flag.

Meryl Gutterman: Absolutely. If the candidate talks poorly about their previous company, it's definitely a red flag. But to be clear, though, there's a difference between badmouthing and constructive criticism. Constructive criticism typically shows that a candidate is thinking about how the company can improve but unwarranted insults, that's not the type of negative behavior you want at your company.

Kara Murray: So let's back up a few steps. We covered resume red flags and we've touched a bit on interview responses that could raise concerns. Let's talk about the candidate who arrives late.

Kristin LaRosa: Oh, arriving late may mean the candidate has poor planning and time management skills, which could translate to tardiness issues on the job. But there may be some circumstances beyond the candidate's control. So a family emergency would be one example. In some cases the delay may even be related to protected reasons. For example, you have a candidate who has a disability that requires an accommodation to access your workplace. So if you have a candidate that shows up late, you want to listen to their reasoning before you make any kind of assessment.

Kara Murray: How about the candidate who just misses the interview altogether?

Meryl Gutterman: Well, that's usually not good. Yes, candidates who keep rescheduling phone calls or interviews, well, they'll likely be unreliable on the job so absolutely you want to proceed with caution with a situation like that.

Kara Murray: Okay, so switching gears. Let's say the candidate shows up and they're on time but you're having trouble drawing answers out of them. How should you handle a candidate who seems to be dodging your questions?

Meryl Gutterman: So that is a great question. In some cases the candidate may just be nervous or may have lost track of your original question. So in that case you want to simply repeat or rephrase the question. But maybe you're getting the feeling that they're evading the question entirely. So there, again, you can try rephrasing the question and also emphasize the information that you're looking for. So for instance, if you ask the candidate what they liked and disliked about their most recent job but they only share the positive aspects, you could say something like okay. You've told me about the positives but how about the negatives of your last job? And if the candidate still doesn't answer your question, take that into consideration as you move forward.

Kristin LaRosa: Right. And alternatively, you may find that the candidate is really only telling you what they think you want to hear. So if their responses seem overly rehearsed, you may want to try more direct questions to trigger more honest answers. And you may want to present a hypothetical challenge that they may face on the job and see how they handle it and answer the question.

Meryl Gutterman: Yes, that's a really good point and that actually made me think of another red flag to watch out for, which is lack of specific work examples. So if your candidate's struggling to answer how they've handled certain situations in the past or explain their accomplishments, you really want to dig in a little further. So for example if you have a candidate and they were to tell you that they increased sales by twenty percent, you could ask how they specifically contributed to increasing sales. And then you can also try to even verify that information during reference checks.

Kara Murray: We've talked about responses from applicants but what about the other way around. Is it a problem when a candidate doesn't have any questions for the interviewer?

Meryl Gutterman: So a lack of questions could be a sign that the candidate is unprepared or didn't research your company or industry and has very little interest in the job. So here you want to just make sure that you're giving all candidates an opportunity to ask you questions and consider whether they're asking then informed and insightful questions.

Kara Murray: Okay. So we've covered quite a few red flags. For employers getting ready to make a new hire, what advice do you have?

Meryl Gutterman: I would say that if you spot any of the red flags that we just talked about, you want to try to probe further to determine whether the concern is relevant to the job and whether it should even be considered when making your hiring decision.

Kristin LaRosa: Also make sure that you're using job related criteria to thoroughly vet each candidate. This can help increase the likelihood that you'll find the right person for the right job.

Kara Murray: Thank you, Meryl and thank you, Kristin. You both provided great insight into what to watch out for when interviewing job candidates. We want to thank you all for listening to HR{preneur} . I'm Kara Murray. For all the latest episodes subscribe in iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Podcast Overview

HR{preneur} , a podcast by ADP's Small Business Services, is designed to help you get the insight you need in order to tackle day-to-day workplace issues. In each episode, you'll hear from industry experts about the latest in HR, such as the #MeToo movement, evolving marijuana laws, and more. Each episode will be between 10 and 15 minutes long, but full of practical advice. Find us on Apple® Podcasts or visit the HR{preneur} podcast page on Podbean.