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6 Tips About How To Source Passive Candidates

If you are a recruiter or works in the staffing industry, I’m sure you know that passive candidates are usually the best candidates. But passive recruiting is often easier said than done. You’ll have[...]

November 13, 2018

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5 Warning Signs Recruiters Should Spot in Candidates

As an independent recruiter, your livelihood springs from placing the highest caliber talent in mission critical roles for your clients. When you’ve found those superstars and hidden gems, the sense of excitement is palpable. The candidate’s resume is packed with energy and experience. His or her values seem perfectly aligned to the client’s culture. And then, once hired, you discover that this ideal worker has become a bit of a nightmare. Less serious behaviors can blossom into full-fledged problems quickly. So it’s important to look for and detect red flags. Here are five warning signs to identify during your initial conversations and phone screens with candidates, courtesy of Fast Company’s Stephanie Vozza.

Mole Hills Can Become Mountains Quickly

In her article, Vozza discusses red flags that indicate a hiring mistake. However, we believe it’s possible to catch them before an offer is extended. This requires independent recruiters to really engage in dialog and direct conversations with candidates -- not just boilerplate emails, texts, or messages. As Vozza notes:

Start by discerning red flags from overt problems like dishonesty or illegal or immoral actions, says Shani Magosky, author of The Better Boss Blueprint. “Those aren’t red flags; they are more like baseball bats hitting you over the head, and thus require swift action or termination,” she says.
Less serious behaviors should be noted and handled immediately because they could be signs of something worse to come.

Five Red Flags to Watch For in Candidates

They Expect Promotions and Raises Right Away

It’s natural for candidates to inquire about a company’s career path, advancement opportunities, leadership development programs, and compensation structures. It’s also fair to presume that they’re seeking a new employer because they’re not receiving the pay or upward mobility they may have been promised when they began that job. However, if candidates begin asking how soon they could be promoted or see a salary increase, you may be fishing in troubled waters.

“Employers appreciate enthusiasm and a gung-ho attitude, but promotions are earned over time,” said Ian Caullay, director of employer relations at Oakland University’s School of Business Administration. “Employees need to take the time to get to know the culture, the work, and the people before plotting their next move.”

If your candidate is clearly looking at the job as a stepping stone to something grander, the client could be at risk for turnover.


Exceptional candidates -- those who appear serious and committed to landing the position -- should have a healthy volume of questions to ask you. Those queries should convey a sense that the candidate is already preparing to tackle tasks and hit the ground running. Red flags arise when the questions hint at helplessness or reveal that the candidate doesn’t understand the role.

  • They seem to want an inordinate amount of training for a role in which they profess experience.
  • They’re more concerned about consistent access to supervisors and managers than resources or tools to perform the work.
  • They ask too many clarifying questions about the basic duties and responsibilities of the position.
  • They seem to have to no grasp of the company, the industry, or the products and services it provides

Talking the Talk, Not Walking the Walk

Asking scenario-based, situational questions in your phone interviews with candidates is essential. This will help you discover if the individual’s behavior and performance match the experience presented in the resume. When asking potential hires about listed accomplishments, request a real-world illustration of how they applied their skills to fulfill those duties. Here are a couple of examples of other questions.

  • Tell me about an occasion when you believe that you delighted a customer, whether external or internal.
  • Give me an example of a situation where you had to deal with and resolve a conflict.
  • Provide a real example of how you used your specific skills, behaviors, or experience to accomplish a project similar to the one in scope for this employer.

Already Tired and Needing a Vacation

”A new hire that starts work and then tells you about a pre-planned vacation for the next month is a bad sign,” Vozza writes. Employers view actions like this as dishonesty on the part of the candidate. Sometimes, though, wheels are already set in motion. During your conversations with candidates, be sure to ask whether they have upcoming plans or time-off needs. Employers can generally work around pre-existing scheduling issues if the individual is forthright before an offer of hire is extended. And you can help facilitate that.

However, also be aware of candidates who imply that they expect too much flexibility in working hours or days. A planned holiday is one thing. An unforeseen emergency can happen. But a candidate who seems unreliable, flighty, or quick to request unplanned personal days is a red flag.


In her article, Vozza observes that employers encounter challenges when new hires spend more time on social media than at their work. It’s not easy to gauge how much time your candidate may devote to social networking and online escapism, but you can concentrate on how attentive and focused they seem during your conversations.

If you can see their social profiles (e.g., Twitter feeds, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), check how often they post and at what times. If you detect a lot of traffic during peak working periods, you can presume that the candidate may not be the best fit.

Talk to Your Prospects

At the end of the day, submitting an exceptional candidate is always a bit of gamble. That’s why it’s tremendously important that independent recruiters spend their sourcing efforts engaging candidates, interacting with them, and having meaningful dialog beyond emails. The more you know, the better your judgment. And the more you talk to your prospects, the more you know.

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