Don’t Blow Job Interviews! Red Flags In Recruiters’ Eyes.

Updated on April 12th 2023

October 14th 2022

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  • In this article, we review three basic types of such red flags In recruiters’ eyes — the losing mistakes often committed at job interviews.

  • These mistakes revolve around three areas: non-fluent nonverbal communication, suspicious points in professional history, and other suspicious behaviors that might suggest a difficult personality.

  • We also give tips for how to avoid creating red flags as a job candidate.

The Three Types of Red Flags In Recruiters’ Eyes.

Job interviews are challenging for one fundamental reason: you need to say everything right (plus, get a little lucky!) in order to get the job and every smallest misstep can be deadly and make you lose your job. 

In this article, we review three basic types of such red flags In recruiters’ eyes — the losing mistakes often committed at job interviews. Mistakes usually cost the candidates the position.

Red Flags In Recruiters’ Eyes of Type I: Non-fluent Nonverbal Communication.

The first group of red flags relates to the most human, mundane thing: the inability to stand the stress. Recruiters prefer to look for candidates who can find themselves and behave in any situation. Thus, they have a high preference for hiring those who can hide their stress. 

And, even if you are confident about the things you say, the way you are saying it matters for the reception of your words. If your body says something different from your voice intonation, it will confuse the recruiter and decrease their trust in your words. Therefore, just like your dress should be “business casual,” at the job interview, your face should also be “business casual.” 

So, what are these stress-related symptoms? There are a few usual suspects:

1. Lack of Eye Contact or Quite the Opposite: Haunting Eye Contact.

Avoiding the recruiter’s eye contact, nervous blinking, or staring at the interviewer like a wolf are all alarming signs to the recruiter, as these are clear signs that you are mortified by the interview.

2. Too Little Emotion, Also Known As Pokerface.

A complete lack of facial expression and gesticulation combined with a very serious, dry tone while speaking, makes up for a perfect robot, but not a perfect coworker. Recruiters prefer hiring those who behave humanlike even under stress.

3. Too Much Emotion.

Yet another losing behavior is the opposite of Pokerface, namely too much emotion and expression. Laughing loud, modulating your voice in a theatrical way, joking around and gesticulating way too hard can be a sign to the recruiter that you might be an emotionally unstable person, an attention seeker, or a drama queen.

4. Physical Signs of Stress.

Other typical signs of stress such as wriggling on your chair, rounded arms, biting your nails, or stuttering, can also light up the red bulb on the recruiter’s mind. 

Some people can handle their face and their voice well in stress, but the rest of their body screams “Please take me away from here!” So, you need to make sure that all your posture gives an impression that you are comfortable in the situation you found yourself in.

In general, oral exams and public presentations are difficult to all of us. Most people fear public presentations more than death! You won’t become a strong presenter without practice. To learn more on how to overcome stress related to public presentations, please check our article “11 Steps To Stop Stressing About Public Presentations.” 

Of course, if some of your difficulties with properly behaving at the job interview are related to mental health problems, you should mention that. You can find more information on how to speak about mental health at job interviews in our article “Should You Mention Your Mental Health Problems in the Job Interview? Job Interview Tips For The Hard Times.”

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Red Flags In Recruiters’ Eyes of Type II: Suspicious Professional History.

Of course, resilience to stress is not all you need to get hired! Your professional story needs to sound impeccable.

Before going to interviews, you need to learn a little bit of storytelling. Your career history should form a complete story. And, like every good story, the story of your professional development should be logical: every move you ever made should have a reason. 

Of course, sometimes, something does not go according to plan. It happens in life that you go on a distant journey, get sudden enlightenment while sitting under an olive tree and then change career plans by 180 degrees. Or, you get laid off and all of a sudden you need to step off the beaten path and start something new. 

Yes, that happens. But such unplanned accidents shouldn’t be the case every single time you make any career move! 

Your career story should sound like you are the captain of the ship who actively reacts to the changing weather using the steering wheel rather than a passive passenger of the ship who just waits for what happens next. 

In particular, elements of your career story that will sound suspicious to the recruiter and make you lose their trust, are the following:

1. Long Periods of Absence, Sudden Career Turns or Promotions That Are Hard to Explain.

Career gaps are becoming the new norm. According to a global survey of 22,995 workers and 4,017 hiring managers conducted by Censuswide on behalf of LinkedIn (January 2022), the majority of professionals active today took a break at least once in their careers. Moreover, A recent report by ManpowerGroup reveals that 84% of Millennials plan significant career breaks for the future. 

Therefore, career gaps or career turns are no longer formidable obstacles that would stop recruiters from hiring you. But, it is very important to be able to explain every single career gap or sudden career turn that you took. 

So, why and how did it happen? What actually happened? The recruiter will want to know all the details. The most important aspect is to give proactive rather than reactive reasons for your career decisions, including career gasp. After all, even a career gap can be a valuable learning experience and time for self-development and professional development! 

You can find more information about how to talk about gaps in your CV in our article: “A Gap In Your CV: Professional Development, Personal Development, or Wasted Time?

2. Changing Professions and Positions Like Gloves.

The second common red flag to recruiters is a long list of professions and positions. It suggests no loyalty towards your employers. The recruiter does not want to hire another tourist who will get trained and then evaporate before even trying to contribute to the company.

3. Inability to Give Logic Reasons for Changing or Quitting Jobs, or Leaving Jobs Due to Disagreements.

It is important not only how often you used to change jobs, but also why. If you cannot convincingly explain why you decided to change your previous jobs or career tracks, it suggests that you might be a tourist who travels from one workplace to another without feeling responsible for any project or team.

4. Unfinished Projects or Inability To Summarize What You Learned in Your Projects.

In fact, recruiters don’t care about your previous position titles as much as about your projects. They want to discover and recruit someone who delivers. Therefore, the history of your successfully accomplished projects is your real CV! 

If there are many abandoned projects in your professional history or if you tend to change jobs before completing any project, it will be a red flag to the recruiter.

Furthermore, if you cannot answer questions on what you learned in particular projects, it’s a bad sign as it might mean that you did not engage yourself enough in the project to learn anything, that you prefer to take low-hanging fruit (namely, easy projects where you don’t have to learn anything new), or that you don’t have the life-long learning mindset at all.

5. Inability to Give Examples of Projects or Experiences to Support Your Declared Hard and Soft Skills.

Every job candidate lists a number of personal qualities in the resume and in the motivational letter. But then, once confronted with the recruiter, they have a hard time arguing why they believe they represent these qualities. 

Therefore, prepare for the interview! Don’t get caught stuttering when the recruiter asks you, “Why do you believe that you are an independent thinker?” The S.T.A.R. approach usually works well here.

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Red Flags In Recruiters’ Eyes of Type III: Other Suspicious Behaviors That Suggest Difficult Personality.

Lastly, recruiters seek candidates who not only represent top-notch professional skills but are also easy-going at work, likeable, and pleasant to work with. Therefore, they look for diligent people with kind personalities, and they will not welcome the following behaviors:

1. Coming Late or Missing an Interview.

Punctuality is one of the worst possible qualities, especially in fast-paced working environments where professionals need to coordinate and synchronize their actions. Time is money! Therefore, if you are running late due to unpredictable circumstances, try to contact the recruiter as soon as possible and give them a notice or reschedule the meeting.

2. Coming To the Interview With Illness.

Secondly, if you come to the interview sick, for instance, suffering from flu, it won’t be taken as a sign of dedication, but rather, as a sign of lack of integrity. After all, you can infect people around you, including the recruiter! If you are sick, just excuse yourself, reschedule the interview, and stay home.

3. Inappropriate Outfit or Language.

Other obvious red flags in the recruiters’ eyes are language and outfits unfit for the occasion, especially too casual. If you come to the interview in an outfit that shows too much skin or feels like you are on the way to a football match, it will be taken as a faux pas. 

Similarly, if you speak in an overly informal way and use many casual words such as “like,” it won’t sound professional and will make a rather poor impression.

4. Being Overly Confident.

Feeling too much like home, for instance, stretching on your chair and sitting in a sloppy way as if you were sitting in your own living room, is not a good sign. To the recruiter, it might mean they have to deal with an overly difficult personality — someone who claims their space, quickly dominates other people and feels entitled.

5. Being Unprepared For the Interview.

The next red flag in the recruiters’ eyes is the lack of proper preparation for the interview. If you have no knowledge about the company’s mission or flagship products and services, what are you doing here?

Coming to the interview without required documentation is also a typical red flag. If you miss any important document, you should have a really good explanation of why.

6. Lying or Cheating.

The next “no-go” situation is when you are caught lying or being unreliable. For instance, not being able to repeat good scores in aptitude tests taken previously at home in the interview process, might be a sign of cheating to the recruiter. This is also why you should not ask your friends for help with online aptitude tests in the recruitment process.

And in general, recruiters with years of experience “in the business” get see through lies and embellishments easily. According to a broad 2019 State of the Recruiter study from Monster.com, 85% of the 1,700 participating recruiters revealed that they frequently interview candidates who embellished their skills and experience on their resumes. 

Only 30% of recruiters surveyed in the study described the majority of applicants as fairly honest about their professional expertise. And these truth-telling candidates obviously come across as individuals with higher work ethic and integrity than other applicants.

7. Upfront Requests and Demands.

If a candidate asks for conditions way too much before getting familiar with the job details and the company culture, it is a red flag to the recruiter. This behavior strongly suggests that the candidate is an entitled type only interested in material benefits from the job. This is not the motivation that recruiters look for.

8. Gossiping About Your Former Boss.

At the job interviews, you should tell the truth. But sometimes, it shouldn’t be the WHOLE truth. Even if your former boss was a monster to you, it won’t do you any good mentioning about it in the job interview. 

You need to be as diplomatic as possible and find a neutral euphemism to describe your relationship with your ex-boss, such as, for instance, “We had different working styles.” Otherwise, you will harm your own job opportunities.

9. Lack of Ownership Over Past Mistakes or Experiences.

Similarly, if you blame other people and external circumstances for all the hiccups in your career, it is a red flag for the recruiter. They would rather hear, 

“You know, when I was in my early twenties, I could not properly prioritize my actions, that’s why I studied one year longer than I should’ve. But I learned my lessons from this experience!”

Rather than:

“I got ill, my partner left me, I was depressed, my parents were divorcing…”

10. Inability To Listen.

A job interview should be a two-sided conversation, not just a monologue. Interrupting the recruiter or inability to finish your responses to questions in a reasonable time won’t look good at the interview. Again, this might be a sign that it’s a pain working with you as you are the type of person who needs to always have the last word and always be right.

11. Not Asking Questions.

Similarly, not asking questions is an alarming sign to the recruiter. It might mean that you are looking for any job rather than this particular job, and you don’t even care who you work for, as an employer is just a cash machine for you. Therefore, not asking any questions is a sign of wrong motivation.

12. Errors In Resumes and in Email Communication.

In the application procedure, it is essential to prepare an impeccable resume; it will represent you and stay on the Hiring Manager’s desk until the end of the recruitment process. Make sure that you create a resume using professional tools and design your resume in a simple yet elegant way. 

Moreover, sloppiness in your application documents and in your email correspondence will also be taken as a warning signal. Even if you are dyslectic, there are free apps such as Grammarly that you can use. Therefore, nothing can excuse large numbers of typos and grammatical mistakes in your correspondence with the recruiter other than sloppiness and lack of care. 

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Conclusions: Is It Easy To Avoid Red Flags In Recruiters’ Eyes?

Well, as you might have noticed, the list above is quite long. It sounds like a job interview is a race with so many hurdles that it is almost impossible to get through. But, it is all a matter of practice! Your first meeting with a recruiter might be clumsy, but after two or three, you will start growing a thick skin. 

Also, it is good to go for quality rather than quantity. When you only apply for positions you badly want to get rather than for some positions you feel lukewarm about, you will be more determined to prepare well for the interview. 

Mind that the cognitive error known as the Barnum Effect can make your choice harder. Please find more information about the Barnum Effect in the job search process in our article “The Barnum’s Effect In Job Applications: How It Can Make Your Career Development Hard and How To Tackle It.”

Good luck with your job interviews! 

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2022, October 14th). Don’t Blow Job Interviews! Red flags In Recruiters’ Eyes. Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/red-flags-in-recruiters-eyes/

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