The Candidate You Interviewed Is A Huge Red Flag – And Here’s Why!

Don’t miss these must-read tips on how to decipher the common red flags potentially disastrous new hires may display.

You’ve likely heard the adage: Where there is smoke, there is fire. Well this is not only true of forest fires … it also pertains to your “something-just-doesn’t -feel-right” job candidate. Don’t miss these must-read tips on how to decipher the common red flags potentially disastrous new hires may display.


Sponsored Article. This post is brought to you by Visa Business and I receive compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, however the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at their reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit www.visa.com/business.


Most small business owners realize how essential it is to adequately vet new hires, before they have been hired. This especially rings true if you have experienced how incredibly difficult it is to work with, write-up, and subsequently release underperforming employees. Probationary periods are fine, but they shouldn’t replace the due diligence necessary to flush out bad hires from the start.

If you think you can wing it, hope for the best, and fill an empty job slot – think again. According to the Center for American Progress, “it costs businesses about one-fifth of a worker’s salary to replace that worker. For businesses that experience high levels of turnover, this can add up to represent significant costs.”

Studies further cite “it is costly to replace workers because of the productivity losses when someone leaves a job, the costs of hiring and training a new employee, and the slower productivity until the new employee gets up to speed in their new job.”

The costs of high employee turnover are tremendous. As entrepreneur William G. Bliss, President of Bliss & Associates Inc., explains “It should be noted that the costs of time and lost productivity are no less important or real than the costs associated with paying cash to vendors for services such as advertising or temporary staff. These are all very real costs to the employer.”

It is better to hire the right employees from the start. Thankfully, some candidates will exhibit undesirable traits early on to make it evident they aren’t the best fit for your company. Here’s a look at three major red flags to look out for during the hiring and interview process:


  1. A general air of negativity abounds.

    Chronically, negative employees can incite conflict and erode morale throughout the workplace. As HR Morning’s Tim Gould suggests, “They’re not always easy to pick out of a crowd, but they can do an amazing amount of damage over time. Most of the time, these folks don’t make the big mistakes that call attention to themselves. They’re frequently pretty good at their jobs, so they’re not called on the carpet too often. But like a virus running in the background of a computer program, their acidic personalities eat away at the goals – and ultimately the bottom line – of the company week after week, year after year.”

    Negativity poisons the well and creates an environment of distrust, while polluting the perception of that person – making them appear weak and unprofessional. In contrast, successful employees with a positive attitude learn to build good relationships while being valuable contributors. While negativity in the workplace is not uncommon, chronic negativity is a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored.

  2. Mea culpa is not in their vocabulary.

    During an interview, open-ended interview questions are known to work best. This affords candidates the opportunity to share specific examples and prior work scenarios. If a job candidate is quick to assign blame to others, but never takes stock of individual faults, this will be problematic down the road. No one continuously bats one hundred in business. Playing the blame game to hide bad behavior and shift responsibility doesn’t bode well for any company culture.

    As Psychology Today contributor, Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D. explains, “One of the most destructive human pastimes is playing the blame game. It has been responsible for mass casualties of war, regrettable acts of road rage, and on a broad interpersonal level (social, familial and work-related), a considerable amount of human frustration and unhappiness.” However, accepting responsibility for good— and bad—decisions in the workplace is a sign of maturity and self-awareness. So, if your potential new hire exhibits a nature of habitual finger-pointing, you may want to point your hiring efforts in a new direction.

  3. Lack of drive and ambition is obvious.

    The best employees seek out work that is meaningful and challenging. They also actively consider training and development opportunities to grow personally and professionally. A positive attitude, unrelenting work ethic, and impressive achievements are ideal and obvious, but a lack of ambition, below par work ethic, and little achievement to speak of is a bit more difficult to spot.

    If a candidate is merely looking to fill an empty chair, consider it a red flag. However, this type of red flag is easier to dismiss if you are in desperate need of a warm body to fill an empty org chart. While you shouldn’t look for employees to dump undue and unfair amounts of work on, a job candidate should readily express the desire to take on new challenges and job responsibilities.

    If they squirm when asked about their opinions on new ideas in the work place or if they’re quick to quip: “I can’t do that” or “That’s impossible”, without consideration, it is more than a cautious voice of reason. Ultimately, you want to hire employees who can overcome obstacles and find creative ways around them. If someone exhibits “throwing in the towel” behavior, too early, they have the potential to cause problems down the road – and drag other employees down with them.

Ultimately, before you make an offer, do so knowing that you completed the due diligence necessary to protect your downside as much as possible. And if you think red flags are harmless, consider the exit costs, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, orientation, training, productivity losses, potential customer dissatisfaction, reduced or lost sales, administrative costs, and more …

What other job candidate red flags have you heard of, or personally come across, when vetting new hires? Let me know in the comments section below.


© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.


In this article