Human Resources Hiring

4 Things to Watch for During an Interview

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“The most important decision a manager makes every single day is who he or she lets in the door to help the customer,” says Mel Kleiman, founder of  human resource company Humetrics.

Customers may be a business’ No. 1 priority, but the right people need to be hired to make this practice a reality.

Bad judgement during the hiring process can have long-lasting repercussions that will affect co-workers, managers, and customers. However, it can be difficult to identify a potential employee’s negative traits during the interview alone.

Amanda Mendenhall, service manager at Harry Robinson Buick GMC in Fort Smith, Ariz., says it is common for a new employee “to build him or herself up too much, only to fall on their face.”

It is for this reason, among others, that managers need to be watchful for any red flags that indicate whether a hiree will be suitable or not. Here are four of the most common and significant things for which to keep an eye out.



Eagerness is good. Excitement to potentially work somewhere can be a positive indicator of a good future employee. However, there is a line that can be crossed. Someone who is too eager is almost always a weak hiring choice.

“You want someone who’s excited to work in their industry...but five follow-up [calls] in a week is excessive,” Mendenhall says.

It can be worse if he or she starts contacting other employees or even find the personal phone number of the hiring manager, Mendenhall says. 

If hired, this kind of employee is almost always overconfident. He or she may claim to be able to do more than they can and soon enough, reveal themselves to be incapable of fulfilling the role, adds Mendenhall. 


Discomfort/suspicious behavior

Interviews can be nerve-wracking, with good reason. Some discomfort can be expected. In and of itself, it shouldn’t necessarily be a reason not to hire someone. Too much discomfort can be a red flag, though, says Joe Keagy, a consultation expert with M5 Management Service. A suspicious amount of discomfort can be an indicator of other deal-breaking weaknesses.

What specifically makes the interviewee uncomfortable is also worth considering. Keagy believes that one of the best indicators is the interviewee’s response when asked about how his or her previous job ended. If this kind of question creates visible discomfort, then it may be something worth delving into, especially if there are large gaps between instances of employment.

Keagy suggests two ways of gauging the employee’s response. The first must be done in advance. Ask him or her about his or her hobbies, about his or her personal life. This builds a connection with the interviewee and creates trust. It also disarms them a bit. When asked a potentially uncomfortable question, he or she will not have his or her guard up as much and there is a much higher chance of getting an honest answer.

The second way requires practice. Paying attention to eye contact and body language can reveal a lot about an interviewee. Unless it is exceedingly obvious, it will take practice for a manager to become adept at noticing such minute details.


Lack of consistency

“The No. 1 thing to watch out for is a lack of consistency in the [interviewee’s] answers,” Kleiman says.

This can range from wild claims with little-to-no basis in reality to responses that don’t match up with what a résumé says. A common example is that of an inconsistent attitude. Kleiman insists that attitude is always something for which to look. Often, the interviewee will behave one way during a preliminary phone interview and reveal a completely different version when he or she arrives for a face-to-face interview. It’s even more likely that something like this may happen with the prevalence of online applications and email.

The easiest way to check for inconsistency is to delve deeper into his or her answer. If he or she claims to be able to do something or to possess a certain ability, make him or her prove it, Kleiman says.This doesn’t mean testing every single skill on an applicant’s résumé—an interviewer must know when it is truly beneficial to follow up in this way.

Investigating potential inconsistencies gives the interviewer a much clearer picture of who the candidate is.

“Uncover who the applicant is—not who they want you to think they are,” Kleiman says.


Overall attitude

Norm Bobay, CEO of hireMAX, believes in a simple mantra: “attitude determines actions.”

This is especially true in any workforce. If an employee with a bad attitude is hired, his or her work ethic will gradually lower the bar for everyone else by association, which can negatively impact profits and customers, among other things. A bad attitude is even more harmful than an inconsistent one. However, it can be difficult to determine whether someone has a harmful attitude or not during an interview. Bobay recommends several things for which to watch.

“Pay attention to how they talk about themselves, the job [they’re interviewing for], life in general,” he says.

The best way to either verify or soothe any worries is to check with the interviewee’s previous manager or boss. If something went poorly leading up to the interviewee’s departure, they would be able to clarify that, and either verify or deny the interviewee’s claims.

This “allows you to dig deeper and validate [your] assessment,” according to Bobay.

Despite all of this, it’s worth noting that “there is no perfect employee.” Any hiring manager must determine if a red flag is based on their skill set (or lack thereof) or their attitude, says Bobay. When it is necessary to hire the “best fit,” even if they are not ideal, they should fall in the former category. These issues can be fixed through training, while a bad attitude is indicative of a weak, costly employee.

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