25 Telltale Signs of the Wrong Candidate

There are a lot of ways to tell when you’ve got the wrong candidate in front of you ó when presenting that candidate would be a quick step to career suicide. Some are blatantly the wrong choice at first glance. Others will sneak through all the way up to the offer or even a few months into being on the job. Telltale signs of the malady they carry will pop up like daisies in a field. Unfortunately, you’ll just keep overlooking them while telling yourself it was just a slip, an aberration, and you should pay no attention to it. But red flags go up for a reason. Whether you like it or not, you need to pay attention to those red flags. Here are a few worth talking about:

  1. No one on your support staff likes the candidate.
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  3. No one on your client’s support staff likes the candidate.
  4. The candidate’s mouth flows with spontaneous compliments about everything and everyone.
  5. To get what they want, the candidate goes outside the assigned staffers and comes to you instead.
  6. When it’s time to take the psychological examination, the candidate’s mother dies.
  7. The candidate takes the psychological profiler home to complete and return later that day (or night).
  8. The candidate takes the application home to complete and return later that day (or night).
  9. The position is vice president of a financial institution, but the candidate doesn’t know what the equity portion of the balance sheet represents.
  10. You do a credit check and the candidate has no credit history whatsoever in any of the cities where they previously lived.
  11. The resume says your candidate has earned a post-graduate degree and written a master’s thesis on an esoteric topic, but the candidate speaks in platitudes and generalizations.
  12. The candidate’s work history states they held teaching positions at universities, but the candidate speaks in generalizations and his or her speech is peppered with blue expletives.
  13. The candidate’s work history shows the candidate has management experience with stellar results; however, they cannot formulate management theories or innovations based on any of the scenarios you toss out.
  14. According to the background check using your candidate’s social security number, they are dead.
  15. According to the background check using your candidate’s social security number, they are three years old.
  16. Upon seeing one of the black managers in the hallway, the candidate makes a remark about how great affirmative action is: “At least it provides a means for those with low skills to get off the welfare rolls.”
  17. The candidate throws a tantrum when the airline tickets the firm issued for the interview four months ago are cancelled.
  18. There are some parts of the resume work history section that look very familiar. Wasn’t that description part of the template on Microsoft Office 2000?
  19. After two months on the job, the candidate presents their supervisor with a detailed plan for completely revamping the entire department (or company).
  20. The candidate goes berserk because of a small annoyance (especially bad if they’re interviewing for the company psychologist opportunity).
  21. The candidate launches into a detailed conversation about their open heart surgery. They finish by saying they are no longer eligible for group health insurance.
  22. The subject of saving costs comes up. The candidate tells you how to finagle and scam just about anything.
  23. On the day of the drug screening test, the candidate shows up with flaming red eyes and in an obviously agitated state. The urine test comes back negative.
  24. Although they have a master’s degree in a particular study (other than basket weaving), it takes three to five explanations for them to grasp a concept that is part of their stated background.
  25. The interviewer is multi-racial, their minority heritage not being obvious. During a part of the interview, they accidentally reveal they are also white. The candidate’s response is, “Yes, [minority or ethnicity] people seem to have a lot of difficulty in that region.”
  26. From the content of their conversation, it appears the candidate’s principal focus is on the prestige of the company and its clientele, not increasing ROI or cost efficiencies.

No, these telltale signs were not manufactured. They are a compilation of situations that have arisen in my own experience during the past five years in all types of environments. The temptation to add comments after each was great. But the telltale signs pretty much speak for themselves. A battery of tests to expose this person aren’t necessary. They openly walk about in the light of day as did the emperor without clothes of Andersen’s creation. Their resume isn’t going to disclose these propensities until the actual person shows up and begins to speak. So filtering with some type of complex screening software isn’t going to help. Unless it is also copied from someone else’s work, the cover letter may bear some hints of what to expect. The chances of this are quite remote. The candidate just keeps going through life with this gun in their pocket that’s squarely aimed at their right or left foot. Now the next thing to consider is what to do about a candidate with any of these traits. It’s a huge risk to hire them for any position of responsibility. Training is definitely in order, but it’s possible this kind of candidate will cost the company huge sums in training and damage costs. The unfortunate matter is, as a recruiter, you have no duty to this person if they are not part of your company. Do you, however, have a duty to your business environment to offer some sort of counseling so that this candidate at least leaves your presence slightly changed for the better?

Yvonne LaRose (ylarose@recruitandretain.net) is a California-accredited consultant and freelance writer. Her column, Career and Executive Recruiting Advice, is read by professionals from all parts of six continents who rely on her advice, previous board experience, and insights on business management, recruiting, and career development issues. Former producer and host of "Legally Speaking," a bi-weekly legal news radio program, Ms. LaRose's 15 years of writing encompasses various media, including print. Her online writing appears at such places as HR.com, AIRS Directory, Workforce, ITWorld's Managing the IT Pro, and SmartPros. She has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Savoy Professional Magazine, The New York Times Job Market, and SmartPros. Yvonne helped author the e-book "The Last Job Search Guide You'll Ever Need: How to Find and Get the Job or Internship of Your Dreams." Her contributions deal with professionalism, how to handle criticism and the qualities of a good resume. For more information on her book, visit http://hop.clickbank.net/?entrances/lastguide.

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6 Comments on “25 Telltale Signs of the Wrong Candidate

  1. Human Resource Lingo (they aren’t perfect either)

    ‘COMPETITIVE SALARY’
    We remain competitive by paying less than our competitors.

    ‘JOIN OUR FAST-PACED COMPANY’
    We have no time to train you.

    ‘CASUAL WORK ATMOSPHERE’
    We don’t pay enough to expect that you’ll dress up.

    ‘MUST BE DEADLINE-ORIENTED’
    You’ll be six months behind schedule on your first day.

    ‘SOME OVERTIME REQUIRED’
    Some time each night and some time each weekend.

    ‘DUTIES WILL VARY’
    Anyone in the office can boss you around.

    ‘MUST HAVE AN EYE FOR DETAIL’
    We have no quality control.

    ‘CAREER-MINDED’
    Female Applicants must be childless (and remain that way).

    ‘APPLY IN PERSON’
    If you’re old, fat or ugly you’ll be told the position has been filled.

    ‘NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE’
    We’ve filled the job; our call for resumes is just a legal formality.

    ‘SEEKING CANDIDATES WITH A WIDE VARIETY OF EXPERIENCE’
    You’ll need it to replace three people who just left.

    ‘PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS A MUST’
    You’re walking into a company in perpetual chaos.

    ‘REQUIRES TEAM LEADERSHIP SKILLS’
    You’ll have the responsibilities of a manager, without the pay or respect.

    ‘GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS’
    Management communicates, you listen, figure out what they want and do it.

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  2. Here are some other red flags. The resume bloopers
    These are taken from real resumes and cover letters and were printed in Fortune Magazine:

    1. I demand a salary commiserate with my extensive experience.

    2. I have lurnt Word Perfect 6.0 computor and spreadsheet progroms.

    3. Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year.

    4. Reason for leaving last job: maturity leave.

    5. Wholly responsible for two (2) failed financial institutions.

    6. Its best for employers that I not work with people.

    7. Lets meet, so you can ooh and aah over my experience.

    8. You will want me to be Head Honcho in no time.

    9. Am a perfectionist and rarely if if ever forget details.

    10. I was working for my mom until she decided to move.

    11. Failed bar exam with relatively high grades.

    12. Marital status: single. Unmarried. Unengaged. Uninvolved. No Commitments.

    13. I have an excellent track record, although I am not a horse.

    14. I am loyal to my employer at all costs… Please feel free to respond to my resume on my office voice mail.

    15. I have become completely paranoid, trusting completely no one and absolutely nothing.

    16. My goal is to be a meteorologist. But since I possess no training in meterology, I suppose I should try stock brokerage.

    17. I procrastinate, especially when the task is unpleasant.

    18. As indicted, I have over five years of analyzing investments.

    19. Personal interests: donating blood. Fourteen gallons so far.

    20. Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain store.

    21. Note: Please don’t miscontrue my 14 jobs as job-hopping. I have never quit a job.

    22. Marital status: often. Children: various.

    23. Reason for leaving last job: They insisted that all employees get to work by 8:45 a.m. every morning. Could not work under those conditions.

    24. The company made me a scapegoat, just like my three previous employers.

    25. Finished eighth in my class of ten.

    26. References: None. I’ve left a path of destruction behind me.

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  3. Interesting information from a reliable source reached me on Monday about one of the models for this article. The person was arrested on Friday, April 9, and spent several days in jail.

    Details concerning the charges and basis for detention, if any, were not provided.

    Viva

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  4. Hmmm. Given that person’s background (e. e. cummings, that is), was it decided that in spite of the age (and death) factor, that was definitely the *right* candidate?

    This also reminds me of the king who saw the literal writing on the wall.

    Viva

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