As recruiters, sometimes we see behaviors that make us question whether or not we want to work with someone or refer them to one of our client companies. These red flag behaviors aren’t usually dealbreakers, but more of a sign that we need to dig deeper and seek understanding.
If you’re looking for a job or want to work with a recruiter, try to minimize these behaviors:
1. Lying about Work History
Be honest about your work history. We once found an old resume for a candidate that had different information than what was on their current resume. Not different as in omitted, but different as in changed. We knew for a fact that they had worked for Company X between Company A and B, but they left off Company X entirely and said they worked for Company A the whole time. Errors are one thing, but being purposefully deceptive about your work history is a big red flag.
2. Underdeveloped or Inaccurate LinkedIn Profile
Anyone who is serious about their career should make sure their LinkedIn information is thorough and accurate. Your LinkedIn profile doesn’t have to be a comprehensive list of every job you’ve ever had – it can be more tailored to relevant career information just like you would do with a resume. However, if your profile shows no evidence of any career activity, that’s bad. As a job seeker, LinkedIn is an important forum where your expertise is demonstrated and your network is evident. If you have one job and three connections, that’s a red flag.
Again, be honest about your work history on LinkedIn. More than a third of LinkedIn profiles contain false information. Make sure yours isn’t one of them. If you’re submitting a traditional resume, make sure your LinkedIn profile and your resume match. It’s a big red flag when your LinkedIn information is patently false or inflated.
3. Patterns of Evasiveness
As recruiters, we want results in interviews, so we ask a lot of specific questions. When we ask people for more detail and don’t get a transparent answer, that’s a red flag.
We often ask candidates about the results/benefits of their work. If we ask, “How much revenue did you bring in in 2022?” and the answer is “I was the top salesperson,” that’s evasive. If we see repeat patterns of evasiveness that avoid any discussion of discreet, verifiable, objective facts, that’s a big red flag.
That said, there’s some nuance surrounding COVID regarding performance questions. If someone’s performance was solid pre-pandemic and it dropped from 2020-2022, that’s less of a cause for concern than it would be otherwise. While it’s still a red flag, further discussion eliminated it as a huge concern.
4. General Unprofessional Behavior
There are baseline courtesies that everyone should give everyone else. If those are missing, that’s a red flag. Timeliness is a big one. That means: 1. Show up on time, and 2. Don’t talk so much that you’re 20 minutes over a 30-minute meeting. In this day and age, good video etiquette is essential. If you don’t have an attractive room, use an attractive fake background or branded background, or at the very least, blur your background. It’s an easy thing to shape the experience for the person on the other end of the Zoom. We don’t want to see your messy closet. Make sure your personal hygiene is good. Personal style aside, you should be clean and not chewing gum.
5. Lack of Responsiveness or Good Communication
Not getting back to people in a timely manner and/or not following up after an interview are red flags. Things change for everyone all the time – we all live dynamic lives. If your situation changes, make sure you communicate with people about when they can expect to hear back from you. Ghosting is just not okay in professional settings. (Or any setting – don’t do it!)
6. Not Working Towards Stated Goals
Another red flag is when we see a pattern of career choices that don’t fit someone’s stated goals. For example, if a candidate says they’re interested in management and we see 15 years of non-management choices, what they actually do and what they say they want to do are not in sync.
7. Frequent Short Tenure
If we see too much job hopping without a pattern of career advancement or good reasons behind the changing positions, that’s a red flag. If there’s a reason, tell your story up front.
8. Unprofessional and/or Outdated Personal Email
It may seem like a small thing, but if your personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s a red flag. Every interaction with people is an insight into who you are. It’s so easy to get a free email address nowadays – make sure yours is professional. And try not to use an outdated, easily hackable platform such as AOL, Yahoo, or Hotmail. That shows us you’re not up to date technologically.
9. Bad Digital Footprint
We Google everyone, so make sure to Google yourself and see what comes up so we don’t find any red flags. If your name is similar to a felon’s, state that upfront. Or if that felon is actually you, put that into context. Tell the story behind it. Don’t assume the interviewer or recruiter just won’t find out. (And make sure those college party pictures are taken down, while you’re at it.)
10. Changing Story
When people’s stated desires regarding a new position change without much explanation, like title, monetary expectations, or responsibilities – that’s a red flag. There’s usually a general vector of what people want in a new job, and if that changes for no apparent reason, we need to find out why. If there is a good reason, make sure you tell the story and provide the context before we have to ask.
As recruiters, during an interview, we need to be able to overcome any red flags that our clients will have when reviewing your resume. Context is everything and few red flags are fatal. Mistakes are a part of life – we’ve all made them. And many red flags, such as being laid off after six months in an exciting new start-up, have nothing to do with us. Just assume that everyone is going to see the red flags and assume that it’s your job to overcome them. Provide context and really tell the story behind the red flags. We want to get to the full story so we have a complete understanding of you as a candidate. It’s more when a red flag can’t be overcome that it’s a cause for concern and we may choose to not work with that person.
As a job seeker, communicate well and be as upfront about your history and as professional as you can.