6 Recruitment Red Flags that are NOT Red Flags

Tony Wright

Published on
25 August 2022

There are very many red flags in recruitment. Candidates checking their phone during an interview, having a poor attitude or appearing disinterested, bad-mouthing their previous employers, the list goes on. But there are also many things that could appear to be red flags on the surface but may not be if you dig a little deeper. Here are 6 of them:

  1. A career break

People have a number of reasons for taking a career break. Taking a few months or years off to travel, be a full-time parent or prioritise mental and physical health is great for the candidate and has no bearing on whether or not they will be a good fit for your business.

Don’t discount a great CV because of a career gap; rather use the interview to delve deeper into why they took a break and find out how they kept their knowledge up to date.

  1. Applicant is nearing or past retirement age

Under the Equality Act, Age is a protected characteristic, so it is illegal to turn down an applicant based on their age. But even if it weren’t, you could be doing your business a big disservice by turning down a candidate who is nearing retirement age.

You may worry that they will be retiring in 2 years and therefore you’ll need to hire again in the foreseeable future. Fair enough, but here are a few things to consider:

  1. You could have the advantage of their vast experience for two years, which could be hugely beneficial to your business
  2. Not everyone wants to retire at 65, so you may get them for a few years longer than you expected
  3. Even if they do retire at 65, they may be available to consult or do some contract work with you, so it’s not a resource that you’ve lost
  4. There’s no guarantee that any other candidate you choose will stay long-term

If they meet the requirements of the role and have the experience and knowledge to be successful, then it’s worth giving them a chance.

  1. “They didn’t wear a suit for the interview”

Professional attire has been changing for years, but then the pandemic hit and accelerated that process. The view of what is appropriate to wear for work shifted, with many companies allowing more casual attire at work as long as the clothes are neat and clean. So, someone has arrived for their interview wearing sneakers. Are they clean? Do they look neat and professional otherwise? If yes, then where is the problem? Their shoes should not be the reason why they don’t get the job if they’re the best candidate.

That said, there is still a line of professionalism, and you’ll need to decide where that line lies. A checked shirt with a pair of chinos still looks neat and professional, but a t-shirt and jeans certainly does not!

The same goes for a woman not wearing makeup to an interview. Her skin might be too sensitive for makeup. She may just not like wearing makeup. It has no bearing on her ability to fulfil the role.

  1. “They were at that job for less than 6 months”

Not all jobs are going to work out – it’s part of life. We’re very quick to assume that someone who left within 6 months was asked to leave or didn’t pass their probation, but you won’t know the real reason just by looking at someone’s CV. Leaving a job shortly after starting doesn’t mean the candidate is not capable. Here are just some of the reasons why they might have left:

  • The job wasn’t as advertised, and they found they didn’t enjoy it.
  • The hours were longer than expected and they wanted more balance.
  • They found the work environment stressful, and the job was affecting their mental health.
  • They wanted to try something different, but it wasn’t right for them
  • Sometimes it’s just not the right fit.

You might understandably be concerned if a candidate has a history of jumping from job to job every few months, but if it’s just one or two roles that were less than a year, a quick phone call to the candidate and/or their previous employers will tell you all you need to know and help you decide on the next step.

  1. Nerves in an interview

“I liked the candidate, and they seem to have really good experience, but they were so nervous. It makes me wonder why.”

Interviews are so full of stress triggers. This is a big deal for the candidate: someone in a position of authority is going to decide their future for them based on what they say, what they don’t say, how they act, how they look in the next hour. It is a high-pressure environment where not everyone is going to naturally excel. Don’t hold that against them. If you have concerns that a candidate is hiding something, it shouldn’t be because they were nervous but because there were gaps in their knowledge or questions that they couldn’t/didn’t answer.

  1. They are overqualified for the role

If someone with impressive qualifications and many years of experience as a manager has applied for a junior role, it is important to understand why before you reject their application.

  • Are they aware that it is a more junior role? Take the job title “executive”. In some businesses this will be a senior role while in others it will be one grade above an assistant.
  • Are they actively looking for a more junior role? It’s possible that the candidate wants a job that is less stressful or doesn’t require overtime. Perhaps they no longer want to manage a team but just want to enjoy doing a role that they love.
  • Are their qualifications and experience in the same field? If not, they may be looking for a step back to learn the ropes of a new career.

You may be concerned that someone who is overqualified will cause disruption in the team by being opinionated about best-practises and arguing with management about the way things should be done, but they could also be a phenomenal asset to you by providing a mentorship role to their colleagues. If you are concerned, then it is worth approaching it directly with the candidate in the interview.

When should you disqualify a candidate

Before you disqualify a candidate because of a “recruitment red flag”, dig a little bit deeper to find out if it actually IS a red flag. If you are unsure whether someone is fit for the role, then they probably aren’t and should be disqualified from the recruitment process. But if they tick all the boxes, then something small shouldn’t disqualify them. Talk to them about your concerns to better understand their behaviour or contact their previous employers for a reference to find out if your concerns are grounded.

Recruitment services at Quantum

Quantum can help you to navigate the challenges of recruitment. Our international team of specialists can help you to optimise your workplace and attract the best talent.

If you have any further questions or need advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our experts.