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Oct 9, 2013

After 15 years in the career services, human resources, and candidate recruiting business, I have a pretty good “nose” for which candidates will get the job.

Often, it does not correlate with the most educated or skilled candidate.

If you are recruiting talent, you can’t afford to waste any time during the selection process and you certainly don’t want to place a candidate that will prove to be the wrong choice.

So, what are the top indicators of a poor candidate?

Flakes and excuse-makers

Every once in a while the train is going to break down, and sometimes, people do get sick. However, failing to arrive on time for an appointment and canceling appointments with little notice is the calling card of a flake.

Flakes seem to have an arsenal of excuses ready to help them out of any situation. I have had clients cancel three or more times for an appointment and yet they wonder why they are overlooked for promotions.

A dedicated, resourceful candidate will have a back-up plan to get to an appointment early with time to spare to manage problems.

Lack of follow-up

Lack of candidate follow-up shows a lack of interest and motivation. The follow-up letter (or email) that is never sent after an interview may not be missed.

However, if three candidates are finalists for a position, you can bet that the two candidates who took the time to send a well-prepared follow-up letter have the edge over the third candidate who did not send a letter.

Failure to keep promises

You know the kind of person you ask to send you a document, and it is like pulling teeth to get it — “Oh, yeah. I will get that to you this afternoon.” Then, the document never arrives, or the promised call is never made.

It is uncomfortable to be forced to hound someone to send you information they owe you, especially if you are in a position to help them with their career. On the flip side, those who always keep promises and meet their commitments are remembered as reliable.

Unprofessional communication

If your friend is texting you outside the movie theater, “Where R U,” that’s acceptable. However, if you are communicating one professional to another via email, it is not acceptable to use shorthand, misspelled words, or poor grammar.

This one is a red flag for two reasons. First, I wonder if they are lazy or disrespectful. In other words, they don’t care to take the time to write a professional email. Secondly, if this really is a sampling of how they will deal with clients, I would judge them as a bad hire.


It is difficult to believe that we have to talk about rudeness.

In my various roles in HR, recruitment, and career services, I have encountered some incredibly rude candidates. Here I am in a position to help someone advance his or her career or get an interview, and that individual behaves in a self-destructive manner.

Examples include pushiness, insulting language, and demanding, unreasonable requests. I am thankful that these candidates reveal themselves so I can avoid investing too much time or energy recommending them to anyone!

I wish we all would follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way we wish to be treated.

Stubborn attitude

This is by far my favorite category, and the most frustrating of all.

This type of candidate comes to you for help to gain a job, yet every step along the way they argue with you. They know better and insist upon choices that are truly harmful to their job search.

I generally explain why another option is better; I point to other experts, and I share how this has worked for thousands of candidates. Yet, the candidate is sure they know more.

Now it makes sense why this person hops from one job to another with long gaps in between. They are most likely exhibiting this same attitude in interviews and on the job.

I am sure you have examples of signals you receive when working with candidates. If you pay attention, people reveal themselves to you.

You then have a choice: You can try to rehabilitate the candidate, and help them be successful. Or, you can let them go and concentrate on the candidates that are cooperative and more likely to succeed.

I would love to hear your examples!

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