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Retorio In a Video Job Interview Red Flags Exists: Here's What to Look For man with thinking face looking up
Elizabeth T.15.11.201910 min read

In a Video Job Interview Red Flags Exists

Looking at a candidate's CV is not the equivalent of knowing them personally, obviously. It's not too different from trying to decrypt someone's Tinder profile: 

  • The top 3 job interview red flags
  • Our hiring (biased) brain
  • Simple steps to address bias in the hiring process

"Are they crazy?
Do they seem nice?
Would I regret spending 30 minutes of my life having a drink with them?

Reading between is rapidly becoming a modern lifeskill. Especially when recruiting for new talent.

Wouldn't it be ideal if hiring managers could have some sort of crystal ball to look into to decide whether a candidate is a good fit? Or, at the very least, be able to swipe right?

Interviews are a tricky business. Especially, when it comes to candidate assessments. Everyone is on their best behavior (usually). No one feels comfortable (usually). And it's a mixture between a stare-off game and dodgeball: steady, friendly eye contact while moving to formulate or answer the questions in the right way. Anyone else...Bueller?

Aside from a magical gimmick, hiring managers are always looking for the job interview red flags. Is it how they respond to a question? The pace in which they respond? If they look to the left, are they lying? Hiring managers don't have to study for the FBI exam to get the gist of a person. Candidate assessments can be kept simple; hiring managers can foster their skills in focusing on a few basic red flags, inadvertent or not.


Like wishes and other notable items, omne trium perfectum (the "rule of three in Latin) alerts to the fact that a bad candidate distinguishes three behaviors:

1. Showing apparent disinterest or arrogance
2. Wearing inappropriate clothing
3. Doing a little something that raises an eyebrow (or two)

According to CareerBuilder, 73% of talent professionals and managers find this type of candidate assessment true, interview deal breakers. The survey also found that 51% of the interviewers said they could see within the first five minutes of the interview whether or not the candidate fit the job. Perhaps some hiring managers have sixth sense. However most likely not.

Humans are actually pretty terrible at making correct assumptions about others - such as an assessment. Knowing how and why what makes us bad at judging others may assist us in finding the right candidate.

In the 1980s two psychologists, Susan Fiske and Shelly Taylor, noticed humans were pretty lazy at creating synthesis and meaning. They noticed we tend to think only as much as we feel we need to; once we reach a reasonable conclusion, we don't think about an issue any longer. Their explanation: we're conserving energy. Much like our ancestors' conserved energy to hunt and survive on the African Savanna, we conserve our brain's energy. We use as minimal amount of brain energy and processing power as possible. In short, we're not generous when we do cognitive functions.

It may more have to do with just the sheer volume of information presented our way: from social media, background noise, worries over health, parents, or what we're going to eat for lunch---all this may be small, but it quickly amounts to an ample amount of processing power. We've got to observe, analyze, assess, and understand all the little things on our plate: catching the train on time, making sure we're satiated and not hungry, or that we have to start planning next month's office party. Little things that may not be terribly urgent. Then the other brain activities that demand more attention and nuance: filing our taxes, being hands-on parents, or making a slam dunk on the company presentation.

Humans have lots to think on, making it difficult to pay attention, to give unbiased attention; so we our brains make a trade-off. We can't possibly focus on all the little and big items on our mental To-Do lists. We trade speed for accuracy or vice versa. By doing tasks quickly, we risk making a few mistakes here and there. However if we're careful and thorough, we may putting something else a stake for our slow movement. Somehow we must find the balance of speed, effort, and accuracy and aligning that with our motivation (which may shift, much like those days when you get excited to hit the gym and eat better and then the others where you can't pull yourself off the couch). Fiske and Taylor found, in general, we prefer speed to accuracy.

its all inside us_ Retorio

Our modern world reflects our speed preference. We'd rather have "fast food" rather than slow-cooked meals that deliver more nutritional value. Our shopping habits are now driven by "fast fashion" and same-day delivery. At companies, we'd rather have rapid-fire questions and answers for a candidate assessment. Perhaps we do this for the sake of efficiency, but that still reveals a preference for speed rather than the quality of accuracy.

Assumptions help us in trying to find the speed-accuracy balance. We use a bit of information to interpret the outcome of a certain situation. It's a shortcut for our brains to assess a candidate with. Confirming biases is what our brain searches out for. It searches out ways for it to be right, rather than looking for information that may suggest otherwise.

If a hiring manager and candidate went to the same university, the interviewer may be trying to confirm what they expect the candidate to be in light of their shared experience and group. People tend to view members of their own "in-group" in a positive manner. This could apply to those who attend the same schools, possess the same religious affiliations, or part of the same ethnic group.

Interviews hardly ever start from scratch; they are hardly ever free from bias as the human brain is busy, humming along in filling in the details about a person. With that known, it's especially important to know which red flags to detect---rather than relying on one's personal ability to judge.

The three job interview red flags

1. Showing apparent disinterest or arrogance

Maybe they're having a bad day, or maybe they're simply a jerk. Our brains tend to fill in an explanation as to "why" some people do things. We do this when people cut us in line, or why strangers would pay for our meal---it happens when good and bad things occur. For some reason, our ever-blabbing brain loves a good narrative! But if a candidate has shown up to an interview and shows no interest, enthusiasm, or displays disdain to be there, it's time for a quick exit. No interview should go the distance in accommodating someone who speaks and acts as if they don't value the company or its time. Subtle signs of disinterest or include not having read more about the company, its mission, or have an idea what the company looks like it's trying to accomplish. Disinterest shows up in not having read the job description thoroughly; candidates may shrug off in presenting how their skills match that to the required skill set.

As for arrogance, a candidate assessment may not look what we usually make it out to be: a loud-mouth who can't stop telling the interviewer how great they are. Arrogance has other forms: not feeling the need to explain why they chose a certain course of action in a situation, that they're a star performer versus a team player, or they speak condescendly of past employers or colleagues. It's always best to go with a gut instinct; maybe a candidate truly was pulling more weight than their colleagues and thus, they speak a bit bitterly about their experience. Focus on their present attitude and ask what they've learned.

2. Wearing inappropriate clothing

The standard code for the workplace is casual. Not smart casual or business casual. Simply casual. Hoodies, jeans, and sneakers rule the workplace, thanks to the rise of billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg and other techies making hoodies and jeans work-appropriate. "Inappropriate" clothing may be a subjective term, as every company has its own aesthetic and rules. Dressing for a position at McKinsey looks different than dressing to manage a local food drive's operations. In general, look for a person that invested extra thought and care into their interview outfit. Even if it means wearing an ugly blazer or an ill-fitting dress shirt, it still shows they know they need to shine and put their best foot forward---and they're willing to do just that.

3. Doing a little something that raises an eyebrow (or two)

If a candidate brings pizza and eats it during an interview, it's time to introduce the next candidate. Other sorts of unusual behavior has been recorded: candidate's singing their answers, bringing their girlfriend or boyfriend into the interview room (not just the waiting room!), or putting their feet on the furniture. That kind of behavior will simply not do. Most hiring managers understand these kinds of candidates may either not possess the self-awareness to regulate their behavior, or they simply don't care. Either way, these characters will do more harm than good. If they make an interviewer uncomfortable, no doubt they'll make employees uncomfortable. If that occurs, a slew of consequences may occur: employee turnover, lowered morale, missed deadlines, or other not-so-ideal outcomes.

Those may be the more extreme versions of eyebrow-raising behavior, but other disruptive behaviors include: constantly interrupting an interviewer. A person knows when they are or not being listened to. A hiring manager should check whether this person seems to have active listening skills, the ability to wait till a person is finished speaking, reformulate what the person just said while thoughtfully adding in their response.

Hosting an uninformed candidate who arrogantly answers questions while wearing a clown suit may be the epitome of job interview red flags. However, it's important to emphasize these extremes only demonstrate the underlying thought patterns. Not too many people are going to show up in a clown suit, but a few people will show up in shirts that may have an appropriate design or symbol. A person may know lots about your company, but may fail in showing enthusiasm for the job role itself.

Office space AI

It's too easy to rattle off a list of superficial items to watch for, but at the core hiring managers need tools that help them 1) disarm biases they may have (hey, we all have them!) and 2) activate their core intuition by focusing on the individual identity before them. Speaking to Harvard Business Review, Microsoft’s head of global talent acquisition, Chuck Edward, understands the propensity to hire a candidates who “look, act, and operate” just like them. Edward suggests a number of strategies to guard against bias:

  • Expose oneself to different sources of information resources that a person wouldn’t usually discover or read. Books, articles, forums from underrepresented communities could be a great starting point. It will not only inform the reader about the values of a community, but it will also show a "before and after"snapshot in understanding personal bias.

  • Ask key questions about bias throughout the process. Edward worked with a Microsoft all-male, white, leadership team in hiring for a new team. He asked them to integrate this key question: “Where could unconscious bias show up in our decisions today?” This addressed the elephant in the room, remaining cognizant of existing biases. Two female leaders were added to their team as a result to create a space for inclusivity.

  • Write first, share second. Microsoft recently made its hiring feedback loop private. Hiring managers should focus on keeping the hiring process, even though opinion stating. Best to write down a skills assessment about a candidate before talking with colleagues. Edward suggests asking, "How could bias have impacted my assessment and recommendation?”


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