Signs you should reject a candidate

Employment levels may be moving slowly up, but it can be challenging as a recruiter with so many candidates clamouring for a limited number of roles. Deciding who to reject can be difficult, so what should you be looking out for when making that tough decision?

Here are a few pointers…


The candidate has had a lot of jobs

CV-hopping looks notoriously suspicious to employers. If the candidate has been working for just a few years, but has had five or six roles, this could indicate they don’t settle well with employers or quit as soon as the job becomes challenging. Your reputation could suffer too if you recruit a candidate who doesn’t stay in the role.


The candidate changes careers constantly

Worse than a serial job changer is a candidate who is constantly changing their mind about their career. Typical signs of this are a number of unrelated professional qualifications, or they answer questions about their career history defensively.

If they have to convince you that, “No really, I desperately want to work as an accountant” but their CV shows they’ve done courses in horticulture, hairdressing and hypnotherapy, perhaps they lack maturity or are unable to commit.


They know nothing about the company

It’s basic interview etiquette to do some research about the company you’re going to work for. If the candidate has not prepared for the “what do you know about our company?” question, or shows only a basic knowledge of it drawn from the home page of the website, it could indicate a lack of commitment.

Good candidates will have checked out financial results, press releases and news about the company in the papers; the unsuitable ones will barely be able to spell your client’s brand name.


The candidate lacks ambition

Employers want to see candidates who can envisage themselves doing well at their company, and have a broad career path set out in their head. If your candidate responds to the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” with “Dunno”, then it might be time to show them the door.

A lack of career direction could mean the candidate wouldn’t apply themselves well to the job as they might not recognise their role in the company’s success.


Or is over-ambitious

Most recruiters will have come across an over-bearing candidate who sees themselves in the chief executive’s office in a matter of months. But a junior candidate who has unrealistic expectations of where the role will take them in their career could be problematic.

As a recruiter, you need to manage their expectations by showing them the career paths available at different companies. If they still refuse to be taken down a peg or two (in the politest possible way), the next step is to reject them.


They refuse to compromise

Perhaps you reach a point in the interview where you discuss a potential salary, or a question comes up about relocating to another city. If the candidate becomes aggressive and refuses to even discuss a compromise, then it’s perfectly acceptable to reject them on that basis. If they’re inflexible at the interview stage, they may not work well with your client’s team.


The candidate makes social networking mistakes

We all have dodgy photos we’d prefer potential employers not to see, but if your candidate chooses to display their wild festival weekend pictures on Facebook or Twitter (or worse still, it’s their LinkedIn profile picture), it could jeopardise their chances of securing a role.

The actions themselves may not be incriminating, but could show a lack of professional judgement. Clients may then start questioning whether this person would reveal information about their company too.

Have a word with your candidate, and suggest before they apply for their next role they clean up their social networking act.


They present themselves poorly

“Dress for the job you want,” or so the adage goes. Candidates who turn up to interview looking scruffy or out of place have not pictured themselves working for your client and have a lack of attention to detail.

Similarly, inappropriate body language (e.g.: sitting with their arms crossed) or an inability to express themselves clearly are good reasons to reject a candidate, particularly if they are applying for a customer-facing role.


They don’t have the right sort of experience

With recruitment budgets so squeezed, when clients do get the sign-off to hire someone new they need that candidate to hit the ground running. This means it’s harder to take a risk on candidates who have done the same role in a different sector, or want to make a sideways move, as their on-the-job experience may not match what your client is looking for. Talk to your candidate about gaining that extra experience to give them the edge next time.


There’s a problem with chemistry

Sometimes you just can’t put your finger on it. On paper, your candidate meets all the requirements, but simply doesn’t hit it off at interview.

If you know your client’s working culture well, then trust your gut feeling as to whether this person would fit in. In the long term, a rejection based on a lack of chemistry will also benefit the candidate, as they will soon find an organisation where they are more comfortable, and will be more likely to stay.


Signs you shouldn’t reject a candidate

  • They’ve done their research and know where the company is going.
  • They talk about a future in the company.
  • Their interview is as well-presented and relevant for the role.
  • Their CV has no gaps and job moves can be explained
  • They give concrete examples of times they’ve worked on relevant projects
  • They talk about working as part of a team, rather than just themselves
  • They’re a good cultural fit
  • They’re enthusiastic and committed: turning up on time, dressing smartly and giving detailed answers to your questions.


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