The number of open jobs is currently greater than the number of unemployed job applicants on the hunt. The pool of candidates may be smaller than it has been in years, but hiring managers can’t make bad decisions out of desperation. To build a high-performing team, you must be selective about which candidates you hire, no matter what the talent market looks like.
As you embark on your next candidate search, keep an eye out for these signs. Candidates who show these signs are far more likely to be quality team members who align with your company culture and grow with your organization.
1. They Follow Simple Instructions
The hiring process can be overwhelming for both hiring managers and applicants, which is why it’s essential to streamline the process for everyone’s sake. For some employers, this might mean limiting phone calls or asking candidates to follow up only in very specific ways. For example, at Caring Transitions of Southern Arizona, we ask that applicants do not call to follow up on the status of their application. Instead, we prefer they send an email or drop by in person. When this process isn’t followed, it’s clear the applicant either doesn’t possess strong attention to detail or doesn’t follow instruction well, which are two incredibly important skills to have in any job.
2. They Do Their Background Research
It is painfully evident when a candidate hasn’t researched the company — or even visited its website — prior to an interview. Candidates who go through the trouble to research the company, it’s mission statement, and its values are far more likely to be good fits, in terms of both culture and performance.
Furthermore, when a candidate comes to the interview with knowledge of the company’s mission, that suggests the candidate is serious about your job. After all, they took your company’s mission into consideration in order to determine whether you would be a good cultural fit for them.
At a minimum, every applicant should have an understanding of your company and where it fits in its field. That may seem like a low bar, but take it from me: I’ve had candidates come in for an interview thinking we were a home health care company when in fact we are a senior relocation and liquidation company.
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3. They Make and Maintain Eye Contact
Business is all about people, so making sure a candidate is pleasant and engaging is crucial. Something I always look for in a candidate is a good amount of eye contact, and I do that for several reasons.
The first reason is simple: A moderate amount of eye contact is a sign of respect for the other person. Similarly, eye contact shows a certain amount of self-confidence, a quality found mainly in candidates who are driven, motivated, and prepared for the interview. Conversely, a lack of eye contact can signal that a candidate is nervous, either because they didn’t prepare or because they are uncertain of their ability to succeed in the role.
At the end of the day, if your candidate isn’t making eye contact with you, they likely won’t make eye contact with others. At a very basic level, eye contact is vital to respectful, professional interaction in the workplace and with customers.
4. They Have an Appropriate Experience Level
It may be tempting to hire someone overqualified, especially if they seem enthusiastic about the job opportunity. However, I tend to move cautiously with these candidates. The same goes for candidates who used to own their own businesses — a type of applicant I see more often than you might think.
While overqualified candidates offer more knowledge and expertise, they can also be hard to mold, which makes assimilating them into your established company culture very difficult. In these cases, the experience you hired them for may work against you. In fact, the candidate may try to change your systems and processes to better fit their own preferences. This can hurt team morale and sow confusion, while the new hire’s regular pushback can also upset existing team managers.
5. They Ask Insightful Follow-Up Questions
An interview should be a fluid conversation, not a one-sided questioning session. A huge red flag for me is when an applicant doesn’t ask follow-up questions. Asking questions during or after an interview suggests a candidate is eager, interested, and invested — all great characteristics generally held by engaged and loyal employees.
No matter the industry, a new job is a new adventure, one that should be met with curiosity and excitement. That’s why follow-up questions are nonnegotiable for me.
Any hiring decision will likely require additional criteria, as each company and role has its own unique needs that a candidate must meet. However, these five signs are fairly reliable — and fairly universal — ways to gauge whether or not a candidate will be the right fit for you.
Sherri Gillette is owner of Caring Transitions of Southern Arizona.