The 4 Red Flags That Make Me Instantly Reject an Interviewee, According to a Recruiter

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Jeni Lambertson217
Founder + CEO of the constellations

Q: What Red Flags Make You Reject An Interviewee?

As the founder of the constellations, a female-first recruitment agency, when I'm not actively recruiting candidates, I'm interviewing them.  Most of the time, I intuitively know within a few minutes of speaking to an interviewee who will be the candidate my client extends an offer to and who I won't put forward for consideration. 
In truth, the majority of the women I speak to are brilliant.  Sometimes they may not be a match for the role I am looking to fill, but they are bright, talented women I would be fortunate to work with in future. However, here are four behaviors that  a few interviewees exhibited that made me decide they would never be a good match for the constellations (or any of our clients):  

1. Lack of preparation.

I do not expect the interviewees I speak with to conduct in-depth research on the constellations or me in the same way they would for a proper job interview, but I do hope they come to the table with a basic understanding of what we do and who I am.  I also expect that when I call or meet them, they have prepared their resume and or portfolio, have it in front of them and are ready to chat with me in the same way they would chat with a hiring manager. I am a firm believer that the way you do anything is the way you do everything. If you come to your meeting with me ill-prepared, I run the risk of you doing the same to my clients, which is not something I am willing to risk —  no matter how qualified you may be on paper.   

2. Trash talking your current or former employer.

I understand jobs and bosses can become toxic. Work can be a lot like romantic partnerships; Often, we have a lot of emotion, as well as our sense of worth, tied to our jobs. Because of that, when it gets bad, it can become unbearable. And while I need my candidates to be honest with me so we can ensure we find a new job where she can thrive, I also want to see the capability to reflect and then properly articulate why it was time to move on.  I have no appetite for an interviewee who uses disparaging or crude language to describe a former boss.  An integral component to becoming a consummate professional is the ability to own one's part in why something didn't work out, learn from it and move on with grace.  

3. Failure to demonstrate basic courtesy.

Call me a stickler for manners, but politeness will give you a leg up in almost any situation. I've witnessed it with my candidates, as well as experienced it when I was a candidate.  The ability to arrive promptly and extend appreciation for the interviewer's time will help make up for a less than fantastic meeting, or solidify your standing as the candidate to beat.  Failing to do any of these can be easily interpreted as a lack of care or interest in the position.  

4. Taking credit for other's work. 

I say this often, but the internet is a big place. Never underestimate the size of a hiring manager or recruiter's network. If you are a creative or somebody who would share a portfolio of work, you had better make sure the work is not only yours, but an accurate reflection of your role in creating it.  There have been times where I review work and ask a candidate something simple like, " What was the client brief?" When they are not immediately able to answer the question, I know there is a high probability that they are either inflating their contribution or using someone else's work. When working with creatives, strategists and producers, I always advise they list the agency, the client brief and each person who worked on the project as to avoid any potential misunderstanding.  
One final tip: to decrease the likelihood of raising red flags, become comfortable just being yourself. Interviewing is nerve-racking, and sometimes when nerves get the best of us, we aren't able to let our personality shine through. This can feel inauthentic to the person conducting the interview. I'm not looking for a candidate to tic off every requirement on a job description. More than anything, I'm looking for a pleasant, engaging and hard-working individual who wants to take the next step for their career.  

What's your no. 1 piece of interview advice? Share your answer in the comments to help other FGB'ers!

Jeni Lambertson is the founder and CEO of the constellations, a female-first procurement service. She's passionate about bringing diversity to future-thinking companies while simultaneously doing her part to close the wage gap. 
This article was written by a FGB Contributor.