Recruitment / Pexels

Today’s tight labour market is proving to be a tough area to manoeuvre for many businesses, prompting the need for them to be quicker in their recruitment processes.

Despite this need for businesses to address gaps in certain positions; it is still integral that they scout the right talent. This is to avoid employing individuals that do not fit the bill when it comes to company culture and objectives. Failing to do so can present long-term issues such as a growing productivity-pay gap, potential resignations, as well as issues between employees, among other things.

Thus, whether businesses are implementing their own recruitment process, or taking on board an external recruiter, they need to keep an eye out for any potential red flags that a candidate may exhibit.

To delve deeper into this, reached out to a number of recruitment specialists to highlight the key warning signs that become evident throughout the hiring process, together with how businesses can address the shortages present in the labour market.

Simon Pace, Senior Recruitment Consultant at VacancyCentre, highlighted that some of the key red flags employers need to look out for include an inconsistent employment history and unexplained frequent job changes. Attitude is another element one has to look out for, as arrogance and rudeness during an interview indicates a “lack of humility and inability to work in a team”.

Simon Pace / VacancyCentre
VacancyCentre Senior Recruitment Consultant Simon Pace / VacancyCentre

He also pointed towards unrealistic salary expectations as a warning sign, as this may hint that the applicant is “solely interested in the highest bid” and will probably “change jobs as soon as someone else offers him a higher package”.

Consultant and Talent Acquisition Manager Vincienne Sammut explained that a lack of flexibility has become a major red flag nowadays, as this is expected from “both the hiring team as well as the candidate themselves”. She also noted that explicitly naming and shaming previous employers during interviews can also foreshadow an unsuitable match.

Sacha Borg, Recruitment Manager at Tailwag Recruitment, clarified that one has to also be very careful as to what they consider to be red flags, as “what might be a red flag in one candidate might not be in another”.

He explained that there are a number of warning signs which are crucial indicators the candidate might not be best suited for the role. However, it is “essential to take the context into account” and to carry out a comprehensive recruitment process, as this can help address these concerns. Mr Borg said that this allows companies to make “well-informed hiring choices while reducing the chances of expensive recruitment errors”.

When asked at what point of the hiring process such warning signs are most likely to emerge, all three recruiters agreed that the interview stage makes these issues stand out.

“A lack of flexibility can sometimes even be spotted at the pre-interview stage when one is trying to set up a time and a meeting place, be it online or in person. I have seen candidates make it difficult to provide different time slots to the employer, and it just shows that they don’t really want the job but want to see where it leads to,” Ms Sammut explained.

Additionally, if the candidate refuses to meet the employer for an in-person interview towards the later stages of the hiring process, then they are showcasing a “great lack of confidence as well as inflexibility”, she added.

Vincienne Sammut / LinkedIn
Consultant and Talent Acquisition Manager Vincienne Sammut / LinkedIn

“If the interview process includes a technical test, that is also another important stage where red flags can emerge, especially if the applicant struggles to perform well in such assessment. It might be a sign that they might not possess the knowledge they said they had,” Mr Pace said.

Mr Borg remarked that given that interview processes tend to have a few rounds, the ability to have follow-up interviews allows hiring managers to “delve deeper into specific concerns or areas of interest which can provide further insight into the candidate’s suitability”.

“Red flags can continue to emerge during the final stages of the process, so having a thorough approach helps spot and deal with any warning signs early on. By doing so, we can carefully look into possible problems, find ways to handle them and in the end, make smarter hiring choices,” he added.

For many employers, failing to meet all the requirements in the job description is the initial sign that a candidate is not ideal for the role.

However, since the labour market is so competitive, certain businesses might not afford to be so selective. While in some cases, especially when it comes to requiring technical knowledge or specific certification, employers simply cannot be lenient, there are other requirements that give them the opportunity to do so.

“Certain skills can be developed or gained on the job, so hiring solely on a checklist may exclude potentially talented applicants. Furthermore, there are certain transferable skills from other roles which may help that individual to do well in the role, even if they are not an exact match in terms of requirements,” Mr Pace said.

Sacha Borg / LinkedIn
Tailwag Recruitment Manager Sacha Borg / LinkedIn

“In a tight job market, it may be challenging to find candidates who meet every requirement, so being more lenient can help in attracting talent and possibly still manage to fill the role with someone who has the potential to succeed in the role,” he continued. He suggested that employers should try to strike a balance by splitting different elements of the job description into “required” and “desired” sections.

Ms Sammut noted that while there are exceptions, being less stringent in the recruitment process, as well as providing candidates with the “right working environment” to learn and develop their skills can “lead to loyalty from the candidate’s end”. “Some skills are transferable, and with the right attitude and determination, a person can learn and adapt to your needs especially if this is communicated to the candidate beforehand,” she said.

Mr Borg stated that the question of not being overly exigent is “complex and multi-faceted”, as it ultimately depends on the company, role, talent pool, and other factors. Designing a job description is the first stage of the recruitment process, and it is as crucial as other stages.

“Remember, talent acquisition specialists have a pulse on what’s going on in the market, so writing a job description that is true to both what the company needs and what the market has to offer increases the likelihood of successful recruitment,” he said.

He explained that job requirements are “essential” and it is important to point out which of them are a “must” and which they “can do without”. “Individuals who don’t meet the criteria on paper can quickly acquire the necessary skills with the right mentorship and training. This in turn leads to a more diverse skill set within the teams as typically these candidates will bring other skills to the table that the company can benefit from,” Mr Borg added.

Given the talent shortages present, employers do not have the luxury of being “overly selective”, as prolonged processes “impact productivity, business growth, and most importantly, team morale and company culture”. When a process drags for too long, the current employees can experience increased stress, pressure, and burnout.

Mr Borg noted that there are advantages to being more open in the hiring process, yet businesses have to remain vigilant as the “wrong hire can cost the company more”, and therefore flexibility in hiring must be applied “thoughtfully to ensure it aligns with the company’s long-term goals and objectives”.


Vincent Marmara / DOI - Alan Saliba

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