Learning From Past Experiences

Have you ever completely missed on a hire? Maybe a few things came up in the interview process that gave you pause, but you moved forward anyways. Now you, and your team members, are paying the price.

For most companies, employee retention is a struggle, even though it seems to always make its way into staff meetings and annual operating plans as a priority. Here are few interesting statistics to consider:

  • 78 percent of business leaders rank employee retention as important or urgent.
  • 33 percent of employees knew whether they would stay with their company long-term after their first week.
  • It can cost more than 30% of an annual salary to replace an entry-level employee – and even more for higher level position.
  • One third of new hires quit their job after about six (6) months.

High turnover negatively impacts your culture and your bottom line. Many of the issues that influence high turnover can be mitigated in the interview process. While it’s impossible not miss on a hire occasionally, there are a few things hiring managers can identify early on that will help ensure you are hiring the right person.

One of the things we train our recruiters to identify in an interview is the difference between a yellow and a red flag. While the severity of any flag will fluctuate depending upon the company and the position being filled, here are a few tips to spot some general issues early on and what to do with them.

Yellow Flags

What is a yellow flag?

Anything that surfaces in an interview, on a resume, or during a reference check that gives you pause.

A yellow flag is worth investigating, but not necessarily a deal breaker. For example, most candidates are nervous at the beginning of an interview. If they accidentally interrupt you, or conversation doesn’t flow smoothly out of the gate, this is a yellow flag. It should give you pause because you don’t have instant chemistry, but it could likely be circumstantial.

Other yellow flags could be over-explaining why they lost their last job, or if the candidate lacks humor, warmth, and an engaging personality. Anytime there are gaps in a resume, yellow flag (can quickly turn to a red though!). Additionally, dress, lack of industry experience, or even poor use of grammar can all be yellow flags.

We teach our recruiters to identify yellow flags in non-verbals as well.

  • Plays with hair or touches their face too much
  • Bad posture
  • Minimal or no smiling
  • Crossing arms over chest
  • Ineffective use of hands
  • Fidgeting too much

Again, these are not necessarily deal breakers but the cumulative effect, or a little more digging, could disqualify a candidate. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect candidate. If you don’t find a yellow flag in the vetting process, then you are not being thorough enough.

Red Flags

What is a red flag?

A glaring inconsistency or issue that, unless adequately clarified and cleared up, disqualifies a candidate.

A red flag is anything that doesn’t add up or points to a possible character/integrity issue. If a candidate is dishonest on a resume, in an interview, or elsewhere, see ya. Don’t waste anymore of your time. In addition to character or integrity issues, if you find something that will negatively impact your company culture, or work counter to it, you have a red flag on your hands. One of the worst things a hiring manager can do is take a risk on someone who doesn’t fit the culture, or at least have the tools to adapt or enrich it.

It’s important to note that a red flag on it’s own does not always disqualify a candidate. For example, if a candidate has a difficult time maintaining eye contact in the interview, for most this would be a red flag. What are they hiding? Do they lack confidence? Both are valid questions. However, it’s possible that the job demands minimal face to face interaction and an introvert will do just fine as long as they are able to produce. Or perhaps a candidate has a track record of leaving a job every 2-3 years for a better opportunity. In most situations this would be a red flag, but if the companies they have worked for in the past lack the strong culture or team-member friendly environment your company does it’s possible they have been waiting for this kind of opportunity to dig into for the long haul.

Here is a list of a few additional red flags:

  • Minimal to zero knowledge about the company.
  • Gaping holes in their resume.
  • No former employers listed as referrals.
  • Shows minimal interest in the position they are interviewing for.
  • Concentrating too much on what they want (salary, vacation, upward mobility, etc.).
  • Obviously is winging the interview.

These are all immediate red flags and legitimate grounds for moving on regardless of the position or company.

What Now?

So you have completed the interview process and you have your list of yellow flags and red flags. What do you do with them?

  1. Be diligent in getting to the bottom of anything that gives you pause or reason for concern. The pressure surrounding filling a vacant position can be overwhelming. After all, work flow doesn’t stop or slow down until you have made a new hire. Your team members have to temporarily take on more just to keep things moving. It can be tempting to hire the first semi-qualified candidate you meet without properly vetting them. This will only hurt your company in the long haul. Take the time to dig into the yellow and red flags. Most importantly, be willing to walk away if necessary.
  2. Honestly assess the strength of your own culture. Company A has been around 20+ years and has strong leadership and a well defined culture. They also have a robust on-boarding and team-member training program. This is the kind of environment that can take someone with a few yellow flags and equip them with the skills and support necessary for them to assimilate and be successful. Company B is still in start up mode, growing quickly, but leadership is learning along with everyone else. The on-boarding process involves a few coffee meetings and a white board session with a senior leader about the culture. This is not the best environment for a candidate who will need daily support and a safe place to fail.

Ultimately, every hire we make shapes our culture. Either a new team member will enrich and add to the culture, or they will negatively impact productivity and camaraderie. They will eventually wash out and probably bring a few others down with them. It is up to the leadership to define “must-haves”, “nice-to-haves”, and “deal-breakers” so that hiring managers can place and disqualify accordingly. Identifying yellow and red flags is a great first step to hiring well, curbing turnover rates, and strengthening your culture.

Stay tuned for more tips to help you refine your hiring process!

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