How to Spot Untrustworthy Job Candidates

180784770One of the universal banes of the staffing industry, no matter what field or part of the country, is the untrustworthy candidate. Most recruiters have a horror story or two about a candidate who has lied to them, wound up backing out of a job after taking the offer, or worse. Sometimes the outcome turns out fine, and sometimes a candidate has scarred a relationship with a client irreparably. But what is the best way to avoid all of this in the first place? How can recruiters spot a potential job candidate who isn’t worth working with or trusting?

One of the universal banes of the staffing industry, no matter what field or part of the country, is the untrustworthy candidate. Most recruiters have a horror story or two about a candidate who has lied to them, wound up backing out of a job after taking the offer, or worse. Sometimes the outcome turns out fine, and sometimes a candidate has scarred a relationship with a client irreparably. But what is the best way to avoid all of this in the first place? How can recruiters spot a potential job candidate who isn’t worth working with or trusting?

There are a few major red flags that recruiters, no matter the industry, tend to agree upon as warning signs about a job candidate’s flightiness:

The first is evident upon your first conversation with them: they won’t give much information. Clients who are probably dishonest will hold back basic items of information, like where they live, what they currently make or where they’re currently working. Their intention of holding back this information is generally to be able to edit it to suit their needs later. If they’d like a particular salary at their next job, giving you their current (likely much lower) one won’t be advantageous. Choosing to omit this information until they are ready to give it, or give false information, is far more advantageous to an untrustworthy candidate. Don’t be the recruiter they work with. If your candidate is holding back a great deal of basic information, push for it or end the conversation.

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The second immediate red flag that should make you rethink working with a candidate is if they give a vague answer or skirt the question if you ask about their other ongoing interview and job search activity. Not having at least some clear idea of where a candidate is in their job hunt puts your hard work in danger of obsolescence. If a candidate is using you as a backup option and is close to an offer, you want to know about it. You also want to know about it far in advance of the day they receive an offer from somewhere else.

While some signs of an untrustworthy candidate can be seen early on, some are revealed a bit later in the process of working with them. It’s important to notice these signs immediately and determine if they’re an indication of potentially bigger problems later. If your candidate suddenly becomes difficult to reach and provides no or unsatisfactory reasons, this is worth paying attention to. It’s also potentially problematic if you notice that even if you can reach a candidate, they become more reticent and seem to withhold information, particularly about their job search outside of their work with you. A good candidate will be consistently honest and easy to work with. If they aren’t, or become difficult to work with at some point, there may be a reason why.

Taking all of these signs into consideration may be uncomfortable or awkward at first, but a little skepticism is a recruiter’s best friend. In a tough industry, it’s important to protect yourself, your company, and your clients. Not all candidates have bad intentions, but it’s better to ask a few additional questions of some or all of your candidates than to be burned horrifically by a few.

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Samantha Keefe is interactive marketing manager for AVID Technical Resources, a Boston-based IT recruiting firm offices all over the U.S. She can be reached at samantha.keefe (at) avidtr (dot) com.

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  1. […] Most recruiters have a horror story or two about a job-seeker who lied to them. AVID Technical Resources’ Samantha Keefe discusses a few major red flags to look for when speaking with candidates. To read the full post, click here. […]

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