Signs You Need To Put You Candidate On The “No” Pile

Retail Hiring – Signs That You Need To Put The Candidate On The “No” Pile

Hiring, right?! It’s definitely not an exact science and, occasionally, terrible candidates slip past us and into great roles. Ask any retail person and we can probably tell you about our top 3 terrible hires (my top 3 are doozies)!

As leaders, we must have missed something in the interview, we missed one critical question that would have told us that this candidate was a “dud”. Maybe…but quite often the candidate knows how to answer questions because they have researched “commonly asked interview questions”. They know what questions to ask in the “What questions do you have for me” phase, because they have also researched that. Interviewing is difficult, especially when you are trying to fill a crucial role in your area of responsibility. I feel that I have finally found a way to interview smarter and really weed out the candidates that will be unable to bring value to my department!

Typically, there are warning signs that will help us place a candidate’s resume in the “No” folder. Here are a few of those “red flags”:

(1) Dress Code
-When I send out the information for an in-person interview (after a video screen) I include our dress code in that information. My expectation is that the candidates arrives either dressed appropriately for interviewing or as close to our dress code as possible.
-Within the first 10 minutes I will ask, if they come dressed inappropriately to the company standards, is what they think of our dress code? I can absolutely tell if they have read it or not. (They receive this no less than 72 hours prior to the interview)
-If they tell me they didn’t have an opportunity to read it – I will conclude the interview at that time

(2) When They Cannot/Will Not Articulate Any Challenges In Their Performance
-We have all made bad decisions or decisions we regret in our careers and, likely, we can rattle off our top one or two, if asked
-When a candidate refuses to admit any weakness – they will be a challenge to coach and resentful of any coaching they receive
-They also may give you a “fluff” answer like: “I’m a workaholic” or “I care too much” – these are the sign of a person that will not identify their areas of opportunity

(3) Inability To Provide A Direct Answer
-When I ask a specific question, I expect a specific answer – people who start their answers with “Basically” or “I would” concern me. I want to know that candidates can take challenges head on and they have overcome obstacles before
-Also, candidates who start to answer the question and then veer off course are a concern. Many times this is a diversion tactic because they don’t have an answer. If I have to re-direct them back to the original question more than two times, I conclude the interview

(4) Showing Up Late or Unprepared
-Yes, we have the internet and I probably have a copy of your resume with me but I expect candidates to bring a clean copy of one as well
-Be a few minutes early – expect the traffic will be a challenge, expect a random marathon or parade to impede your planned route – have an alternative and make sure you make it to your destination a minute or two early

(5) Tell Me You’re Bored (personally or professionally)
-You are the only person that can make themselves “bored”. There are lots of ways to keep yourself engaged or motivated and if the candidate chooses not to invest in themselves – why should we, as an employer?

(6) Not Asking Relevant or Intelligent Questions About The Role or The Company
-I understand that salary plays an important role for candidates but I don’t expect that to be the only motivating factor for a candidate – if that is the first question I am asked – it is a HUGE red flag
-Questions about the benefits, specifically vacation/PTO (same rant as salary question)
-By their questions, I can absolutely tell if they have researched the company or they only reviewed the information I sent. I expect candidates to do their due diligence on our company (beyond reviewing Glassdoor)
-Understand our brand statement, our customer experience, our growth path and ask questions around those pieces of the business

(7) Being Negative In The Interview
-According to CareerBuilder “62% of employers are less likely to promote employees who have a negative or pessimistic attitude” – that applies to hiring people who are negative as well
-I don’t expect to hear about how terrible the conditions are at “XYZ” but I want to hear what opportunities and cultural advantages the candidate would hope to experience at our company
-When a candidate bad-mouths co-workers or a company during the interview – expect if you make them unhappy, they will do the same to you – these candidates are toxic to an environment and should not be considered viable candidates


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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