How to Spot a Bad Candidate Who Looks Perfect on Paper

Have a job applicant who looks too good to be true? These five signs might indicate that’s the case.

Have you ever put in a good word for someone, only to hear that he or she got the job-, and then totally bombed? I’ve been there and I can tell you: It’s super awkward.

Have a job applicant who looks too good to be true? These five signs might indicate that’s the case.

Have you ever put in a good word for someone, only to hear that he or she got the job-, and then totally bombed? I’ve been there and I can tell you: It’s super awkward.

But if people (myself included) can be fooled by contacts we know, what hope do hiring managers have to spot a bad apple when all they have is an interview process?

Thankfully, there are some telltale signs you can look for to see if someone’s the right fit. If an applicant does one of these things, think twice before extending an offer.

1. They (Only) Talk About Themselves

Yes, it’s an interview, a.k.a., a Q&A in which the candidate answers questions. However, it’s red flag if someone talks about herself–exclusively.

After all, there should be at least a few times when other people’s names pop up. When you ask about the applicant’s career aspirations, you’d ideally want her to throw out the name of some successful person she admires. Or, if you ask someone about his previous experience and how it led to where he is now, he’ll hopefully mention someone positively–be it an influential colleague, boss, or client–in the answer.

These are just examples, of course, but if a candidate talks for an entire interview without any mention of anyone else, it’s a red flag. Translation: This may be the colleague who complains about pitching in on extra work, finishes the pot of coffee without making more, and sets up a print job to run 1,000 copies the morning she knows another teammate is pushing up against a deadline.

Instead, choose the person who talks warmly about at least a couple of people. A person who can recognize-;and celebrate-;others’ accomplishments is someone you definitely want on your team.

2. They Take Credit for Everything (Good)

This candidate has a particular brand of only talking about himself. Unlike the applicant above, he’ll mention teammates and colleagues and classmates in his answers-;with one exception. Whenever, there’s something to take credit for, he’s suddenly a one-man show.

Yes, an interview is a place to sell your accomplishments and pitch your potential, but be wary of someone who sounds like any on-the-job success he’s ever had is his and his alone. This person may become the teammate who steals ideas or takes sole credit for a team win.

A better sign? A candidate who talks enthusiastically about working collaboratively (like this), and who genuinely seems to understand the reason behind teamwork.

3. They Don’t Discuss Their Shortcomings

You know all of those articles that advise you to choose something other than “I’m a perfectionist!” as your answer to “What’s your biggest weakness?” They exist because, well, there are candidates who are afraid to admit they’ve ever done anything wrong in the workplace.

Case in point: They can’t name one thing they’re working on–other than “being perfect.” Sure, you could argue that this is an issue of semantics and interview coaching. It’s true, though. The same person who stinks at writing could either say that she’s working on her language skills or that she’s a perfectionist. One candidate chooses to discuss the steps she’s taking toward becoming a better communicator, and the other candidate chooses a superficial response.

I’d choose the person who has the confidence to discuss areas of improvement with her prospective boss. Being able to recognize her weaknesses and working to improve them will go a lot further on the job than trying to sweep them under the rug.

4. They’re Unprofessional Throughout the Process

Yes, it’s possible that someone who is always punctual hits a traffic jam that causes him to be tardy for the first time in five years–on the very same day as his interview. And yes, it’s also possible that she really did attach her writing sample at the exact moment that her internet went out–resulting in an incomplete application.

But, if that same candidate continues to be unprofessional throughout the interview process–she swears when answering a basic question or he brings up his ex and follows it up with “Gosh, I don’t know why I just said that!”–it can be hard to know whether you should chalk it up to bad luck and nerves or assume the worst.

If you love the candidate, you can obviously move forward with the process. However, if someone acts unprofessionally when he’s nervous, know there’s a chance those habits will reappear in other stressful situations (i.e., that this person will be late or say something off color in important meetings too). So, to ease your fears, definitely touch on these issues with his references to find out the truth.

5. They Seem Too Good to Be True

I’ll admit it: This is one is tricky. How can you tell if your dream candidate is everything he’s cracked up to be (or not)?

I’d say to be wary of a candidate who is literally perfect for the job. All applicants want to show how their qualifications align with the position description, but for many roles it would be surprising–and a little fishy–to find someone with the exact number of years of experience you’re looking for, in the exact field, with the preferred degrees, and whose resume or cover letter states she’s checked every single box. More often than not, at least some of those items are touched on through transferrable skills.

If you’re feeling guilty about discounting someone who is 100% qualified, remind yourself that a position she can do with her eyes closed probably isn’t what’s best for her. Not to mention, it’s not good for you either, because this applicant will most likely have one eye on the door. Once something more interesting and challenging comes along, she may ditch this job, leaving you to start your hiring process all over again.

Hiring managers often say they want someone who could “hit the ground running,” so it’s surprising (even to them) when they’re turned off by someone who could set the course on fire. But unless you’re totally sure this would be the best hire, know that it’s OK to trust your gut and look for someone you think would grow within the role–rather than someone who might feel immediately constrained by it.

No one wants to hire someone and then work with that person’s far less desirable twin. So, look for the signs above to avoid a Jekyll and Hyde situation.

Recruiting? Look for Employees Who #HateTheirJob

Modern recruiters often check out social media channels to locate and research potential job candidates. They might be searching for these candidates by mutual connections, industry, job title or even hashtags related to the field. But there’s one key group hiring managers might be missing in their search: workers who talk about hating their jobs.

According to a recent study by and social intelligence company Brandwatch, U.S. workers mentioned the phrase “hate my job” more than 201,000 times on Twitter between March 2014 and March 2015, including 8,051 tweets with the hashtag #ihatemyjob. Other popular hashtags associated with negative-sentiment tweets about jobs include #fml (“f— my life”), #thestruggle and #worksucks.

In terms of demographics, 61 percent of negative job posts were written by women, versus just 39 percent by men. Retail and food service workers dislike their jobs most: More than 55 percent of “hate my job” posts came from people in these two industries. There was also a higher ratio of “hate my job” versus “love my job” posts coming from Eastern states, with Florida, West Virginia and Delaware taking the top three spots.

While the total number of “love my job” tweets (942,000 in a year) far outweighed the number of “hate my job” tweets, Joanie Courtney, senior vice president of global market insights for Monster, said that looking into these negative posts could benefit companies that want to improve satisfaction among existing employees, as well as those looking to recruit workers who are unhappy in their current positions.

“Companies [can] learn from these negative job tweets and translate that knowledge into growing and engaging talent in their careers and, in turn, move the ‘love-hate’ needle,” Courtney told Business News Daily. “[It] also allows hiring managers to take advantage of talented people on Twitter who may not be satisfied with their job and utilize their skills for a new opportunity to find something better.”

In another Business News Daily article, Bob Myhal, CEO of recruiting platform NextHire, said that, in today’s job market, it’s far more important for recruiters to be proactive and tap into the growing pool of “passive candidates” — workers who aren’t necessarily seeking a job but are open to new opportunities. Engaging this group on social media by following them or reaching out to them on occasion may help an employer’s case when it comes time to actively recruit.

Workers who publicly post about disliking their job may indeed draw attention from recruiters, but, much like candidates who trash talk an ex-employer during an interview, you might not want the ones who are too vocal about their negative opinions at your organization.

“With the convenience and ability to constantly share important events and information in your life, it is easy to think that how you feel about your job can be included in those discussions,” Courtney said. “Sometimes, people may become too casual with social media because they think either no one’s really reading their feed, or they don’t see the harm in sharing — or, even worse, they hate their job so much that they don’t care. [But] negative tweets about their job or employer … could haunt them and impact their career.”

The Monster/Brandwatch survey was based on an analysis of 1.1 million U.S. tweets posted over the course of a year to discover when, where and why people discuss how they feel about their jobs on Twitter. To download the full report, visit

Why Craigslist May Be Your Customers’ Most Expensive Recruiting Tool

Written by TONY LEE

When asked to pinpoint their most significant threats, respondents to the 2014 IAEWS-Job Board Doctor Global Benchmark Survey didn’t rank Craigslist in the top three.  However, they did list the commoditization of job postings and the growth in “free” job sites as key areas of concern, and Craigslist has certainly had an impact on both.  The following is the first of a two-part post that addresses the Craigslist challenge by looking at the site’s shortcomings from an employer’s point of view. – ed.

Craigslist has built a reputation as a great resource of free and low-cost classifieds online, especially among company recruiters operating with limited budgets. But as the years pass, it’s become clear that relying on Craigslist to fill local job openings may require more time and money than its reputation suggests. In fact, in many cases, using a traditional job board is a more cost- and time-effective strategy than posting on Craigslist.

From the early days of the site, Craigslist has offered a very easy method for posting listings: you simply select a city, then a category, open an account and post your job. This ease of use was a breakthrough in the often complicated online recruiting space. Over time, virtually every online job board has created an equally easy posting method, typically relying on e-commerce to generate revenue from each job posting.

Free also was the clear differentiator between Craigslist and most other online job sites. As founder Craig Newmark liked to explain, his goal was to help boost communication between communities of visitors, not generate revenue. Eventually Craigslist began charging for job listings in many markets, which Newmark explained as a great way to filter out fraudulent and frivolous job postings.

Newmark added that keeping the posting fee low – $25 to $75 dollars per month depending on the city – allows Craigslist to retain its position as the low-cost provider compared to the major job boards, a position the site actively promotes ( Low pricing also helped Craigslist cement its relationship with the demographic that the site cultivated from its beginning: teens, students and singles who relied on the site to help them find cheap furniture, a used car, a new partner (for the night or forever) and an entry-level job.

Yet, 18 years after the launch of Craigslist, the site is losing effectiveness as a recruitment source under the weight of its own success. Job seeker traffic has grown exponentially in most Craigslist cities through the years, and the still shaky hiring market for many job seekers has accelerated that traffic growth. At the same time, the growth in job postings has stalled in many cities in parallel as other recruiting alternatives have emerged.

The result, say recruiters, is that every Craigslist job posting is inundated with applies, and given the demographics of the typical Craigslist visitor, that influx of applies has created a backlog of work. Instead of receiving 30 applications for a position, among which one or two may be worthy of an interview, companies of all sizes report receiving hundreds of replies within 24 hours of each posting. Yet the number of qualified candidates who apply remains the same or has fallen for many positions, recruiters say, which translates into multiple hours spent reviewing an overload of resumes searching for the needle in the haystack.

This issue is a familiar one to anyone who has posted a listing of any kind on Craigslist. Since all listings are posted in reverse chronological order, the newest listings get the most prominence. When a company posts an opening for a receptionist on a Tuesday at 10am, the window for responses to roll in starts at 10:01am, but typically ends later that day as other postings push the receptionist listing further and further down the queue. While it’s true that search results pull in older listings, those results also show in reverse chronological order, so the receptionist job falls below new listings for receptionists each time another job in that category is posted.

The problem is exacerbated in markets where Craigslist charges for job postings. If a gas station posts a listing for a mechanic for $25, and none of the applicants in the first 24 hours is a good match, the likelihood that the station will receive a relevant application through the rest of the 30-day post is very small, recruiters say. To refresh the flow of new applicants, the station must re-post the job for another $25 to have the listing jump back to the top of the list. In some cases, employers post jobs four and five times before attracting a qualified new hire. At $25 or more per post, Craigslist becomes an expensive option fast, not to mention time-consuming given the flood of unqualified applicants, say recruiters.

To be continued in part II.

73% Of Professionals Don’t Love Current Positions

38% of participants said their job was “okay, I guess”
35% of participants said they hated their current job
27% of participants said they “REALLY love” their job

Hampton, N.H. (May 12th, 2015) – CAREEREALISM, a career advice and employment branding site, published the results of its 2015 career satisfaction survey, through which its audience of 1M+ monthly readers were polled. Readers were prompted to share their level of satisfaction with their current job and/or company.

CAREEREALISM compiled the results and found:

  • 38% of participants said their job was “okay, I guess”
  • 35% of participants said they hated their current job
  • 27% of participants said they “REALLY love” their job

“With 73% of participants not in love with their current position, the reality that the majority of a company’s employees are open to a new job should be a major concern of every executive team today,” said CAREEREALISM founder and CEO J.T. O’Donnell. “Is your company prepared to handle unexpected turnover?”

“If employees start quitting for better jobs,” she continued, “are you ready to mobilize a recruiting strategy to find their replacements? And, how long will it take you to train new hires so they reach the productivity levels of the employees you lost? The message is clear right now: workers are dissatisfied, and that can put any company at risk of being negatively impacted by turnover.”

As you can see, it’s important for a company to select job candidates based on who they think will fit into their company culture. Once a company is aware of what makes their company a great place to work, they will look for job candidates that they know match that specific culture; making them more likely to love what they do every day.

If your company is interested in learning how to make your company culture awesome or is seeking resources on the topic, please download this free ebook.


CAREEREALISM, a privately-held career advice and Employment Branding company, was founded in 2009 on the belief that “every job is temporary.” The purpose of the site is to help people solve their career and job search problems. CAREEREALISM connects the top talent with the best companies by telling stories that showcase what makes a company’s culture unique. The company is the leading online destination for career advice and employment branding intelligence. With extensive experience in career counseling at large companies, founder J.T. O’Donnell has created an organic platform built to share experiences, provide feedback, and suggest how companies can reveal their talent brand. For more information please visit