Filling an open position in a company is not as easy as it sounds. When hiring for a job, most employers can receive dozens (if not hundreds) of applications and will need to narrow it down to around four or six finalists.

In terms of recruitment, HR professionals and business owners alike often talk about identifying “red flags” in applicants. From being late to an interview, to giving unclear answers, to saying negative things about their previous employers, certain behaviors can serve as an indication that a person may not be the best fit for the role they are applying for.

However, knowing what to look for is more helpful when choosing the right candidate for a position compared to knowing what to avoid. If you’re new to recruitment, you might be wondering how to do this the right way. To help you out, here are six things that HR consulting services and long-time employers do to determine if a candidate is the right one for a job:

1.   Look Beyond the Resume

Resumes serve as a summary of a person’s education, experience, and skills. As helpful as they are in presenting a candidate’s strengths, capabilities and other pertinent information, resumes shouldn’t be your only basis for hiring an applicant. In fact, it is most recommended that you look beyond the resume for a more efficient recruitment process.

Keep in mind that these documents could present possibly glorified or exaggerated descriptions of the roles that applicants have done in the past. Plus, resumes cannot definitively tell you what kind of person an applicant is or help you discern whether he is compatible with your company culture.

2.   Pay Close Attention to the Application

The initial interaction between an employer and an applicant is crucial in determining employer-candidate compatibility. Keep in mind that first impressions last and, in some cases, they are the only impressions a job applicant will have the chance to give.

To start off, check whether applicants personalized their cover letter to see whether they are truly interested in the job or they just submitted their resume without much thought. One way to do this is to add an instruction to the job ad telling applicants to include a unique code in their cover letter. This way, you can verify whether they actually read the post and pinpoint how attentive they are to small details.

If you’re not pressed for time, you can also try delaying your response to initial applications to see whether candidates will proactively follow up. Often, those who don’t bother asking for a reply aren’t very eager and might not be serious about the application.

3.   Determine Their True Skills

While skills should automatically be checked, reading applicants’ resumes aren’t the most effective way to go. Rather than just reading about them, why not let the applicant show them to you? This way, you would be able to confirm that they do possess the desired skills, as well as determine the extent of these.

There are two ways you can do this: by giving a practical test or by asking them skill-based questions during an initial interview.

The first one is pretty self-explanatory. For example, if you’re hiring a writer, you can have applicants write about a certain topic or niche to check their grammar and overall writing style.

For the second one, you can incorporate some questions during the interview that can only be answered correctly by people who really possess the skills you’re looking for.

For instance, you can ask applicants for a private investigator position a question that only someone with a keen eye and is highly detail-oriented would be able to answer, like: “What was the receptionist wearing when you entered the lobby?”

4.   Get a Feel of Their Enthusiasm

The initial interview will help you discern much more about an applicant. This includes his enthusiasm and eagerness to get the job.

Although you need to hear what candidates have to say, how they say it also matters. One of the most important things you should be able to determine through a candidate’s voice inflection and body language is his interest in the company and the job itself.

Also, you can discern whether a person likes what he usually does for a living based on how he phrases his answers. Candidates who are passionate about their job take pride in what they did in the past. This reflects how well they can perform the new role they’re applying for in your company.

Remember to go for people who are not just after compensation, but actually care for the work.

5.   See If They’re Honest – Even About the Negative Things

Talking to candidates will also help you see whether they are honest and can take responsibility for their actions and mistakes.

Rather than hearing them paint a pretty picture of how excellent they were at the previous jobs, try to make them open up about how they failed in the past and managed to recover from that failure. It’s even better if they voluntarily share this information with you as it shows how honest they are.

The key is for the applicant to acknowledge the fact that nobody is perfect, and to demonstrate a willingness to learn from mistakes.

6.   Conduct Trial Periods

While this may be impossible for some positions, you must generally aim to incorporate a trial period before bringing a candidate on board to determine whether he is a good fit for the company.

Trial periods are similar to internships, but are better paid. Plus, trial work is more serious and can last between a couple of weeks or months, depending on the position you’re trying to fill.

When offering a trial period for recruitment prospects, you should pen a contract and have it signed by both parties. This will clarify limitations and secure your right to use any output produced during the time a person worked for the company, even if it’s just for a short period.

Final Thoughts

While it is good to know what warning signs to look out for, learning how to determine whether a candidate is the right one for the job is even better. Aside from getting straight to the point, this will also help make your hiring process more efficient. Of course, when in doubt, you can always consult a top recruitment agency.


David Mackenzie, a recruitment professional with over 20 years’ experience in the field and a record of entrepreneurial accomplishment, is Managing Director and Head of HR at Mackenzie Jones. As the Group MD, David is responsible for the overall direction of the Mackenzie Jones Group, including Mackenzie Jones, MumsAtWork, MENA Solutions, Simply Digital and ThinkTech.