Five Hiring “Red Flags” That More Employers Are Ignoring

Between pandemic-induced changes in the workplace and general shifts in management thinking, hiring managers are more willing to look past certain characteristics of job candidates than they might have been in the past. Next time you’re reviewing resumes, these “red flags” might be worth rethinking.

If you’ve studied up on hiring best practices, you probably know about the “red flags” that hiring managers look for that could kill a potential employee’s chances at a new gig. But the past year has changed the way we work, as well as some of the thinking around what constitutes a promising job candidate.

Here are a few traditional “red flags” worth reconsidering the next time you’re hiring:

A gap in employment. People who are out of the job market for a period of time have traditionally been suspect for employers, in part because experts believed it indicated inconsistency. But in the past year, with the pandemic leading to mass layoffs and hiring freezes, many people simply could not find work. In recent months, things have been changing significantly—Taco Bell, for example, recently held a nationwide “hiring party” to get 5,000 people on board in one fell swoop, and the job market for professionals is heating up too. Also helping: LinkedIn is taking steps to make employment gaps for reasons such as parenting more clear to potential employers.

Job-hopping. Despite the long-held reputation of job-hoppers as unreliable short-termers, particularly those in the early stages of their careers, the truth is that workers of every generation job-hop to some degree. With the pandemic changing so much about the workplace and some hard-hit industries staffing up again, many people will be looking for new roles in 2021—according to one IBM study, 27 percent of employees are actively looking to make a change this year. In fact, as CNBC reports, millennial and Gen Z workers actually change jobs at lower rates than prior generations. “There has long been this maligning of millennials as being job-hoppers. I think that that’s the wrong story,” said Tara Sinclair, a senior fellow at Indeed. “Job-hopping is something we want to see more of” because it usually signals a strong economy and low unemployment.

Signs of a career plateau. If someone is vice president at one organization and then takes a job with a lesser title at another, it can come across as a career backslide or even a derailment. But as The Balance notes, it’s important to consider what the applicant says about the matter. “The problem you need to weigh is that smart candidates know this. They don’t make potential employers ask,” writer Susan M. Heathfield explains. “They explain their responsibility differences or the appearance of a career going backward in their resume or cover letter.”

Unwillingness to relocate. There was a time not too long ago when employees were expected to move to the same geographic region as the organization. In fact, a long commute could be enough to ruin an employee’s chances. But the pandemic has made employers more willing to enlist remote workers. And while employees can’t necessarily work from literally anywhere, organizations are opening up to employees that they may not have had access to previously. One challenge to keep an eye on: A good fit between employer and employees is even more important with a remote workforce.

A criminal record. Civil rights advocates say asking candidates about past criminal convictions can be discriminatory, and many states and cities have banned questions about criminal convictions until later in the hiring process. Organizations are keeping pace: Research from the Society for Human Resource Management has found that employers are increasingly willing to overlook criminal records in some cases. One trend is “fair chance hiring,” which encourages a more thoughtful approach to hiring workers with criminal convictions, including conducting skills-based interviews and fairly assessing the circumstances of a candidate’s criminal record. “Studies show that employment is the single most important factor in reducing recidivism,” Harvard Business Review contributor Margie Lee-Johnson wrote in the magazine last year. This trend is picking up in the association space as well—last month, the Business Roundtable announced the Second Chance Business Coalition, which aims to improve employment access for job-seekers with criminal convictions.

While you may still weigh all of these factors in hiring, keep an open mind, and consider how forthcoming the candidate is in discussing them during the recruitment process. If you let a red flag become an automatic no, you may miss out on some great talent.


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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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