This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
Before bringing in job applicants for in-person interviews, the candidates' professional credentials are well screened by the HR department. In the interview, hiring managers will also focus on candidates' qualifications, but the wild card for ultimately receiving an offer comes down to which applicant displays appropriate social skills.
A 2015 study found that most social blunders during interviews result from thoughtlessness or poor interpersonal skills – and they often become deal breakers. Interviewees who can't make conversation or continually check their phones leave a bad impression that not even an impeccable resume or glowing reference can offset.
Hiring managers need to pay attention to any quirks in a candidate's appearance or behaviour that can portend future trouble. Pay attention to these seven important red flags when interviewing job candidates:
1. Arriving late. If interviewees arrive late, even when they have a legitimate excuse, they will have to make up for their tardiness by giving a stellar performance throughout their interview. Only if they can outshine the other candidates with their confidence, insightful questions, and relevant observations about the company will they deserve to remain on the list.
2. A weak handshake. Much can be determined about a job candidate's character from the initial handshake. If a person has a weak grip, a clammy palm, and won't make eye contact, you can imply a lack of confidence and timidity that would make a bad fit in most work environments.
3. Unusual clothing choice. Professionalism comes across immediately through a candidate's choice of interview attire. When an interviewee dresses casually, it sends a message that the person has a casual approach toward work. If the attire suggests an evening of clubbing, it implies an inability to know how to dress appropriately in a professional setting.
4. Unchecked chit-chat. Interviewees who launch into lengthy explanations, pummel their interviewer with questions, or feel compelled to fill any silences with irrelevant prattle could later become the employees everyone seeks to avoid. Save yourself and your staff from this unchecked verbosity by sending a kindly worded rejection.
5. Poor body posture. Body posture conveys a great deal about an applicant's personality. Slumping signifies lack of confidence; leg swinging equates with nervousness; and arms folded against the chest demonstrate belligerence or arrogance. Pay close attention to the cues communicated through a candidate's body posture and read them with care.
6. Offensive verbal skills. Candidates who use colloquial phrases ("I just wanna say ..."), or substitute "good" for "well," ("they did good") can't cut it in the professional world where written and verbal skills are paramount. Additionally, inappropriate or derogatory language equates to a lack of sophistication or self-censorship. End the interview as quickly as possible.
7. Unprofessional communication channels. After you've culled though your lineup and selected a finalist, you start to send out your e-mail with the job offer until you see "hotmama" in the handle. Or, when you call to make the offer, the voice-mail picks up and you're blasted with heavy metal music. Move on to your runner-up candidate.
Vicky Oliver is a career development expert and the author of five books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions.