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Recruiters Beware: Red Flags to Spot When Hiring a Leader

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 9:00 AM

BSM Products and Services, Expert Advice

Written by: Marla Galasso

Editor’s note: Marla Galasso is a corporate services manager, leading BSM’s recruiting support services. In this role, she helps practices fill executive, leadership, and provider vacancies. Her duties include managing applicant interviews and background checks, making her an expert in vetting job candidates.

With today’s unemployment rate at an 18-year low, the candidate pool is tight. Carefully vetting applications ensures you don’t overlook a great candidate to fill your open leadership position. I find that watching for specific ‘red flags’ during the application and interview process helps me effectively identify only the best-of-the-best applicants.

Here are four glaring red flags that show me a leadership candidate likely is not right for the job.

Poor or ineffective initial communication. Great practice leaders can effectively convey complicated or sensitive information to a variety of audiences. For this reason, I always start my review process by evaluating the applicant’s written communication. I’m looking for a professional, articulate, organized, and detail-oriented application. Capturing my immediate attention is a cover letter that specifically addresses the job I’m looking to fill, along with a succinct two-page resume (in a readable font size) that accurately and clearly communicates the applicant’s experience, skills, and knowledge. The candidate’s application email and LinkedIn profile usually provides me additional insight. If any — or all of these — are poorly written or ineffective, it is a big red flag.

Lack of attention to detail. While not everyone is a wizard with Microsoft Word, everyone who uses this program has access to the spelling and grammar check function. If a candidate’s application includes awkward wording, spelling and grammar errors, or poor formatting, it indicates he or she might struggle when communicating compelling messages to key opinion leaders, providers, staff, and patients. Furthermore, it shows a serious lack of attention to detail. Errors in this regard are automatic red flags, and I will usually file this applicant in the “maybe” or “no” pile.

Inability to listen. One trait I seriously consider is a candidate’s ability to listen and respond directly. It has been a long time since I’ve been the interviewee; however, I remember being extremely nervous (and sometimes overly ambitious) in my desire to give the right answer. Now that I’m on the other side of the recruitment table, I’m acutely aware of nervous energy versus overall communication style. A careful listener who does not interrupt and responds directly to questions always stands out in a positive way. Conversely, I consider those who interrupt, can’t specifically answer questions, and lack attention as having a negative communication style — a red flag to me. To be fair, it is important to always ask interviewees if they have additional information to share that I failed to ask about, so I don’t misread a good listener and miss out on key information.

Overly aggressive follow-up. An even more insightful perspective can be gleaned from how applicants follow up with you after their initial application submission or interview. This communication typically arrives in the form of an email or, occasionally, a phone call. When I am looking for a great practice leader, I’m watching for self-awareness, professional appropriateness, and respect for the process. Beyond being enthusiastic or simply letting me know they are about to accept another job offer, applicants who become overly aggressive or inappropriately persistent are exhibiting red flag behavior. Aggressive follow-up leads me to believe these applicants may have inadequate experience, limited insight into how their communication style impacts others, or a disregard for the process. These are all factors I weigh when considering whether to move an applicant forward.

The general philosophy I follow when vetting leadership candidates is: When people show you who they are, believe them. Chances are, if someone demonstrates any of the aforementioned ‘red flag’ behavior, the behavior will continue if he or she is awarded a leadership position in your company. You must, therefore, carefully consider how such behavior would impact and reflect on the company.

RESOURCES AVAILABLE: To help you vet leadership candidates, use our free recruiting guide. BSM also offers recruiting support services to help you find the right hire. Learn more here.


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