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9 Candidate Turnoffs to Avoid in Your Application and Interview Process

Posted by: Karen Booher on November 11th, 2022

Remember how important first impressions are. In the world of employment, the application and interview process are critical first steps that will either impress or turn off job applicants. Many employers used to feel they had the upper hand in hiring and they didn’t need to court employees. That is not the case today.

A recent article written by Eileen Kilgore, a writer and HR professional in Batton Rouge, LA, hits on 9 ways employers turn off prospective talent, and is an important reminder to all companies and hiring managers.

1. Having an off-putting application process

According to Glassdoor, 58% of its visitors are using their phones to look for jobs. If your application is too lengthy, there is a high likelihood that applicants will click off and move on to the next job. The application should be quick and easy – resume, contact information, and optional cover letter. After you have finished an initial screening, there is plenty of time to get more detailed information from the applicants you are seriously considering.

2. Requesting references with each application

It is poor hiring practice to ask people who haven’t been interviewed to provide references. References should be saved for when you’re getting close to an offer. Candidates may be put off if asked for these too soon as they are weary of burning through their references unless they are seriously being considered for the job.

3. Missing a phone or video screening appointment

The candidate has a confirmed date and time, and the interviewer misses the appointment. “You’re busy” is not always going to work. If something comes up at the last minute, the candidate should at least receive an email or text to let them know you need to reschedule. Being a no-show no-call for your interview is rude, unprofessional, and dismissive and you may not get a second chance to talk to them. These days, even though the interviewer is often the recipient of no-show no-calls, employers should strive for better.

4. Arriving late for an interview

You expect the candidate to be on time, so you should do the same. It might make you feel powerful to leave them languishing in the lobby (whether physical or virtual), but it’s not professional. Remember, the candidate is also deciding if they want to work for your company. Make a good first impression by being on time.

5. Being unprepared

We’ve all gone to doctor’s appointments where we review our medical history with the nurse, then the doctor comes in and asks all the same questions. That is frustrating and you probably wondered why the doctor didn’t review your chart prior to coming in to see you.

This is how a candidate feels when the interviewer comes in cold. Before the appointment, take the time to review the candidate’s resume. This will help you comment on their background and have some questions already prepared.

6. Not following up

Not including phone screens, candidates who have had an onsite or video interview deserve a timely response. Don’t leave them hanging. It is helpful if you can provide truthful insight as to why they were not moved forward in the process but, even if you don’t do that, a simple response is the appropriate thing to do.

7. Ignoring emails from candidates

If the candidate is asking for an update on a recent interview, have the professional courtesy to respond. If you’ve decided to pass on them, tell them so. If you haven’t decided, say that. Be truthful about where you are in the decision process, so they have the information to jockey with their other opportunities.

8. Checking out or being distracted

Looking at your phone, texting, or taking a call from someone during an interview isn’t a good look for any interviewer (just as it isn’t for the candidate). Allowing interruptions from staff while you troubleshoot issues isn’t going to make a favorable impression on the candidate. Give the person your full attention.

9. Using one-sided virtual interviews

Some companies have started using artificial intelligence technology that sends a virtual interview request as a first step in the interview process. The candidate clicks on a link and answers prepared questions, speaking to a camera. There is no other person present. The interview is usually short, and the candidate receives an automated email that someone will review their video and respond if there is interest.

While this may seem efficient, it can also be dehumanizing. There is no opportunity to form a connection with the person, nor can the candidate comment or ask questions. It also can invite potential bias and discrimination by allowing the interviewer the chance to exit the video after a few minutes because the person isn’t the right “profile” they were looking for. If you have 15-20 minutes to watch a video, you have 20-30 minutes to talk to the person in person or via two-way video.

Another Insight from J. Kent Staffing

From decades of recruiting experience, we would like to add one more topic to the above list: Requiring too many interviews and having too extended of an interview process.

Generally speaking, the higher level the position, the more in depth and extended the interview and hiring process will be. For entry-to-mid-level positions, following a phone screen, there should ideally be no more than 2 or 3 interviews, and the process shouldn’t stretch out more than 2 or 3 weeks. It’s okay to coordinate several internal people to meet with the candidate in one interview session, to save the candidate from having to schedule too many interviews.

If your process with a candidate exceeds one month, your odds increase of them becoming disenchanted or of losing them to another job offer.


SHRM’s HR Week, 10/30/2022. “Viewpoint: 9 Ways Employers Turn Off Talent“, by Eileen Kilgore, October 27, 2022.

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