There are plenty of articles about how to spot a good hire based on what a candidate says in their interview. But what about what they don't say? 

I find that it's just as informative (maybe more) to listen to what's left unsaid. Here are six unspoken things that raise red flags about a candidate. 

1. Anything about the company.

I'm guessing you want your employees to do what's best for the company over themselves personally. With that in mind, it sounds alarm bells in my head if the candidate's questions or examples are all focused around themselves vs. the company. This speaks volumes about how they will approach problems and prioritize. 

2. "How are we doing on time?"

Especially on calls I find it informative to see who will keep an eye on time, and who will just let the end time blow by. The lack of a simple "I have a few more questions but we're almost at time -- do you have a few more minutes?" raises questions about their team-orientation. Candidates who proactively keep an eye on the clock communicate that my time is just as valuable as theirs.

3. Evidence of perspective taking. 

Many of my favorite interview questions test for empathy or perspective taking. For example, I'll often ask candidates to "Define 'good' communication." Many candidates will answer this from the communicator's perspective -- clear, concise, etc. But what I'm really listening for is if they acknowledge that communication is equally about the person on the receiving end. When the answer doesn't include anything about the other person's understanding, perspective, or point of view, that's a concerning omission.   

4. "Did I answer your question?"

Going off the above, I always take mental note when a candidate doesn't check for my understanding at least once during our conversation. A simple "Did that answer your question?" or "Was that what you were looking for?" indicates they are treating this interview like a true back and forth. It's also a positive signal to me that they proactively check their performance against expectations. 

5. The questions left unasked.

As the representative from People Operations on many interview panels, I always find it telling what candidates choose to ask me -- and what they don't. Questions on benefits, work-life balance, and compensation are critical information for a candidate to make their decision. However, when these are the only questions asked -- and not a single one about team or culture -- that can raise an eyebrow. Sometimes they'll have covered this in other interviews, but when they haven't it leaves me wondering if they will be fulfilled at a company where culture is central. 

6. Thank you for meeting with me today.

This one is just common courtesy, yet I'm always surprised by how uncommon it can be. Any positive company culture is founded on respect, and if I thank the candidate for their time and they don't return the gratitude, this base level of mutual respect is called into question. 

One final but important note when evaluating candidates on what they don't say -- be mindful that you either don't prompt at all, or prompt all candidates. When you prompt some people to add more to their answer and not others, that adds bias to the process.

Be deliberate about asking each interview question as is, or prompting with a follow up for what they haven't said, and keep the process consistent among all candidates. 

Published on: Nov 25, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.