Tell-tale Signs your Candidate isn’t Ready for your Important Role

When dealing with senior management and executive level roles, here at Collingwood we understand that finding and enticing the right person can be difficult for a myriad of reasons. 

Face-to-face communication is central to the way in which we work, so we’ve come to understand the subtle signals that candidates display when they aren’t ready to make a career move. These tell-tale signs can help us assess whether a candidate is the right person for you culturally and to take on the objectives you have for them.

Below we’ve outlined some of these signs to help in your assessment to identify the right person for your critical role.

Waiting room stance

This is a key moment in evaluating a candidate. As a company, this is likely to be the first contact with a potential employee face-to-face, building on the communication and assessment already undertaken by your Collingwood executive search consultant.

As the waiting room is the only time during the interview process that a candidate is not under direct scrutiny, this presents you with the opportunity to understand their motivations, emotions and general mind set before you engage fully with them.

What you should be looking for

See if your candidate is interested in their surroundings. Have they arrived on time? Are they taking this time to absorb your space and your culture? Have they picked up any reading materials? Or are they nervously fiddling with their shirt? Have they engaged with your receptionist, asked some insightful questions and generally built a pleasant initial impression? Do they want to be there?

Interview pose

As Amy Cuddy explains in her highly commended TED talk, body language can be read as easily as this blog. A candidate’s body language can tell you whether they are anxious about your role, confident, motivated or even detached.  

What you should be looking for

Cuddy presents the “power pose”. This is a confident and strong stance, seen throughout nature in humans and animals and is a universal signal of power. To an extent, this can signal a candidate is ready for your senior role. You should be looking for your candidate to be sitting confidently, with their shoulders back and their body language open and easy to read.

The “low power” pose on the converse could signal that a candidate isn’t confident about their abilities and the role or your company may not be right for them. Your candidate may have their arms folded, their head bowed or their hands clasped together, signifying they feel closed and under pressure. This should be a key signifier that your candidate feels threatened and perhaps not ready to make a career move.


Effective verbal communication is obviously essential alongside understanding body language. The signs to look out for, however, lie in what your candidate is not saying. An interview can be a high-pressure situation that often sees candidates presenting pre-prepared answers.

What you should be looking for

Look out for an overuse of business buzzwords without an explanation for what this personally means for the candidate. This signifies that your candidate has pre-rehearsed answers they expect you to be looking for. If you think your candidate is using too many pre-prepared phrases and buzzwords, pull them up on it and ask them to explain what they mean by a certain phrase. If they sigh when asked for more detail, the alarm bells should be sounding.  


A lack of knowledge of your company can point to a shallow interest in your opportunity and a real shortage of drive or passion. This prior preparation can indicate a candidate that is motivated and excited about the potential of joining your company, whereas no knowledge of the role, your company’s history or culture could be a tell-tale sign that this role is not a priority.

What you should be looking for

Take the opportunity to ask your candidate to discuss your business’s vision, values and objectives, and their perception of you in the marketplace, ensure you note down their response. Are they enthusiastic or are they just repeating your website copy? Are they talking about other articles they have read about you, or discussing your social media? In today’s world of Google and social media, there is frankly no excuse for comprehensive research not being done prior to your interview. These are tell-tale signs that your candidate has done their research and actively sought out information about your business.

Other points to consider:


Negativity, especially about a previous job or role could signal that the candidate will bring a lot of unwanted baggage or perhaps is not ready for your challenge. The senior and executive level positions we deal with require people that are highly motivated to drive businesses forward. They must fit the culture of your company, and take on your challenges as their own. Negativity at such an early stage could indicate that a candidate is not ready to take on these challenges.


Asking questions to candidates can ensure you find out the right information. These answers and the confidence with which they answered can be telling. Candidates that may not be the right match for your role may be seen to avoid answering questions due to a lack of confidence or a lack of knowledge. As a minimum, candidates should know every nook and cranny of their CV and be able to support statements with factual evidence.

Getting it right first time

Here at Collingwood, our executive search process enables us to dig deep under a candidate’s skin and truly evaluate and understand their suitability before being introduced to our clients. The right candidate can help achieve success for your business whereas the wrong person can be incredibly time-consuming, costly and a disaster for team spirit. The wrong appointment can cost up to 4 times basic salary.

Our passion as a company lies in finding the very best people for our clients through our extensive experience, proven processes and simply interacting with potential candidates on a face to face level. We are passionate about our client and candidate journeys, in delivering experiences beyond their expectations and in appointing individuals who will prosper and succeed in our client’s organisations.

If finding the very best person is vital for your business, let us help you recognise the tell-tale signs.

Contact us today to see how we can drive your business forward or download our ‘How to brief an executive search partner’ ebook to help you outline what kind of candidate you’re looking for.