We recently hired a new team member here at Workopolis, and she is awesome. The professional references that she gave us all spoke very highly of her, but we almost lost out on her because of a red flag that came up in our screening process. How did we dig it up?

Through one of 10 secret ways employers are screening you:

They’ll talk to anyone at your former workplaces. This is the one that nearly tripped up our new hire. Someone in HR had a friend who worked at one of the companies on her resume. So of course she asked what the former coworker thought of her, and the response wasn’t great. (We hired her anyway, because that job had been several years ago, and we actually knew other people who had worked with her since who didn’t corroborate the negative review. But it could have been a deal breaker.)

This is why it is important to be professional at all times on the job, make clean exits when changing jobs, and manage your working relationships carefully. You never know who is connected to a place you may want to work in the future.

They Google you. Employers will be looking you up online. So if you have a website or a blog, make sure that you’re not publishing any images or information that you wouldn’t want potential new bosses to see. Similarly, you might want to tone down any aggressive or foul-mouthed commenting or posting you’d otherwise be tempted do on other websites.

They will check your social media profiles. More and more people are on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn (or all three) as well many other social networking sites. Got a YouTube channel? Your interviewer will be watching your recent videos. They’re going to check out your updates and tweets. Make sure that the content you post and share doesn’t cast you in an unfavourable light.

Here is what they want to see.

Your phone manners and voicemail. Did you speak on the phone with the employer? Did you sound friendly and upbeat? How did you answer the phone? The small details matter when someone is getting to know you for the first time. And be sure to have a professional-sounding voicemail message if you’re applying for jobs.

I once called a potential hire, and his recorded voice (in an imitation of Yoda) said, “Not home am I. Patient you must be. Call you back I will.” I didn’t leave a message.

Also, I think everyone knows this by now, but have a professional looking email address for your resume. PimpDaddy69@email.com is going to be judged by his address.

They’ll talk to the receptionist. Were you polite and friendly when you came into the office for your job interview? How was your demeanour while waiting? Everyone you interact with at the company (and not just the interviewer) is part of the screening process.

They’ll judge you by what you’re wearing. We had a candidate once come in for an interview in shorts. That’s just ridiculous. You have to dress professionally to show respect for the interviewer and appropriately for the industry and the role.

How you wear it matters. Employers will also notice if your clothes are clean, pressed or wrinkled, if your hair is unkempt or out-dated, if your shoes are polished or ragged. All of these can be indicators of your personality and of how much attention you pay to detail.

Body language and posture. Employers will be watching how you move and act to see if you appear to be honest, confident and friendly. Slouching, avoiding eye-contact or shuffling around in your seat can all give them the wrong impression.

Your in-person manners. Similarly, do you have a good handshake? Did you thank the interviewer for their time? How did you act when offered water or a coffee? Did you send a thank-you note after the interviewer. Employers want to see that you know the social conventions of polite professional interactions.

In the case of a lunch interview, your table manners. Interviews over a meal create a whole new source of potential pitfalls. Those table manners that your mother used to stress will come in handy. Place your napkin on your lap. Reach for the glass on your right. Order food that you can eat with a knife and fork. (Finger foods can be messy.) Take small bites, so that you don’t get caught being asked a question when your mouth is full. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Don’t fight for the cheque. It’s an interview, not a social occasion; the employer will pay for lunch.


When you’re looking for a job, the last thing you want to do is give a potential employer a reason not to like you. They’ll be looking at more than just your resume and job interview answers, so (unlike Shorts Guy and Yoda Boy) make sure that you pay attention to detail at every step along the way.

See also:
Confessions from the hiring manager’s side of the desk: here’s what most candidates don’t know
The six lies that employers will most often tell you
Five job interview secrets that employers don’t tell candidates