10 secrets about how employers really screen you

Peter Harris|

We recently hired a new team member here at Workopolis, and she is awesome. However we almost lost out on her because of a red flag that came up when we were screening her. The professional references that she gave us all spoke very highly of her.

However, checking your professional references is only the very beginning of the investigating that employers do into a candidate’s background, reputation, and conduct.

Here are just some of the ways that employers secretly screening you:

    They’ll talk to anyone they might now 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. 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


Peter Harris
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Category: Job Search Strategies
  • picky!

    grammar and spelling are very important….. “They’ll talk to anyone they might now at your former workplaces’ “know,” not “now”….

    • Chuck Norris

      I noticed that error as well in this piece.

    • Omer Tamer

      If the employer makes an error, that’s forgiven. If a job candidate does the same, he is unforgiven.

  • Guest

    They want robots they can call their own.

  • bowie1

    I’m retired but can anybody meet these high standards?

  • lynn

    I don’t mean to be rude, but I found two typos in your article. Although the content was excellent, if this were your resume, I would have tossed it.

  • Lee Koren, PHR

    Great advice!

  • LaMillo Rivero Ruiz

    Is there a way for the candidate to evaluate the interviewer? some of them don’t a a clue of that they are doing, and just judge you vaguely, not to mention if you are more confident than they are!

  • Widows Son

    These are all good points, however given the poor economy I am seeing that most positions that are advertised and go through the interview process are merely going through the motions. Friends are hired or staff within get the nod. This is particularly bad in small municipal government. In other cases minorities will favour their own kind, which is too bad as the hiring of minorities was legislated at one time. And finally if you are over 50 years old, you are not even considered. Some persons may have found that when the apply online, a computer program decides who are the people that should be deemed acceptable. Yes a bloody computer screens applications. That one bothers me as I do not see this process as an effective manner to decide whom to interview. So you can do all the points that you suggested, but there are other factors at play. It is really a shame.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Agree, especially with the over 50 YOA remark.

    • Omer Tamer

      Very true

  • Nick Kossovan

    Blah, Blah, Blah … tell us something we don’t already know. It’s an employer’s prerogative how they screen candidates. Given how many employees I see when going about my daily business who are either incompetent or obviously not engaged I would have to say maybe employers need to pay closer attention to skills, etc. and much less on something as superficial as what a person is wearing.

  • Julie

    I found three typos in this article without trying!
    Maybe you should hire me to edit before you publish!!!

  • James R. Reese

    You forgot one thing. They will use tricks to learn your age. Over 50? You won”t get hired no matter what.

  • RomanJeremie

    Assert your right to make a few mistakes. If people can’t accept your imperfections, that’s their fault.

    • Jasvir Virk

      You are right. No person is perfect. Just be yourself at the interview.

  • bimjim


    Don’t eat with your mouth open, make eating noises or smack your lips all the time – some people think that is the ultimate in disgusting.

    Don’t hold the cutlery vertically – in either hand – or wave it around (unless, of course, you are interviewing to be a pirate).

    And when you are done, put the knife and fork on the plate together at 45 degrees to the table edge with the handles resting on the rim of the plate.]

  • Paul Jones

    I see Peter Harris does not know the difference between cheque and check. While the British form of a money order is spelled cheque and the American form is check, both agree that a restaurant bill is a check though it is a rare form and bill is used more often.

  • Taras Pich

    Two comments:

    1) Too often I’ve gone to interviews in a suit/tie and the interviewers are sitting in the casual clothing of the office. Why should they care if you’re in a suit/tie if no one never wear it at work.

    2) “…if your hair is unkempt or out-dated…” What is out-dated hair? And what/who defines unkempt? Would Einstein be refused for a job because of his hair?

    • Maco

      He apparently would be in Canada……….

    • Jax

      Taras, I hear what you’re saying but the reality is the interviewers can be sitting there in ripped jeans and a tshirt when it all comes down to it. They are not the ones being interviewed and they are not the ones looking for a job.

  • Narinder Kumar Gautam

    Kindly to arrange my technical Job after retired from the post senior Manager technical pl.

  • Eslam Ghoneim

    So basically what you say that if my current work is bad and my employer is trying to abuse me, underpay – overwork, I should just continue to work for him for ever, cause he’ll hunt me wherever I try to go … wow
    That’s really disappointing.

    • Maco

      That is the reality of the Canadian Slave Labour market…….

  • Roustam

    Imagine if somebody decides to write pure nasty lie about you and post it all over the internet. Imagine if many simply don’t like you from the first time they saw you. Then will you give up on job hunt because it is pointless. Or will you still carry on looking for a job?

  • Jasvir Virk

    What I have noticed, the so-called career advisers, they write illogical things, which they advise the candidates: Do this and do that. I’m pretty sure if Peter Harris and another adviser are giving one-on-one advice to the same candidate it will be dramatically different and inconsistent. They just fill the columns of career websites just to keep their jobs!

  • Tyler Ryley

    If not down with Yoda you are, feel bad for you, I do. Dreary and soulless, those without humour must feel. Take out your crippling inner sadness on others, you should not.

  • Efrem

    That’s what a candidate should do immediately after his job interview: to publish on his Facebook page something like : I’ve just had a job interview at an amazing company, it’s such a wonderful enterprise, I would be happy to work for them even for free!

  • buylaw

    grammatical error in first paragraph