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Spotting a candidate fishing for a counter offer

(MoneyWatch) As stressful as it is to interview for a job, interviewing candidates can be just as much of an ordeal. Filling a position can be expensive, time-consuming and ultimately frustrating, especially if the perfect candidate receives a counteroffer from their current company.

Although such setbacks may largely be unforeseeable, there are ways to sniff out when candidates are seeking an offer -- any offer -- chiefly to pry a raise or promotion from their present employer. Here, HR pros share some of these job-applicant "tells":

They don't have a good reason for leaving. If an employee doesn't want to leave his current company, he won't have a reason for jumping ship. Amanda Haddaway, author of "Destination Real World: Success After Graduation," says this happened to her once. "But despite [the job candidate] not being able to answer that question, we were impressed with his answers to our other questions and his previous work experience. We extended an offer, which I'm pretty sure he took and showed to his current employer, which matched what we were offering." If people give a vague reason for leaving their employer, Haddaway suggests trying to pin down their intentions by asking a more pointed question, like, "What would it take for you to leave your current job?"

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They request you don't contact their employer. Although most candidates won't want you to contact their employer early in the process, by the professional reference stage this shouldn't be an issue. Haddaway says alarm bells should go off if this request is made at this point in time. It could signal that the candidate has no intention of taking any offer from you.

They mention their tiny last raise. While some candidates won't have a reason for leaving, others will share their disappointment with a small raise or lack of advancement in title -- something that's easily remedied by getting an outside offer, says Cal Shilling, vice president of human resources at Vocus, a maker of cloud marketing software.

They haven't prepared properly. Sometimes, a poor candidate is just a poor candidate. Other times, a lack of preparation shows he or she isn't really invested in the position. "Good candidates ask questions about the company and have demonstrated that they've researched a potential employer's market or products," says Shilling. Another sign? Someone is slow to answer your emails or phone calls.

By being able to spot when an employee isn't really that into your company, you may be able to save yourself some time by choosing a candidate that is ready to join your team. Or at the very least, you can take the possibility into account and have a backup plan.

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