Interview Tips

Interview Red Flags

Xiaofan Gao
By: Xiaofan Gao
Aug 10, 2020 • 10 min read

Interview Red Flags for Employees and Employers

Do you ever get that feeling during a job interview, where a response makes you uncomfortable? Cue the alarm bells in your head. Did you just hear them, right? Are they really like this? If you’re an employee, you’ll be wondering whether you should seek work elsewhere. If you’re an employer, you’ll be wondering whether you shouldn’t hire the candidate in front of you. It’s also highly possible that both people will be having doubts simultaneously! Whatever the scenario may be, always watch out for red flags during an interview. Today, we’ll be covering some of the most common ones for employees and employers. 

red flags

Employee Side

As a job seeker, your ultimate goal is to work for a company that fits your goals and needs. However, since what everyone wants varies, this list might not be the most accurate. Keep in mind we are covering what the most common red flags are. 

Turnover Rate

You learn that the company has a high turnover rate, meaning workers come and go quickly. Now, several people leaving from time to time makes sense, but a mass number rushing out of there indicates that this company is usually not satisfying employees’ needs. Hence, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll be one of those jumping ship as well, if you were to join them.

Overtime

It’s highly hinted that working overtime is a part of the company culture. Watch out for phrases like “Many opportunities for doing overtime” or “We work hard and play hard.” Again, if you’re a complete workaholic, then just skip to the next flag. You’ll be surprised to learn, however, that many people don’t like working more hours than necessary. Shocker, huh? For those that desire a work-life balance or don’t like the idea of staying later than usual, don’t accept offers from these companies. 

Happiness

No one likes working there. You can tell by paying close attention to the interviewer’s face and how long it takes them to answer the question, “What’s your favorite part about working here?” If they look a bit confused and spend a while coming up with a response, that’s definitely not a good sign. If your interviewer gives you a tour of the building, observe your surroundings. Are any employees smiling? Is there a general air of happiness? If you answer “No” to both of these, then you should be careful when considering a job offer from this place. 

Interview

The interview is…off. Maybe the interviewer talks about themselves the whole time and doesn’t care to answer your questions or learn more about you. It shows that the company culture may be “We don’t care about who you are but what you bring to the table.” Or maybe the interviewer evades any questions regarding payor growth opportunities. Looks like you’ll be stuck in the same position for a while. Worst of all, perhaps the interviewer starts criticizing you. That’s actually happened to me before. During one of my interviews freshman year, the interviewer went off on me about not being “street smart” enough and called my HTML skills “completely useless.” Safe to say I didn’t work for them. 

red flags

Employer Side

As a hiring manager, you’re looking for a candidate that will not only be able to perform their responsibilities well but also fit into the company culture. There might be some other requirements you’re looking for too, but we’ll only be covering the necessary red flags here. 

Questions

Their responses to behavioral questions are short and vague. Chances are that they don’t have much to say because they didn’t have much to do! Or maybe they did do a lot, but none of it applies to what you just asked. Say you’re interviewing someone for an IT position, and one of the questions is, “Tell me about a time where you had to explain a technical concept to a non-technical person.” Your current interviewee might have more years of customer service experience than all the other candidates, but if they can’t answer the question, it means zilch. 

Resume

Their resume timeline is weird. Details like long gaps of unemployment or not staying at a place for more than a few months is worrying. Make a note to ask them about these, as their answer could reveal a lot. For example, if you ask a candidate why they haven’t had a job in 5 years and they explain that they’ve been interviewing for jobs the entire time, watch out! While their determination is admirable, you can’t help but wonder why they never get past the interviewing stage. Once or twice could be on the interviewer, but if they keep getting rejected, then there’s probably something up with the interviewee themselves. 

Arriving Late

They arrive late. Yes, I know, I know. Life happens. However, it’s still a strong indicator that a) they don’t have the foresight (not anticipating possible obstacles that could slow them down), and b) they don’t err on the safe side (those that play it safe would leave super early). These two traits are usually included in the list of what your employers are looking for, so when a candidate arrives late, take that into consideration. 

Demands

They start demanding things upfront, and, when you don’t agree with their terms, they refuse to compromise. First of all, if your candidate makes many requests, like “My pay has to be at least this many dollars, I need this many vacation days, you have to save a parking spot in the front for me, and I want to bring my coffee pot in every day,” then they might expect you to cater to their every whim. You can never win! This is a big red flag to watch out for. 

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