Red Flags to Watch Out for in a Job Interview

5 min read

Career Trends: June 14, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

According to a survey, two-thirds of workers say that they accepted a job only to realise it was not a good fit.

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Job interviews are a two-way process — you’re interviewing your potential boss and employer as much as they’re interviewing you. After all, you don’t just want any job — you want the right job. According to a CareerBuilder survey, two-thirds of workers say they’ve accepted a job only to realise it was not a good fit, with half of them quitting in the first six months.

There are several reasons this could happen, including feeling like you’ve been sold a false bill of goods or a realisation that the culture is not consistent with your values or even toxic.

This isn’t to suggest that you should go into the interview process overly skeptical or suspicious, but rather to encourage you to be attuned to potential red flags in the interview process.

Here are 10 red flags to watch out for.

1. Constant rescheduling and disorganisation

  • People are busy and things may unexpectedly come up, so it’s not unusual that an interview may at some point need to be rescheduled. Yet, when it happens multiple times, it’s an indication that something is amiss.
  • Remember, your time is valuable as well.
  • “If the recruiter or the hiring manager ghosts you for a considerable period, that’s a red flag,” says Caroline Stokes, an executive coach and leadership strategist. It shows a lack of transparency and an inability to communicate properly.

2. Disrespecting others

  • Every organisation has some natural tensions or frustrations between different departments.
  • Are the people you’re meeting with during the interview process able to talk about challenges or tensions with other stakeholders in a constructive way, or do they do so disparagingly ?
  • If it’s the latter, this is a red flag, not only indicating that the organisation may be highly siloed, but also that there may be low psychological safety.

 3. Conflicts related to values

  • Get clear on what your most important values are before you start the interview process and have questions ready that will allow you to assess the company’s culture.
  • Try and understand the extent to which the organisation shares your deeply held values, and how well you’d be able to express these while on the job

 4. Lack of clear or consistent answers to your questions

  • Are the answers you receive during the interview vague or general statements? Or does the interviewer give you tangible examples — the same as they’d expect from you?
  • If you don’t feel that you’re getting specific and direct answers, that’s a red flag.

5. Bait and switch techniques

  • When the job for which you are interviewing starts to sound very different from the initial job description that prompted your application, this is a red flag.
  • To be sure, change is constant. Yet, if the hiring manager doesn’t explicitly highlight or call out the change, it can be an indication that they don’t communicate or manage change well with key stakeholders, both internally and externally.

6. Inappropriate questions or comments

  • It is entirely possible that an interviewer could ask a highly inappropriate or even illegal question or make an inappropriate comment.
  • If you receive a question or comment that is ageist, sexist, racist, or equally offensive, it is an obvious red flag that this organisation not only has poor training, but also likely tolerates bad behaviour.

7. Lack of connection from the interviewer’s side

  • When there is a lack of energy or connection and the interviewer doesn’t seem engaged is not smiling, seems distracted, and/or is robotically asking questions as if following a script and not trying to get to know you, that is not a good sign.
  • Likewise, there can be a sudden shift in the energy or engagement from one round of interviews to the next. This sudden shift in enthusiasm can be a red flag that they’ve now found another candidate.

8. Resistance to change — even if they say they want change

  • Open positions exist because an organisation needs someone to improve the current situation — to build better products, create operational efficiencies, attract new clients, improve departmental performance and the like.
  • Making improvements in the business requires change.
  • Stokes shared that some hiring managers “just don’t have an improvement mindset. They may just be so old school they just want to keep it the way things are…You’ve got to keep your ears wide open on that.” 

9. Excessive number of interviews or drawn-out process

  • In an ideal world, the interview process itself would be efficient and optimise stakeholder involvement and alignment.
  • A red flag arises when the number of interviews becomes excessive, and the process drags on for an extended period of time.
  • Some companies, like Google, are actively taking steps to shorten drawn-out interview processes to be more competitive in the ‘war for talent’.

10. Exploding job offer that doesn’t respect your agency

  • Exploding offers are job offers that are given with a firm deadline (often on a very tight timeline), beyond which, the offer expires.
  • An exploding offer is basically an ultimatum, which doesn’t regard an individual’s desire to make a thoughtful career decision and weigh their options.
  • Companies that issue exploding offers are not likely to respect your wants and needs once you’re on the job, and are likely to be inflexible and autocratic.

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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