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Job Interview Red Flags

Every job interview is a two-way street. Yes, the employer is checking you out to see if you’re the right person for the job — but this is also your opportunity to make your own assessment about the company. While it’s understandable if you’re concerned with making a good impression, you should also keep an eye open for job interview red flags that might warn you away from making a decision you’re likely to regret. Consider some key red flags that can tell you whether to accept a job offer or not.

1. The Interviewer is Late, Unprepared, or Disorganized

You know you shouldn’t be late for an interview. But what if the interviewer is late for you?  I once had a new client that kept a candidate (I was representing) waiting for over one hour due to a company meeting that went on forever. That may speak to a lack of respect that’s endemic to the company.  Overall disorganization on the part of the interviewer may indicate a company that doesn’t have its act together, and it certainly demonstrates poor communication throughout the organization. If an interviewer isn’t ready for your interview, they’re sending a statement that they don’t value you, which is a huge red flag.

2. The Interviewer is Rude

Another way an interviewer can demonstrate that they don’t value you is through rudeness. This can take the form of ghosting you, acting disinterested during the interview, brushing off your answers (or asking the same questions multiple times), or even checking their phone or taking a call during the interview. Take this red flag as a sign that this is how employees are treated, and take your job search elsewhere.

3. The Process Seems to Be Going Too Quickly

Many job seekers get frustrated by the drawn-out process of the hiring process, so you may be excited if a company is ready to make an offer right away. However, if you’re applying for any type of management or executive job, you should consider the rush to hire as a red flag. Explore why the company is in such a hurry. It’s okay to ask for extra information or more time to make up your mind — and it’s an additional red flag if those requests are denied.

4. The Interviewer Makes Vague Promises

An interviewer who won’t answer your questions with specifics (especially on second and third interviews) should raise an eyebrow. You should know your expected job duties, key timelines, anticipated path to promotion, and performance bonuses before you accept a job. Beware of the company that says they’ll figure out your job duties once you start — because that’s usually a promise of no promotion and plenty of burnout.

5. You Can’t Find Out Much About the Company — and What You Learn Isn’t Great

Of course you’ll do your research on a company before you interview — and that’s a good time to look for red flags. Is the company’s website under construction? Is it easy to find ex-employees complaining about the organization?  Did you find that employee tenure is short and the company has high turnover?  If you dig into the company’s social media pages, do you find customer complaints galore? Take a look as well at Glassdoor reviews (and pay attention to lots of A+ reviews written on the same day) to catch red flags.

6. No One Will Answer Your Questions

“Will the company be profitable this year?” “What’s my path to advancement within the organization?” “Will I have to work weekends?” “What do you like about working here?” “What is the company’s commitment to diversity?” “What is the salary for this position?” …If the interviewer avoids answering these and other key questions, they’re waving a red flag in front of you.

7. A Sneaky Job Interview Red Flag: The Company Asks for Free Work

Has the company asked you to make a major and lengthy presentation (that can actually have an impact in their business) to win the job you’re up for?  Does the potential employer want you to take-home assignments (as part of the evaluation process) that are going to take more than half a day or so?  Do they want you to spend several days or a week at work on a trial basis? This is a request for free work and often an attempt to cherry-pick your ideas while failing to pay you for what is in essence consulting work. 

Keeping your eyes and ears open during the hiring process can help you remain alert to these red flags, so you can redirect your job search when necessary. Remember, that you have to do your homework on the potential employer before accepting an offer.

By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano

By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano

President & CEO of Barbachano International (BIP)

Barbachano International is the premier executive search and leadership advisory firm in the Americas with a focus on diversity and multicultural target markets.  Outplacement and Executive Coaching services are provided by our sister allied company Challenger Gray & Christmas. BIP has been recognized by Forbes as Americas’ Best Executive Search Firms and currently ranks #27 and #3 on the West Coast.  


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