A Job Seeker’s Guide to Interview Red Flags

Nabila Ikram
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Whenever I interview for a position, I often have to remind myself that the interview is as much for me to get to know the interviewer, as it is for them to get to know me. A successful working relationship depends on both parties, the employee and employer, and therefore, both have to step up to the plate. Interviews help job seekers get a solid first impression of the company and position at hand. Therefore, when interviewing, make sure to keep an eye (or ear) out for the following red flags that can warn you to reconsider before it’s too late.

1.  Being unprepared

Candidates and employees, alike, are expected to be prepared to put their best foot forward. You should expect employers to have gone through your resume, arrive to the scheduled interview on time, have a clear understanding of the position and expectations, and overall, be prepared. The interviewer’s level of preparedness gives you a first glimpse into the work culture of the company.  

2.  Bad-mouthing

Bad-mouthing is not a kind practice, period. It is even more unacceptable and unprofessional to hear an employer bad-mouthing others, be it the person you are replacing, competitors, or someone else.

3.  High turnover

If you get any indication that there is a high turnover rate at the company, that’s reason enough to reconsider it. A good position with a good support system in place will retain employees for the long-run.

4.  Illegal questions

An interview is a professional conversation with little space for personal diversions. There are many questions that are actually illegal or are highly discouraged from being asked. Before attending the interview, make sure to take a look at what questions fall in this category. Many of these questions usually stem from a place of curiosity and naivety, not necessarily bad intent, but still they’re illegal. With that in mind, assess your comfort level and then decide to either go ahead and answer the questions, side-step them, or ask for (essentially confronting the interviewer) the questions’ relevance to the position.

5.  Mismatched cultural fit

When going for an interview, observe the work environment, the other employees you come across, the interviewer, and then finally pay attention to how the interviewer talks about the company and the position. Take time to determine whether the work culture you sense through your interactions fit your expectations. If not, then perhaps reconsider the position. Cultural fit can be as, if not more, important than pay, so make sure to take it into special consideration.

With the above the cues in mind, and the reminder that you are meant to assess the employer as much as he/she is meant to assess you, you can go to your next interview with confidence and ace it, regardless of whether you ultimately decide to take an offer or not.

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Karen R. thank you for the great comment. It's always nice when we get personal accounts as it helps others! So sorry that they basically did a bait and switch on you. It's great that you have a job now and that you will continue to look for that job of your dreams! It's so true that you don't have to stay in a job forever! In today's world, job hopping seems to be becoming the norm and manager's don't view it in the negative as much as they had in the past! Thank you again and all the best in your future endeavors!

  • KAREN R.
    KAREN R.

    It's true. Yesterday I got a job description from a recruiter that stated the client wanted young, cheap candidates only. In one interview I asked the manager if she had a lot of turnover. She said No, but then listed 4 people that left her group in a year or less. I've had an interviewer have my resume for a month but look at it for the first time when I am at the interview. Interviewers focus on what they want - there are SO many candidates. I even had one manager lie about the role - after I started working I found out it was a different job! The advice here is valid. If you are in dire need, realize you don't have to stay in the job forever.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Rose D. thanks for your comment. It's true it can be hard to know when there's a middle-man involved. If at all possible, reach out to the recruiter and ask questions prior to submitting your application. It is a waste of time applying for jobs at companies that you are not interested in working for. If there is not a recruiter in the middle, do your due diligence on the position prior to applying. If you receive an email requesting an immediate interview but you don't know who they are or what the position is, you can always respond back and ask them to send the job posting prior to committing to an interview. If they are legitimate, they will send you a copy of the job posting for the position. If they give you the run-around, don't schedule an interview!

  • ROSE D.
    ROSE D.

    With new technology now days, there are few walk in interview options as it was back some years ago. Face to Face opportunity may come later on in the process. Resumes' are sent out into different job search engines., then you get a text stating please acknowledge immediate availability for interview. How does one professionally reset a possible skype or online interview to be able to do research of the company who has suddenly reached out to make contact immediately for an interview session? You don't want to miss an opportunity. Now days, job seekers tend to apply with more than one Resume' depending on skill and experience. On pandemic timeline, I am applying to jobs that I know I can do or that I know I can learn quickly but I am concerned on the immediate demand of being able to connect on line at a drop of a dime. I feel educated enough to be able to do well on a cold interview. My concern would be of a possible offer to a company that is willing to give you a chance but you have not been able to do any type of research on their services. How do I make time professionally to research company if there is a middle person who sets up the interview? Some of these jobs sound to good to be true and they want sensitive information from you. Appreciate the guide. Thank you

  • Clay W.
    Clay W.

    Thanks for sharing this information. This is informative for anyone seeking employment,

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Patrick R. thanks for your comment. Sit there and listen - and what? not respond? You need to be prepared for the questions - as prepared as you can be. You need to know the job description inside and out and you need to know what your resume says so that you can expand upon it if asked. Being prepared is the number one priority! If you discover, while going through the interview that the job is not for you, you can stop the interview and excuse yourself. Best of luck on your next interview.

  • patrick r.
    patrick r.

    When you go to a interview and the employer is asking the question s at that just sit there and listen .

  • Gabriel V.
    Gabriel V.

    Why would I care what she has to say?

  • Abraham  R.
    Abraham R.

    Wonderful article, and great advices 👍.Thank you

  • Cathy M.
    Cathy M.

    Thanks!

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