Several red flags flying against a blue sky.

6 Red Flags to Watch Out for in a Job Interview

You’ve done it, you’ve landed an interview for the job of your dreams! 

But during the interview, you noticed that a few things felt off. Was this just you being nervous? Or were these red flags warning you that you shouldn’t take the job?

Keep reading to learn all about the red flags you should watch out for in a job interview and whether or not you should consider them deal breakers, saving you the stress of potentially working for the wrong company. 

Why Should You Watch for Red Flags in Job Interviews?

If every job were the perfect environment, employees wouldn’t leave until retirement or they were fired, meaning there would be a lot fewer jobs available. 

The truth is there are positives and negatives about every job on the market, you just have to decide which negatives are manageable and which are not. Oftentimes a job will let you know when the negatives are unmanageable in the form of red flags.

If you happen to spot these red flags during an interview, it’s important to take them into account before you accept the job, as you could end up unhappy in the position if you do take it. This alone can save you from months or years of job-related stress

Job-related stress can cause physical discomfort and strain your relationship with your family, and no job is worth it. It can be difficult to leave a job once you start it, which is why you should work to avoid jobs with red flags before you become an employee. 

How to Catch Red Flags

The best way to catch red flags in an interview is to take notes during an interview if you are able to. Most employers don’t mind if you take notes as long as you ask.

During a virtual interview, taking notes is easy, as you can have a notepad with you on the table. For those with an in-person interview, you’ll need to remember to bring a paper and pen with you.

Whatever you do, do not plan to take notes on your phone as this is a red flag to the interviewer. If you are not allowed to take notes, as soon as you leave the interview building, take a moment to write down everything you remember about the interview while it is fresh in your mind.

Sometimes, when you wait too long to reflect on the interview, your brain will only remember the good rather than the bad, causing you to miss potential red flags. So do your best to reflect on a potential red flag interview shortly after it happens. 

A computer, lamp, and a pair of glasses are on a desk at night.
An interviewer that reschedules multiple times or is late to the interview is the first red flag. 

6 Red Flags in Job Interviews

Now it’s time to look at the most common red flags you may come across during the job interview process. If you see any of these during your interview for your dream job, as hard as it may be, you should re-think working for the company as it may not be your dream job after all.

1. The Interview is Rescheduled Multiple Times

You haven’t even had the interview yet, and the hiring manager is calling you to reschedule to a different date. While this is common in the modern world where everyone is busy, your interview should never be rescheduled more than once.

Rescheduling an interview more than once shows that the company is disorganized and doesn’t value an employee’s time. Think of it like a first date. If they are treating you this way when you aren’t even hired yet, how are they going to treat you when they do hire you?

The same goes for if the interview is a video interview. Because a video interview can happen almost anywhere, at any time, there is no reason for the interviewer to be late or reschedule more than once. 

2. Any Sort of Disrespect

When you interview for a company, they should be advertising their company to you. They should not be discussing another company they don’t like or disrespecting the employee who was previously in the position you are interviewing for. 

While competition is natural in the business world, there is a right way and a wrong way to discuss competitors and former employees. For example, saying someone “wasn’t the right fit” is respectful and appropriate, while saying someone was “an idiot” is an example of disrespect.

If the company doesn’t talk about its competitors or former employees respectfully, there is a large chance that they won’t always speak to you with respect as well. This red flag should definitely not be ignored and it should be a deal breaker. 

Beyond what the interviewer is saying, you should also pay attention to what they aren’t saying. Is their body language respectful? Or are they reading messages on their phone during the interview?

For those interviewed by a pair of interviewers, take note of how they interact with each other as this is a dead giveaway to how they will interact with you. If the pair are constantly interrupting each other or having conversations that you aren’t a part of during the interview, this is a definite red flag. 

3. Answers are Unclear

No matter what you are interviewing for, you should prepare a few questions for your interviewer. Even if you don’t think you have any questions, ensure you prepare a couple so you can watch for this red flag. 

Not getting specific or clear answers from your interviewer when you ask a question is a direct reflection of how they will react when you ask a question when you get a job. Every position involves some training, and you will need to ask questions at some point in your career–meaning you need to make sure you can get them answered now.

Answers to questions that are muddled or unsure are another indicator of disorganization within the company as your interviewer either hasn’t been given the proper tools to do their job or isn’t sure where they stand with the question you are asking. 

Asking questions becomes even more important when you have multiple interviews. Ask the same questions at each interview (as long as the interviewees are different) and see what answers you get. 

If the answers conflict or are widely inconsistent then this is a red flag that the company you are joining doesn’t work together as one unit and that there are likely communication issues. 

4. Illegal Questions

Before you begin your job hunt in general, it’s a good idea to know what questions an interviewer can and can’t ask during an interview. For example, it is illegal for an interviewer to ask about your age or marital status.

When an interviewer asks a question that is illegal or inappropriate, this is a clear indicator that the company has little regard for the law and no respect for its employees. It also shows that the company tolerates bad behavior from employees with managerial power. 

Even if an interviewer asks a question that is technically legal, if you feel uncomfortable answering, take note, as this could indicate that the company will do other things in the future that will make you uncomfortable as well.

5. Ultimatums

Just as ultimatums are a red flag in a relationship they are also a red flag during an interview process or with a job offer. 

An ultimatum during the interview process usually appears as a tight or unreasonable deadline or demands you to stop doing something else in order to accept the job. 

An example of this would be an interviewer giving you a call on Sunday and letting you know if you want to be considered you need to be interviewed by Tuesday. This doesn’t give you proper time to prepare, and any company that needs an employee that fast clearly isn’t willing to take the time to find the right candidate anyway.

Another way an ultimatum could appear is if they mention that the job will require lots of overtime. Although this isn’t as obvious, this is a sneaky way of saying that you will need to devote your whole life to the job, sacrificing family and hobbies. 

Beware of ultimatums when you receive a job offer as well. Any company that really values you as a prospective employee will give you time to think about the offer. They should offer you at least a week, if not more. 

If a job gives you an offer and wants a response in a day or two, run, as they clearly value the position being filled more than they do ensuring it is the right fit.  

6. The Length of the Interview Process

The length of the interview process will vary from position to position, but in general, it should suit the job you are applying for. If you are applying for a freelance position where you will work mostly from home and on a part-time basis, the interview process should be quick and shouldn’t take up too much of your time.

If you are interviewing to be a CFO however, you should expect multiple interviews, probably even one with the board of directors. So keep this in mind as you go through the interview process, and if the process seems to be going on way too long for the position you applied for, this is a red flag. 

What’s more, is that the interview process for any position should not exceed a couple of months. If you find yourself waiting almost half a year to go through the process of getting a job, this is a bad sign as it shows inefficiencies as well as indecision within the company. 

A man types in a number on a cell phone.
When you spot red flags, it’s best to call the hiring manager to end the interview process.

What To Do When You Spot Red Flags

You’ve finished your interview, and there were definitely a few red flags that you noticed. What’s next?

First of all, you may want to discuss with a friend or family member you trust to ensure what you actually saw were red flags and not a personal bias. If your confidant also agrees that something was off about the interview process, then it’s time for you to decide.

You will need to think over the red flags and if they were bad enough to end the process after just one interview. In general, just one red flag is enough for most people to call it quits. If you noticed multiple red flags during the process, then it is best not to continue. 

If you do decide to give the company one more shot after noticing a single red flag, be hypervigilant in the next interview and ensure you can live with the possible implications of that red flag if you decide to take the position. 

Once you decide not to continue, give your hiring manager a call or email and let them know that you don’t wish to go forward with the interview process. You should do this sooner rather than later to show respect for their time. 

Do not stop responding to messages, as this is a red flag for the interviewer that you don’t handle situations maturely. While you may not want a job with this particular company, most industries are small, and you never know when the hiring manager you met years ago at one company will later be interviewing you at another company. 

Ready to Avoid Working for a Red Flag Company?

It can be disheartening when you discover what you thought was your dream job is riddled with red flags. As hard as it can be to let go of the potential of this position, know that you are likely better off not working for the company and that it probably isn’t truly your dream job if they  aren’t going to treat you right as an employee. 

Once you decide to discontinue the hiring process, do so the right way and begin to look for the true job or your dreams. Take a look at hiring trends for 2022 to discover what companies around you may be looking for. You never know when you will find the job that is the perfect fit for you that doesn’t have any red flags. 

Share this post