Top 5 Interview Red Flags

By Ray Plummer

Once a candidate makes it to the interview phase there are basic key attributes that you should be watching for at this stage. Since interviewers are typically focused on the traits they need in an employee, it’s easy to overlook other red flags. To help you sort through quality candidates quickly, we’ve pulled together the top five red flags to look out for during the initial interview.


  1. Not Asking Questions: When employees ask questions about the company or role, this not only shows their interest in the position, but it also reveals if they’ve done research beforehand and how seriously they are in their pursuit. To gauge their potential in a role, look for interviewees that ask questions beyond the cliché and obvious ones. Typical generic questions include, “What is your company culture?” or “What type of growth does this role have?” While an ideal candidate will come prepared with quality questions that are specific to your company or the role.


  1. Unable to explain previous work: Without specific work examples and details, it’s difficult to know what the employee contributed to a project. Vague overviews about previous major accomplishments are a red flag because it may be revealing that the candidate did not contribute deeply to the project or may be taking credit for another person’s work.


  1. Resume Errors: A resume is the first impression of a candidate and should be treated as a top priority by them. If there are errors, the candidate may lack attention to detail or may not be taking the interview process seriously. In the end, you want to hire an employee that is excited about the role and has a passion for quality work. If errors are caught at this early stage of the process, then this could potentially reflect a work ethic or quality issue that will likely surface in the future.


  1. Bragging about other offers: It’s alright for them to mention other offers they are currently considering, however it may indicate that they are not committed to pursuing the role at your company. Assess the timing of such information as well. If it is brought up in the later stages of the interviewing process, then you may not have an issue. However, if this is talked about in the first interview, there is a risk that the candidate is using your position as leverage to negotiate better terms for another offer. If the candidate does become an employee, then you may have retention issues as there are those that are no loyal and are always looking for their next company and/or opportunity.


  1. Lack of ownership: A major red flag for employers should be lack of ownership of previous projects or roles. If a candidate has experienced a failure and places the blame on their previous team, this may show that they are not a team player. Mistakes and failures are fine if they are used positively to learn from and assist future strategies. A major pitfall of some employees is not being willing to grow from their experiences. Similarly, you should also look out for a candidate who plays the victim. This trait can easily be spotted by those who blame lack of progression on leadership or exclaiming the previous company was just trying to push them out. Basically, when the candidate’s complaints involve others with no willingness to take accountability this should be taken as a red flag and warrants caution.


While a candidate may have the background and skills you require for a position, they may still lack the characteristics of a high performing employee. With today’s dramatic changes in corporate culture and workplace innovation, you should make certain that you are hiring talent that can adapt as well. Hiring and interviewing candidates is a long process. We hope you will keep our common-sense interview tips in mind and that they are able to help you make better hiring decisions.

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Top Five Interview Red Flags

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