Never Ignore These Red Flags In A Job Interview

Ugh. The job hunt. Sometimes it can feel never ending, can't it? You spend hours upon hours scouring the job sites to finally find what seems like a golden nugget of an opportunity. You then spend the night perfecting your résumé with all the things that make you sound oh so amazing (because you are!) and... ping! That job interview email offer pops up in your inbox or your phone rings with the sounds of success. But that's usually the most daunting part of all. How many times has someone asked how your recent job interview went, and you honestly had to tell them you had absolutely no idea? It seemed like it went well, right? But then there was that part where the interviewer's body language seemed off and you had no clue if they were really interested in what you were saying. Or what about when they didn't have an answer for why they like working there.

As put so expertly by Joe Mullings, Chairman and CEO of The Mullings Group, to Ladders, "The interview process is a direct line of sight into the culture of a company. The attention to detail, candidate experience, timeliness with responses, and generosity of shared information throughout the process is indicative of what will happen when you choose to join that organization." That being said, there are a few tell-tale signs your interview may not be leading to the job of your dreams. Here's how to spot them right away. 

The long and winding road

If it seems like an interview process is taking forever, we hate to say it, but it's probably a sign the company isn't actually that interested in you. Of course, there could always be special circumstances, such as a big project that prevents key people from being able to focus on the hiring process. However, if you've already been contacted by the company and you've been waiting weeks for that interview — or you've been interviewed and you're waiting weeks for the next step — it's a red flag.

"If a company likes you, they'll roll out the red carpet and pull out all the stops to get you across the finish line ASAP," Melissa Hirsch, a recruiter for recruitment services firm Betts, told Stylist, noting two to three weeks should be the optimum time for the interview process to progress. "If a company is dragging its feet, they're either not sold on you or they're stalling because you're a backup candidate in case somebody else doesn't accept," she added.

But don't get genuine extenuating circumstances and a lack of interest confused, because it's equally unlikely you'll always hear back instantly after completing the whole interview process. According to a 2019 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey, the average time from the first interview to getting offered the job has been found to be around 23.5 days.

Constant rescheduling

While we're on the subject of time, if your interview has been rescheduled more than once, it may merit some pause. Sure people can easily become busy and it's not unusual for things to shuffle around when it comes to the workday. But it's happening multiple times, it's probably a sign to get out while you can. The Vet Recruiter noted a lack of respect for your time and schedule can be a dead giveaway that it's maybe not the company for you. If you're finding yourself repeatedly let down, it sends a message the hiring manager (and the company as a whole by extension) may be unorganized and inconsiderate of your time — something that likely wouldn't improve if you got the job.

However, don't feel the need to dip out of the hiring process if it only happens one time and it seems like a genuine emergency. It could actually be a chance to prove yourself. "Curveballs happen every single day in the workplace. This is your chance to prove how agile and flexible you are, and employers like that quality," Kristi Jones, manager of talent acquisition at H&R Block in Kansas City, Missouri admitted to Monster

The great negotiation

You may think that the company holds all the power during the interview process. They have the job, and you want it. It's as simple as that, right? Well, not exactly. Remember, the company is in need of something as well: a smart and hardworking employee. As the saying goes, know your worth.

It's always a good idea to negotiate when it comes to factors like salary or work from home allowance if you're not 100% happy with what is originally presented on offer. If a company is not willing to budge, that's usually a negative sign about how much the company values its people. "This is an issue when companies too often say, 'We make one offer and it is a take-it-or-leave-it.' Believe it or not, this mindset still exists," Joe Mullings admitted to Ladders. "An organization that  says, 'They should want to work here and this is a fair offer' will likely have an antiquated culture."

Making sure the company you work for can be flexible where it matters will only serve you well in the long run, as Envoy's 2022 Return to Workplace Report of 1,000 full-time workers found that 63% of respondents named flexibility as the one factor that makes them feel most empowered in the workplace. If you're at a company with no such policies, you can wave goodbye to that feeling of empowerment.

Jekyll and Hyde

"The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde." An iconic book, but not something you want to experience during a job interview. Lynn Taylor, a workplace expert, author, and leadership coach, told Insider that you could be witnessing a massive red flag right before your eyes if the interviewer suddenly changes their demeanor.

If your interviewer suddenly goes from jovial to serious, bored, or even downright impatient, it could mean they're just not feeling you for the role. "If you noticed the Hiring Manager laughing and smiling prior to entering the interview room, and then they suddenly look like their cat just died, it could mean they're simply not excited by you as a candidate," Taylor admitted to Insider. A few signs they may be bored? If you're talking way more than them, they seem distracted, or it all seems over and done with too soon (via Reputable Recruiting).

If you do find yourself in this situation, though, Taylor suggested that it's a good idea to try and slip in an appropriate joke or cheerful remark to lighten the mood, but it's probably time to walk if that doesn't work. "Consider whether this is just the tip of a very chilly iceberg. You might want to run for the hills while you can, anyway," she admitted.

Wilting passion

It goes without saying that you'd only want to work for a company if the people who already work there have great things to say about it, plus lots of excitement about its future, right? Well, that's why it's important to pay attention to how the interviewer talks about the job.

If they don't seem that enthused about the business or their role in it, it may be a sign to run. While everyone has off days and nobody is expected to be in a great and excited mood all the time, a blatant lack of positivity from an interviewer is rarely a good sign. "If they truly love what they do, you should feel the passion when they explain the job and why they joined the company. They should be telling you stats — especially if it's a sales position — about how well the top performers are doing, how quickly they ramped up and exceeded revenue targets, etc.," Melissa Hirsch, a recruiter for recruitment services firm Betts, told Stylist.

If you notice a lack of passion from an interviewer, it might be a good idea to ask the about their hopes for their work future, or what would define success at that company. In some cases, if they have no answer, it could be a sign they're headed for the exit. 

A lack of transparency

There's a common saying that job interviews are always a two-way experience; a chance for the company to get to know you, and for you to get to know the company. A representative that who proud of the work they're doing will be happy to openly share information (within reason) about what their values are, what their work culture is like.

All this to say, it's generally a bad sign if the interviewer doesn't directly answer your questions during the interview and appears to be keeping their cards close to their chest, particularly if you're attempting to get a little more transparency about what it's really like to work there. Though it doesn't always mean shady business, any attempts to obfuscate questions to answers about expectations could signal a potentially toxic workplace culture — Think, calls after hours, no sick pay, or poor communication between teams. Remember, a company shouldn't have anything to hide.

The interviewer is late

In the words of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" star Kim Zolciak-Biermann, "Don't be tardy to the party." That's a phrase you're probably going to want to remember when it comes to the interview process because bad etiquette from a hiring manager can mean bad news for you.

If an interviewer don't offer a good excuse for being late or it seems like they're keeping you waiting for ages, it may be time to bow out of competing for a role with that company. Remember, you likely took time out of your day, and possibly an existing job to be there! At the very least, any potential employer should respect that. "If [a company] cannot offer you the same courtesy they would expect themselves, it's a big indicator that they probably don't value your time," she told Stylist.

Joe Flanagan, Senior Employment Advisor for Velvet Jobs suggested unexplained lateness could indicate a level of unprofessionalism in the company, or potentially unfair treatment of lower-level, or new employees. "If you encounter any disrespectful behavior on display, directed at you or someone else, assume that it is normalized in the organization," he told The Best Schools. After all, it wouldn't be tolerated if you kept them waiting, would it?

They speak badly about other employees

It's the same both inside and outside of work. Talking negatively about someone else doesn't paint you in a more positive light. And that's no different during a job interview. Though some interviewers or hiring managers may not be too happy that the person who previously held the role you're going for has left (and it's pretty unlikely you'll know the reason why in most cases), that's no reason for them to speak negatively about them during your interview. Not to mention, a negative primer on the previous person to hold the job means you're likely being set up to be constantly compared.

But it's not just about the previous person who held the role you're eyeing. Any kind of negative comment about someone else said during your interview should give you pause and make you question if this is really the environment for you, The Every Girl notes. If your first impression of the business is that its employees (past or present) don't have much respect for one another that could be a sign of an unhealthy work environment. Let's be honest, if they can speak so badly about someone else who once worked at the company or has moved up the ladder, what's stopping them saying the same about you if you started working there? Nothing.

The hiring manager is a ghost

In the same way we know it's bad vibes if a date ghosts you, a company not contacting you when they say they will is definitely a red flag. Although people can understandably become buy and sidetracked, Forbes noted that a lack of contact after being told to expect to hear something could be a sign of disrespect and disorganization — which probably doesn't make it a company you want to work for.

On that note, if following an initial interview, you're chatting more with the HR team rather than the person you'd be working with, it's not exactly the best sign. It may be time to ask yourself why you're not being awarded that direct line of contact if you're seriously being considered for the role.

"While HR may facilitate the written offer, the hiring manager should have the ability and interest to customize the offer that would work best to accommodate the possible new team member," Joe Mullings told Ladders, suggesting if you're not able to contact the manager, they're probably not open to liaising with you about what it'll take to get you on board. A lack of availability could also signal how they would behave toward you on the job; distant and unwilling to provide support. In this case, it certainly sounds like your time and effort will be better spent on other roles.

High turnover

J.S. Nelson, author of "Business Ethics: What Everyone Needs to Know," suggested to CNBC that it's always a good idea to ask about employee turnover during an interview to get a better idea of how long people are actually staying with the business. Or better yet, ask your interviewer about their journey within their role. If they don't give a straight answer or imply there could be a high turnover at the company, there's likely an internal reason for a revolving door of employees. "Each person may have a different reason for leaving, but if there's no one left in a team after six months, you have to wonder what's going on," Nelson shared.

Of course, a few people setting off for greener pastures every now and then isn't a bad thing (sometimes people leave a position and it has nothing at all to do with their role or the company, after all) but, as noted by Cleverism, a constant flurry of people saying sayonara could also suggest that there's little room for advancement at the company. Similarly, if the interviewer speaks about constant "restructuring," which is code for layoffs, it could mean bad things for you should you take the role. Who's to say they won't expect you to take on additional duties beyond the job description to make up for a lack of other people? 

They get way too personal

There are some questions that it's just not appropriate for an employer to ask you during an interview, and you should never feel pressured to answer any of them. Amongst the questions that are considered illegal according to Yale University's Office of Career Strategy? Anything about your marital status, if you have or are planning to have children, or questions directly addressing your age, race, or disabilities. If the interviewer throws caution to the wind and asks one of these questions anyway, that's a sure fire indication that they do not respect your boundaries nor proper conduct — and that's no good sign about who you may end up working with. Consider that if they're comfortable with inappropriate comments about marital race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion while meeting you for the first time, it means the company likely doesn't value professional standards.

It's also important to point out that even if a question isn't considered illegal but makes you feel uncomfortable, you do not have to answer it if you don't want to, whether it's directly related to the job or not.

Buzzwords with no explanation

Buzzwords are becoming increasingly common in the workplace, but if you're in an interview and all you're hearing is jargon you maybe don't fully understand or know isn't being used correctly, that could be a sign of something more sinister about the company culture. The Every Girl noted that buzzword can sometimes be a cover for something they'd rather not be direct about because it makes them look bad if they were honest. Words like "hustle culture" or "team of self-starters," can for instance, really be a euphemism for a company that has no boundaries or mentorship for new employees. Or, even worse, all those fancy descriptions could be serving as an attempt to make the job sound more exciting than it actually is. 

A buzzword-filled interview could also suggest the company you're attempting to work for puts too much of an emphasis on titles. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study found that many businesspeople can pepper their conversations with such jargon as a status symbol, so if you're hearing word after word that bamboozles your brain, you may want to pause and consider if this is really the business and the co-workers for you.

A cluttered mind could mean a cluttered workplace

It's rarely a good thing if the person interviewing you seems totally unprepared and unaware of what you could potentially bring to the table. Think about it. Would you turn up to a job interview without knowing anything about the business? Big nope! So, if someone's doing that to you, it probably means they're actually not all that interested in you and may have put their time into another candidate. "If they seem somewhat clueless about your background or detached, you can assume the interest level is dwindling," Lynn Taylor told Insider

A cluttered and spontaneous approach to an interview can also be a red flag that the business itself is unorganized and chaotic, because what successful company has ill-equipped employees who don't do their research? This could also mean bad things for the culture. If the person who's paid to do job interviews gives the impression they can't keep up with them, who's to say how informed they are about what's going on with other departments or the business as a whole? 

Even if there's a viable explanation, it's rarely a good one, such as one overworked person being responsible for all the hiring, or no real hiring protocol in place.

They're unclear about the next steps

Do you know what the next steps are because they were clearly explained to you during the interview or in a follow-up message? If the answer is no, that may be because you won't be taking them. A company that's interested and genuinely considering you for a role will usually want you to know exactly what to expect and when to expect it, so they're not running the risk of another company snapping you up in the meantime. A company that's keeping you totally in the dark probably won't and may even just be keeping you around as a backup for the person they're seriously considering. 

Though not all companies may volunteer this kind of information up front, if you ask and get a vague response or no real plan or timeline, that's a red flag. As warned by The Every Girl, if the company's acting a little shady when it comes to giving you a solid timeline about when you can expect to hear back from them,mthis may not be the role or company for you.

In fact, many experts highly recommend asking such questions in your interview to prove your enthusiasm and dedication, so if it falls on dead ears, that's a usually tell-tale sign. "The questions a candidate asks in an interview demonstrate interest, commitment, analytic ability and experience," Chris Sotomayor, Consultant with Point Road Group, explained to Glassdoor.

They're vague about the job description

Romantic relationships. If you're not clear on where it's going and whenever you ask you just end up more confused, that person probably isn't the one for you. And it's pretty much the same thing with a new job. If you don't know exactly what the role is and what's expected of you following the interview, it's red flag city.

"When a job interviewer doesn't tell you exactly what your job is, there are only two possible reasons: They don't know or they don't want you to know. Needless to say, both of these are extremely worrisome," Lachlan Brown, Founder and Editor of Hack Spirit, told The Best Schools. In the first case, it could show a lack of knowledge on the interviewee's part (which is just as bad) or could even spell that it's a role you'll likely never be able to live up to because even the company and its employees don't really know what to expect from the position. In the second case, it could be they are deliberately not telling you because there are expectations that would probably make you run: Work that goes beyond normal working hours, for instance, or tasks beyond your pay grade.

To keep yourself from falling in the trap of ending up in a job that takes advantage of you, make sure things are clear regarding what you'll be expected to do from the start. As we already know, if you're asking straightforward questions but only getting vague answers, it's time to hit that pause button.