Few things in the professional world conjure as much anxiety as a job interview. Depending on whom you ask, job interviews can be fairly polarizing: some people dread being grilled for a position, while other candidates see it as an opportunity to showcase their personality and conversation skills. While there are plenty of tips and tricks for heading into the interview calm, cool, and collected, there’s always the chance that the interview might not go quite as we hoped it would.
Ever leave an interview with the feeling that something just isn’t quite right? Even if you can’t put your finger on it, it usually doesn’t take long to notice when something isn’t clicking. Maybe it’s something the interviewer said. Perhaps it’s the tone in the office. Whatever it is, it’s important to pay attention to those cues, and listen to what our gut is telling us about a given situation. The next time you find yourself in the hot seat, keep an eye out for these nine job interview red flags.
1. The interviewer talks too much.
If it feels like you can’t get a word in edgewise, or if the interviewer is more interested in talking about the company than hearing about why you might be a good fit for it, it could be a sign that the company isn’t making good hires. Or worse, that the interviewer might not have a clear sense of what they need. Hear me out: interviews are a two-way street, and while it might make sense for them to give you a deep dive into the company’s goals, if they aren’t complementing that with questions about you, it can be tough to highlight your qualifications, achievements, and overall fit. Beyond this, someone talking too much could be a foreshadowing of them talking over you in the future. Pay attention to the subtext in your interview, and try to get a sense for whether or not this is a place where you could really be happy.
Remember: you're trying to get a sense of whether you'd be happy working at this company.
2. The interviewer keeps you waiting.
Sure, running a few minutes late is no big deal (and probably fairly standard if the company operates in a meeting-heavy environment), but waiting longer than 15 minutes for an interview is a major red flag. I once showed up for an interview and my contact was nowhere to be found. She’d taken lunch and forgotten about our interview, and the front desk person had me email another contact in the building to get up to their floor. It was awkward, unprofessional, and pretty rude, really. If an interviewer rolls your time slot, it’s probably a sign that they’ll do it again in the future, or at the very least, that they think their time is more important than yours. Nobody wants to start off like that.
3. The interviewer curses or speaks ill of employees or competitors.
Culturally speaking, every company is different, but if you’re in an interview where the interviewer is dropping F-bombs right off that bat, it might be a red flag. Besides this being obviously unprofessional, it suggests a lack of manners or awareness for other people. As the interviewee, you might be coming from a place where colorful language is considered rude or aggressive. When it comes to interviews, the rule of thumb is that no one should do anything they wouldn’t do in a client meeting. If you’re seeing otherwise in an interview, it’s probably a red flag.
4. There’s no discussion of the company’s mission.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the importance of company mission, but sadly, some folks still haven’t caught on to its relevance. Unless you’re looking to work in a money-hungry environment where your sole purpose is to clock in and out each day and rack up cash, ask about the deeper mission of the company in the interview. Maybe it’s innovation. Maybe it’s providing opportunities to marginalized professionals. Maybe it’s reducing waste. If nobody can tell you what the mission of the company is, that’s a major red flag.
5. You don’t interview with your manager or teammates.
When it comes to interviewing, there’s only so much a hiring manager or VP can tell you about your day-to-day work. To get a real sense for what your work will be like, you’d ideally be interviewed by your future boss or manager, in addition to a few of the people you’d work alongside. And if those people are nowhere to be found during the interview process, it could be a sign that the company isn’t too interested in making sure you’ll fit with the team.
6. Next steps aren’t established.
So let’s say you’re nearing the end of a great interview. You clicked with the interviewer, you like the space, and the company’s work seems like something you could really get behind. Then, that obligatory, inevitable, end-of-interview question comes up: “So, in terms of next steps … what are you thinking for a timeline?”
If the person you’re interviewing with doesn’t offer anything concrete in response to this, or keeps her answer pretty vague, it could be a red flag that they aren’t ready to move forward. Or, that they just don’t want to move forward with you.
7. You don’t feel comfortable.
Ever walk into an office that just feels eerily quiet? While you’re waiting to be seen, look around the space: do people seem happy? Is anyone chatty? Does the area feel lively? Could you picture yourself working there every day? If things feel awkward or uncomfortable in the space, in your interview, or between employees, you guessed it: major red flag.
8. It feels like nothing happened.
I once spent hours preparing for an interview — running through questions, scanning materials, reviewing past work and talking through my resume — only to attend the interview and have it last 20 minutes. It felt like a drive-by, and was over before I knew it … not necessarily in a bad way, but definitely not in a great way, either. While you don’t want the conversation to drag on forever, you definitely want it to feel worth your while. If you leave the interview feeling like nothing happened, it might be a bad sign.
9. They don’t show you around the office or take you to lunch.
This rule mostly applies to out-of-towners or long interview interviews, but it’s a major pet peeve of mine. Let’s say you flew in that morning for an interview. Clearly at this point, things between you and this company are getting pretty serious. Odds are, you had to take a day off work to make it there, and if you’re sitting through an interview that’s multiple hours long, you’ll probably be feeling hungry once it’s over. If, after the interview, the company doesn’t take you to lunch — or in the very least show you around the space — take note. If you’re interviewing with a company who doesn’t think it necessary to show you where you’d be working or try to get to know you a little better, it’s probably not a place you need to be.
Tell Us What You Think
What about you, reader? Any red flags you think we should look out for? Tell us in the comments below or talk to us on Twitter.