Red Flags That Interviewers Watch For

Astute interviewers are doing several things during the interview. First, they are trying to make you feel comfortable and relaxed so you will enjoy the interview.

Second, they are listening carefully to what you are saying to determine if you have the skills and experience to do what the job requires.

And, third, they are watching for red flags—warning signs that something may be amiss or at least needs to be questioned further.

What are some of those red flags interviewers watch for? I’ve interviewed over 15,000 people during my career. Here are 17 types of red flags I have noted and what they may indicate (shown in brackets):

  1. Speaking negatively about former employers (always blames others for problems)
  2. Long, rambling answers (disorganized thinking; unpreparedness)
  3. Displaying little or no enthusiasm for the company or the job (poor attitude; applying for wrong reasons)
  4. A pattern of leaving jobs due to disagreements with their boss (difficult to work with)
  5. Ambiguity about why they left a particular job, especially when they weren’t moving to another one (hiding something)
  6. Consistently using buzzwords without being able to back them up with real examples (superficial)
  7. Starting to answer questions before interviewer has completed asking the question (poor listening skills)
  8. Not asking questions at conclusion of interview (lack of curiosity)
  9. Not knowing the names and positions of people who are interviewing them (unpreparedness)
  10. Poor eye contact (poor listening skills)
  11. Unreasonably high levels of self-confidence (arrogance)
  12. Particularly brief (or particularly long) answers to interview questions (hiding something)
  13. Unreasonable demands around compensation, benefits, perks, and work schedule (focused on self only)
  14. Lack of specific work examples to back up answers (doesn’t have the skills)
  15. Using inappropriate language during the interview (condescending, racist, sexist)
  16. Inconsistent work history such as frequent job changes, questionable career moves, and unexplained gaps in employment (spotty track record)
  17. Unsuitable attire (lack of self-awareness)