Top 5 Interview Red Flags

updated on 27 March 2023

You will, at some point, have had a candidate sat across from you that just wasn’t quite right. But, as they did a good enough job, you ignored your recruitment Spidey sense – and made them an offer. There’s a very good chance it didn’t work out. That’s because interviews tend to bring candidates into the light, and if you can actively spot the signs they aren’t right for your business, you’ll save a lot of time, money, and energy.

That means today we get to be really honest about our top five interview red flags. The truth is that we would love it if candidates didn’t do these things – because if that was the case we’d be able to hire everyone we spoke to (and wouldn’t that be a lot easier?). But, not every candidate is the right fit, and here’s how to determine when that’s the case.

The Interview Red Flags

1. Complaining – Not the time, or the place

The way a candidate treats and respects their previous employers is usually a good indication of how they will approach work in general. If they openly criticize or spread rumors about their former co-workers, this should be viewed as a warning sign for how they would behave in your workplace.

Pay serious attention to any candidate’s criticism of their previous employer, and make sure that you probe further by asking how they handled it.

2. Lack of Passion – Then, why are you here?

If the person sitting across the table from you has no enthusiasm or excitement for your business, your product or service, or the interview itself, that’s a definite red flag. If someone is excited to have the opportunity to work with you, then that’s going to carry over into their attitude at work and what they produce. Chances are, you can teach someone the skills they need to be successful in your organization, but only they can be passionate about the work they want to do.

3. Being Late – Just don’t

There’s just no excuse. Seriously, if someone is late for an interview, they’re going to need to work extremely hard to claw it back into their favor. Of course, things happen – cars break down and buses don’t show up. But there should be an expectation that a candidate is capable of planning for this, leaving much earlier than intended, and having contingencies in place if something unexpected crops up. Don’t even get us started on the people who are late and don’t phone ahead to let you know.

4. Asking No Questions – How engaged is your candidate?

An interview should ideally be a conversation. Sure, you’re quizzing a candidate, but there should be an expectation that you are also there to provide the candidate with more information about your company and the role they’re applying for. The questions a candidate asks are going to steer the interview, and very often help show off a candidate’s engagement and aptitude. If you ask a candidate if they have any questions, and they say no, they’re probably not interested in the job.

5. Poor Listening Skills – Not a good sign for a first meeting

Our list exists because many recruiters expect candidates to put their best foot forward, but often that really isn’t the case. If someone doesn’t listen intently to what you and the other interviewers are saying for a 20-minute interview, are they really going to in the day-to-day work environment? Probably not. You don’t need a candidate who isn’t going to pay attention to their job or your business.

Well, it certainly feels good to get all those off our chest, and we’re pretty sure you will have been nodding your head while reading, finally having all your gut instincts explained.