28 Job Interview Red Flags to Watch Out For in Candidates • Toggl Hire
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28 Job Interview Red Flags to Watch Out For in Candidates

Post Author - Juste Semetaite Juste Semetaite Last Updated:

Like a chef who burned his food, or the painter wondering how on earth his acrylics got mixed up with his oils, mistakes are inevitable in any line of work. The field of HR is no exception.

Nobody wants to make a bad hire. But it happens, right?

The good news is that these mistakes, for the most part, can often be avoided. Especially if you know what to look out for. There are several common red flags in interview that every hiring manager should be aware of to help you avoid making a costly mistake.

In this article, we’ll diving into a bunch of job interview red flags, what they are, how to spot them, and hopefully, save your hiring team some trouble!

TL;DR – Key Takeaways

  • Red flags in recruitment are warning signs that suggest there could be a problem with a potential candidate and can even help foretell if the hire will work out or not.

  • There are many examples of red flags to look out for across the spectrum from the more obvious, like unprofessional behavior and being disrespectful, to more discreet warning signs like microaggressions and changing the subject.

  • Some people just interview poorly, and you shouldn’t give up on them too easily. Hiring managers have to judge for themselves which red flags suggest a bad hire, or just nerves. And there are different ways to help you do so.

  • For example, try guiding the interview to help the candidate better answer your questions, assign homework, use an interview scorecard, or use skills tests to dive into their abilities and personality.

  • Use Toggl Hire’s Test Library and Video Intros to help the job candidate to further show off their personality, talent, and skillset.

skills-based hiring
Reduce the risk of mishires with skills-based hiring.

What are ‘red flags’ in the recruitment context, anyway?

The term ‘red flags’ in recruitment refers to the warning signs or indicators that, if picked up on, should alert you to a potential problem or issue with a candidate during the hiring process.

As a hiring manager, you’ve probably come across a few of these throughout your career, from candidates showing up late to job interviews to strange excuses, unnecessary bragging, or even not knowing what job they’re applying for.

But what are some of the less obvious red flags to watch out for? Ahha, let’s keep going.

what are interview red flags

The 28 most common red flags in interviews to look out for

Now that you know what red flags are, let’s take a look at the various ones to look out for. We’ve split them into different scenarios to help you identify where they may arise.

Do any of these sound familiar?

Section I: How job candidates present themselves

1. Rambles

Rambling endlessly when asked a question by the hiring manager or constantly changing the subject is a bad sign.

Candidates should make their best impression in an interview and use the limited time accordingly.

2. Contradicts themselves

Constantly contradicting themselves when answering questions is like a bad liar who can’t keep his story straight.

3. Bragging

Everyone should be proud of their accomplishments, but bragging is a big red flag no-no because it suggests a lack of humility, a desire to take all the credit, and, likely, this candidate is not a team player.

4. Lack of eye contact

Avoiding making eye contact during the interview can suggest a lack of confidence or honesty.

5. Unkempt

We all have our bad days (or laundry days!), but an unkept job seeker shows that the person might not care about how they present themselves or represent your company.

6. Rescheduling

It’s OK to reschedule interviews – life happens – but constantly rescheduling the same interview shows a lack of time management and respect for your organization.

This will lead to a drawn-out interview process and stop hiring managers from finding their perfect candidate.

7. Late

If the candidate is extremely late and doesn’t have a good reason as to why. After all, the first interview is all about making a good impression.

8. Inappropriate humor

Having a sense of humor and telling jokes is an excellent way for a candidate to break the ice and reveal more of their personality, but inappropriate humor in a job interview is a big red flag and a potential HR violation!

9. Slang

Using slang or overly casual language during the interview process can indicate that the interviewee cannot conduct themselves professionally in a work environment.

10. Swearing

Swearing is a major red flag during a job interview, as it shows a lack of professionalism and disrespect for the interviewer and the company.

While your company’s culture may be relaxed, cursing during an interview is almost always inappropriate.

10 Red Flag Signals in How Job Candidates Present Themselves
10 Red Flag Signals in How Job Candidates Present Themselves

Section II: How the candidate acts in the interview

11. Lack of enthusiasm

A candidate who lacks enthusiasm may not be the best fit for the role, as they may not bring the required energy and motivation to the job.

12. Doesn’t ask questions

During the interview process, candidates who do not ask any questions about the job description, role, or company may indicate that they are not truly interested in the opportunity.

This could also suggest that they have not done their research and may not be fully prepared for the position.

13. Doesn’t know about your company

Candidates who do not understand the company or job description well may also be a red flag, as this could indicate a lack of interest or preparation.

14. Asking inappropriate questions

Asking inappropriate or off-topic questions of the potential employer during the interview, such as questions that are personal or unrelated to the job, suggest that the candidate has not done their research or is not serious about the opportunity.

15. Doesn’t understand what’s being asked

Candidates who do not understand or repeatedly misinterpret the questions being asked could suggest a lack of attention to detail, poor listening skills, or a lack of preparation for the interview.

16. Microaggressions

Candidates can display these subtle forms of discrimination during the interview process. This could include comments or actions that are offensive or insensitive towards a particular group of people.

microaggressions could be one of the  interview red flags
Examples of microaggressions in the workplace

Section III: How the candidate explains their past experience

17. Cannot provide examples from previous roles

This could suggest that they did not have significant responsibilities or accomplishments in their previous roles or are unprepared to discuss their experience in detail.

18. Vague answers about previous employment

This possibly suggests the candidate is not disclosing all relevant information or didn’t enjoy their past job roles.

19. Answers and CV don’t match

If the candidate’s employment dates, manager names, responsibilities, or even a run-down of their roles differ from their CV, it might suggest that some of the information was fabricated.

20. Handling feedback

The way a candidate handles feedback is important to assess how they are likely to work with others and grow professionally within your organization.

21. Exaggerating or lying

Exaggerating past experience or lying about qualifications are big warning signs. Integrity and honesty are must-have traits in an employee, so confirm a candidate’s claims carefully before proceeding with the hiring process.

red flags in interviews past experience

Section IV: How the candidate views their past employers

22. Speaks badly of them

Candidates who speak badly of their past employers may indicate that they have a negative attitude towards authority or that they have difficulty working in a team environment. 

23. Shows disrespect

Showing disrespect towards the interviewer or hiring managers is a major job interview red flag. This could include making derogatory comments or using inappropriate language to describe their past work environment or colleagues.

24. Gossip

You don’t need to know what Gail said in that one meeting or what Geoff did behind closed doors, right? So why is the candidate telling you all of this?

Section V: How the candidate made you feel

25. Sexist/racist/homophobic

This is an obvious red flag. If a candidate makes comments about the interviewer’s race, religion, sexual orientation, appearance or anything else, those are grounds to remove them from the hiring pool immediately.

26. Condescending

A condescending attitude from a candidate during an interview not only creates an uncomfortable situation for the interviewer but also a negative one. Just because you don’t know much about MySQL, sales, or user research, does not give the candidate the right to talk down to you.

27. Dismissive

A dismissive attitude towards the hiring manager will negatively affect an interviewer’s impression of a job candidate and the overall interview experience. It’s a big job interview red flag and shouldn’t be overlooked by the hiring team.

28. Body language

Someone who slouches during the interview process, let alone the first interview, is showing disrespect and isn’t taking the process seriously. Similarly, an overly aggressive or assertive stance can leave the interviewer feeling uneasy.

Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer researcher of body language in the 1950’s, found that the total impact of a message is about 7 percent verbal (words only) and 38 percent vocal (including tone of voice, inflection, and other sounds) and 55 percent nonverbal.

The New York Times

Course correct with these tips

Now that we’ve seen some of the most common red flags, how should you react to them?

Obviously, red flags like discrimination or disrespect make it easy to identify who to eliminate from the recruiting funnel. However, with less obvious warning signs, sometimes it’s worth prodding a little further to be sure if it’s a red flag or misunderstanding.

For example, if a potential candidate starts to ramble or goes off track, there might be a problem with your line of questioning. Stop, think of another way to ask about the information you are looking for, and ask them the new question. If they are still struggling, you will have found your answer.

Let’s next consider a few more tips and strategies when dealing with red flags.

#1 – Talk it out

Suspect a red flag? Talk it out.

Calling a candidate out on their behavior is a great way to keep the interview on track and separate the nervous candidates from the actual bad hires.

Another way to assess a candidate’s fit is to talk about their interests outside of work to get an idea of their personality, values, and how well they might fit in with your team.

👉 Check out these top 30 personality interview questions.

#2 – Consider a skills test or trial period

If you’re not entirely sure about a candidate’s fit, you might consider administering a skills test or having them complete a trial period.

This can give you a sense of their capabilities in a hands-on environment and how well they work with others.

#3 – Trust your gut

Mind you, this tip is only useful if you have evidence to back up your ‘gut feel’. Be careful not to let your unconscious biases reign supreme!

However, it’s still important to listen to your instincts. If something seems off about a candidate, it probably is. Use other tools in your arsenal – like conducting a peer interview, referring back to their assessment performance, doing a social media screen or checking references.

Don’t be afraid to decline a candidate if you don’t feel like they would be a good fit for the role or the company culture. It’s better to take the time to find the right candidate than to hire someone who could be a red flag down the road.

Tip! Remember to keep these red flags in mind during the hiring process, trust your judgement, and you’ll find the right candidate for the job!

Spot these Red Flags with Toggl Hire

You don’t have to wait for the interview to spot red flags.

An online pre-employment testing platform like Toggl Hire can help you spot potential red flags earlier in the hiring process.

And with Toggl Hire, you can also create customized tests to evaluate your candidates’ skills, knowledge, and abilities, so you can be confident you are hiring the best candidate for the job.

Some of the common red flags Toggl Hire can help you identify include:

By using Toggl Hire’s pre-employment testing platform, you can save time, streamline your hiring process, and make more informed decisions about your candidates.

Don’t let red flags go unnoticed – sign up for Toggl Hire today and start building the best team for your organization!

Juste Semetaite

Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.

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