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Red Flags to Watch for in a Job Interview

Red Flags to Watch for in a Job Interview
Credit: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Walking into a job interview can be nerve-wracking. There's a lot on the line for everyone in the room. While the manager is conducting the interview, job seekers also need to judge the hiring manager and company.

"Red flags during a job interview can occur, so it's important to evaluate a prospective employer the same way they're evaluating you," said Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster.

You should do your research, evaluate the company, and look for red flags to make sure the position and company is right for you. Here are some red flags to keep an eye out for during a job interview, and what to do if you spot these warnings.

Before you even step into a job interview, you need to do a lot of research about the company and the open position. When you're looking at the job description, it should be clear what types of projects you'll work on and what your day-to-day will look like.

"Vague responsibilities on a job description should give you reason for pause," said Salemi. "The same way you should avoid using jargon on your resume similarly applies to job descriptions."

If the company does provide a vague job description, the interview is a great time to ask for specifics about your potential duties and responsibilities. If they can't clearly answer your questions, that's a problem. [Read related article: Smart Questions You Should Ask During Every Job Interview]

Hiring managers need to take the job interview seriously, and it's not a good sign if they don't.

"Make sure to take notice of how well the employer or hiring manager prepared for the interview, and watch their body language as much as their words," Salemi said.

Mike Melville, principal at talent acquisition firm WinterWyman, believes the way a company handles job interviews is usually indicative of how it does business. "If the interview process is disorganized or unprofessional, the company may be as well."

When you start a position, you don't just get a new job – you get a new manager. Managers can make or break a job, and dealing with a difficult boss can be draining. If your potential manager seems rude to you or other staff members, you should seriously consider withdrawing your application.

"If he or she is late, unprepared and doesn't seem to value your time, it could be a glimpse into how they treat the members of their team," Melville said. "Of course, there are legitimate reasons for being late, but if the interviewer is tardy without much of an apology, it's definitely a red flag."

"The No. 1 red flag to watch out for is a high turnover rate," said Sean Peek, co-founder and marketing director of Lightning Media Partners. "Companies that quickly cycle through employees probably have a root issue that isn't being addressed, such as poor management, low pay or a negative company culture." 

To figure out if the company does have high turnover, you can ask specific questions about the position and who has held the position in the past couple years. Melville agrees that high turnover is a big red flag, and that hiring managers should be able to answer any questions about it.

"There really isn't any reason why a manager should be in the dark about why someone left," he added. "If he/she doesn't know, it could mean she's afraid to tell you or completely out of touch. Neither reason bodes well for you taking the job."

After the interview, you can research the company on websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkedIn to see if the reviews reflect what the manager said.

There are several things you can do if you notice red flags during a job interview. If you have questions or aren't sure about the role, don't be afraid to ask questions.

"You can also evaluate the red flags during the interview and probe further," said Salemi. "For instance, if the hiring manager doesn't fully explain what the role entails, ask follow-up questions."

If the answer does not bring peace of mind or more clarity, or if it's clear the company isn't a good fit, don't be afraid to withdraw your application.

"If you notice signs of a toxic boss – one who throws team members under the bus, is rude, does not pay attention during the interview – there's no purpose in rectifying the situation," Salemi said. "Go with your gut and bolt to the nearest exit."

If you're preparing for an interview, read this Business News Daily article for a complete guide to a successful job interview.

Saige Driver

Saige received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Telecommunications from Ball State University. She is the social media strategist for Business.com and Business News Daily. She also writes reviews and articles about social media. She loves reading and her beagle mix, Millie.