The job-hunting process isn’t easy but being aware of common interview red flags can help you avoid a potentially bad fit.

With any career opportunity, the interview process should be a two-way street that involves both parties learning about each other and asking questions. And this mindset is becoming more recognized.

According to The Muse, an online career platform, 72% of job seekers say they’ve experienced a “Shift Shock” before. Shift Shock is a sense of surprise or regret in a new role because the role or company was significantly different from what they were led to believe. And 48% of job seekers would even go so far as to try to get their old job back if they experienced Shift Shock.

Understanding that interviews are an opportunity for job seekers to learn more about the role and company can help prevent this.

Here are five red flags to look for in a job interview.

1. Vague answers to legitimate questions

An interview is an opportunity for both the interviewer and interviewee to ask questions and learn more about what each party can bring to the table. When you ask questions about the company, role or team and receive vague answers or general statements, that should be a red flag.

Just as you should provide detailed answers with concrete examples to any questions you’re asked, so too should the interviewer. Avoiding giving direct answers or even providing inconsistent answers that lack clarity is a sign that the company may either be disorganized or unknowledgeable.

An unprepared hiring manager or interviewer raises a red flag that they haven’t invested time in preparing for the interview.

2. Inappropriate questions or comments

While a job interview is a time to ask questions, it is not an opportunity for the interviewer to badger you with personal, rude or inappropriate questions. Questions that are ageist, sexist, racist or equally offensive in nature should immediately raise obvious red flags.

Even if the interviewer means no intentional harm in asking the question, it may demonstrate an unconscious bias in the recruitment process, or even perhaps that the company tolerates unprofessional behaviour. And this could foreshadow what goes on in the company or what you could possibly experience if you were hired.

3. Distracted or rude behaviours

While no one should be on their phone or texting during an interview, if an interviewer receives a ping on their phone and checks it without apologizing or muting it, that should serve as an immediate red flag. Interviews generally don’t take longer than an hour, so if the interviewer can’t put away their phones during that time, it demonstrates their lack of respect for your time and energy.

Likewise, if the interviewer seems distracted, is avoiding eye contact or isn’t paying attention to you, it shows that they don’t care enough about you and may not care about you once hired either.

4. An excessive number of interviews

While the interview process shouldn’t consist of just one interview and being hired on the spot, it shouldn’t be a drawn-out process either. Generally speaking, an interview process that takes more than seven follow-up interviews, unless it’s a C-suite or director position, can be considered excessive.

If a junior role requires a candidate to complete 12 interviews before being hired, that’s a red flag. It shows that the company or team may be overly consensus driven, indecisive or have trouble driving things to completion.

5. No connection with the prospective or hiring manager

If during the interview, you don’t feel a connection with the hiring manager, that could be a sign that the role may not work out in the long run. If you feel like you don’t get along with them during the interview, who’s to say you will get along in the role?

If the interview is still in the early stages with the human resources department and there is no connection there, that’s not a red flag yet. However, the red flag is if there is no connection with the manager you would potentially be working with. However, a good interview should still engage in meaningful two-way conversations that leave both parties feeling enthusiastic about a potential fit in the organization.

For more job interview tips, see our blog for tips on preparing for your next interview.

Published on July 15, 2022.