10 red flags to look out for during an interview


By Helen Green 

Attending an interview is a daunting prospect for most people. In preparation, job-seekers can access plenty of terrific online resources aimed at bolstering their interview performance, allaying nerves, and adapting to changing interview practices. Yet, in the quest to impress, it is easy to forget the interview is a two-way process. 

You can make your case as the preferred candidate, while at the same time assessing whether you want the job. It is personal. While most interviews are conducted very professionally, this is not always the case. 

Here are some red flags you might want to be mindful of during an interview. 

1. Inappropriate questions 

This a big one. Know what is appropriate for you to be asked in the context of your capacity to undertake the role and what is not.  

2. Lack of role clarity 

if the position has been advertised, the interviewer should be able to tell you who you would be reporting to, key parameters of the role and how success in the first six months will be measured. 

3. Rudeness and negativity 

You might get a general feeling about the workplace’s culture or explicit comments made during the interview about the former occupant of the role or others in the organisation. This is different to an honest discussion about some prospective challenges the role might include. Robust questioning is to be expected, but there is no excuse for rudeness. Manners speak volumes about an organisation and its culture. 

4. High staff turnover 

If you learn there have been multiple occupants in the role within a short period of time and this cannot be explained, be cautious — it may suggest a ‘churn and burn’ approach. 

5. Lack of transparency 

This can include a reluctance to answer reasonable questions you have about the role or organisation. Interviews are for both parties, and your prospective employer should be interested in your questions and what they reveal about you. If the interviewer does not have the information at hand, they should be willing to find out. 

6. Overselling 

This is not always a negative, but it can be worrying if this coincides with undocumented claims and the remuneration is significantly less than the market rate or it’s an unpaid internship that might lead to a paid role.  

7. Moving goalposts 

This can happen for legitimate reasons but late changes to the title, reporting structure, salary or position description during the interviewing period all warrant careful attention. 

8. Tensions and inconsistencies 

Take note of the panel members — note any tension, confusion about the role’s purpose and its place within the organisation, or mixed messaging about changes within the company and their vision. 

9. Ethical dilemmas 

Be sure you are on the same page. A former client recalled an interview where he was asked if he had a problem doing whatever was necessary to get sales over the line. He asked for clarification and was uncomfortable with the response. 

10. Disorganisation 

Rescheduling the interview at the last minute multiple times, without apology or reasonable explanation, shows a lack of respect for you and your time. 

Other things to be mindful of during an interview 

Sometimes you might just have a feeling that the role, culture, structure, or team dynamics are not right for you or might have misunderstood the position. Know how you work best — discontent at work is often related to a misalignment of values. 

In preparing for your interview, do your research and align your achievements to the position. Answer questions positively and respectfully and make sure to come up with at least three insightful questions that demonstrate your suitability for the role. 

In a competitive job market, people make the best decisions they can. Not everyone is able to decline a job offer even if they have doubts, but do weigh up your options carefully, ask questions of your prospective employer and seek advice if you need it — you might have more options than you realise. 

Helen Green is a qualified careers coach, writer, and professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia. She has over two decades’ experience working in senior education and career program management roles, particularly within the tertiary sector where she has assisted many students. She is Director of Career Confident in Melbourne. 

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