Interview danger flags to run from

Knowing the interview danger flags to run from will save a lot of angst and time.  The more things change the more they stay the same with humans and the hiring eco-system for executives and experienced professionals. 

The last few years has been rather strange and unique (read Lost in Space strange hence the image above) with all the fluff and expectations around the great resignation, career cushioning etc. 

Truth is stranger than fiction and interviews are still often a weird and strange imbalance of power and ego posturing. In this article I will discuss the top 11 interview danger flags. 

But before I do, let’s take a  look at why dodging  career mistakes are easy to identify at the front end.

The noodle bowl & more

I owned a media recruitment agency for 11 years and  recall with chagrin the interview stories from senior candidates back to me.  I never enjoyed negative surprises, nor did the candidates. For example :

The media director who was chomping on his bowl of Chinese noodles whilst interviewing my senior male candidate for a sales management role.

The talent manager who told my female candidate she was the hottest person he had ever interviewed, was too pretty for the role but could he take her out for dinner.  WTF!

The manager who kept a candidate waiting for 1 hour without an apology or the front staff offering a drink.  And a whole swag of other disrespectful interview attitudes .. the list goes on and on.

Impressions matter

We all know that first impressions really matter. 

That first greeting, handshake, conversation, Zoom call, meeting and interview will give away much insight  to inform and a fair appraisal of a situation, company or person.

How people behave and treat us the first time around is a good indicator of what is to come. Listen and watch it intently.

In a hiring situation and job search your initial gut instincts are key and must be listened to. Don’t try and justify and rationalise your feelings, they are your inner watchdog. 

When meeting with a prospective employer the way they treat you will be pretty much be the best they will be and a true indicator of what you are in for if you join that company and manager. 


Trust me, it never gets better. What you observe and feel about the people who interview you and the vibe of the workplace are your internal red flags to alert you to whether the company and role is right for you or not.  


Head – Heart – Gut

We process information in 3 ways – we think with our head, feel with our heart and know our gut what the truth of situations.

It is the gut that is always right WHEN we trust it.  

Searching for a new job is fraught with many emotions and frustrations and never more so than when someone is unemployed or facing sexism, racism or ageism.

Economic realities will often override logic and people will be tempted to accept a job that they know is not a great choice. 

Holding ground

Then over the last 7 years in my business division of executive career job search marketing and strategy, I am constantly disappointed to hear of appalling interview behaviours. 

Directors who don’t show their face on zoom interviews. HR managers who fire shot gun questions at a rate of knots without any warning preamble. 

I am constantly disappointed at the conduct of hiring managers towards candidates who are experienced, well prepared and indeed excited to be interviewed.  

That ‘oh the interview didn’t quite go as I had hoped’, or the ‘manager was rushed etc’ are often shared.  That is polite code for the interview being poor form indeed.

What saddens is that in the hiring and interview ecosystem the most accomplished and senior candidates (even up to $800K) often accept the behaviour and are not willing to hold their ground. Fear of rocking a already rickety hiring boat wont sharpen your self worth.  Hold your ground!

An interview is where both parties and I repeat, both parties must impress each other. That does not relate to being disingenuous.  

It means treating each other as valuable colleagues and potential partners.  It’s OK to bail on a disrespectful interview on the spot or not to proceed further.

11 red flags  

For executives and senior professionals interviewing, there are 11 key red flags to  watch for. These are the main ones and occur at any stage the hiring process from initial contact to offer stage.

1/   Observe the way the interview is being arranged at the front end  Are the stakeholders giving good and clear information upfront and promptly communicate?

 2/   The job responsibilities and KPIs are different to what has been communicated on the job advertisement or discussed/briefed previously. This alerts to potential internal political issues &/or the company has no idea of what they need.

3/   The interviewer runs down the person/s currently or previously in the role. It’s the ‘blame everyone else’ rhetoric vs responsible EQ frame.

4/   Disrespect by keeping you waiting without any apology or contrition (zoom, phone, in person). 

5/   Lengthy time delays between interviews and follow-up is a big flag that a company can’t get their act together &/or just doesn’t value people and candidates as human beings. Run

6/   A low vibe/quiet office where you just feel the darkness of a culture of fear and lack of enthusiasm.  OR you hear loud aggressive and angry office conversations as you wait in the reception or meeting room. Arrgh

7/   If the hiring managers poorly treat their staff, suppliers, receptionists (aka anyone that comes across their path) poorly. Observe this and take notice.

8/   The interviewer/s clearly haven’t thoroughly read your resume &/or are not prepared at all for the interview.

9/   You don’t get satisfactory answers to relevant and thoughtful questions you have asked.  Candidates have every right to ask important questions and any evasiveness or refusal to answer thoroughly is a bad omen.

10/  Reputation for high turnover/poor culture and reviews. There is so many avenues available to reference check employers and get the word on the ground from past and existing employees. 

You will get a really good indicator of turnover on LinkedIn and reviews on sites like Glassdoor.   And don’t think bad treatment won’t happen to you – it WILL. Just like a bad history of abuse, it happens to everyone eventually.

11/ The salary, terms and package markedly changes in the offer/negotiation stage and the company refuses to redress despite all efforts. Hiding and evasive communications at any part of the process is a warning of other issues. Read my article in Marketing Magazine on salary negotiations.

Summing up

If you are willing to work with robots (sorry Will Robinson) and uncaring management in an unpleasant and disrespectful workplace by all means ignore your gut instincts. 

But I’m tipping that you are seeking a workplace that will show you respect, a great future career path and a company culture you will be proud to contribute to and be a part of. 

So RUN like hell if your gut is telling you this company or manager is a bit ‘off’ as hiring and job search is a 2-way street of equal respect and exploration.

And make sure you are ticking all the good manners and respectful preparation boxes too. 

Hold your nerve, your value and expect to be treated with respect and professionalism. 


More about my Careers & Job Search programs and consulting  HERE

Download a FREE  copy of my career eBooks   HERE

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