What are the most common interview red flags?

Dan Marshall • 12 Feb 2024 • 4 min read

Anyone who’s ever had a job interview has no doubt experienced a few bad ones in their time. But while you might be nervous, in a lot of cases, so too is the interviewer. After all, they’re hoping to make as good an impression on you as you are on them.

Of course, not all poorly handled interviews are the result of excessive nerves. In a lot of cases, it may genuinely be because the company you’re applying with has not told the whole story around their values and the job you’re interviewing for.

So, to see just how off-putting this can be, and to highlight other red flags you might want to keep an eye on when going for an interview, we surveyed 1,500 people across the US to see just what put them off interviews in the past.

How many US employees have had a negative job experience?

Before touching on the major interview red flags to keep an eye on, it’s worth considering just how common poor interview experiences are in the US.

And when looking at our stats as a whole, you might be surprised to learn that only 37% of those we spoke to said they’d had a negative interview experience. With the remaining 62% stating they’d never had any issues up until this point in their career.

However, out of those who had experienced poor interviews, 44% of them were in Gen Z (18-24), perhaps suggesting younger generations have different expectations when it comes to applying for jobs than in the past.

Alongside this, a further 43% who stated they were business owners, directors, and board members, mentioned they’d been put off by interviews when looking for specifically senior positions, which may again suggest that interview expectations are again changing.

Finally, it’s worth noting that, out of those who claimed to have had a bad interview experience, 41% of them were men compared to only 33% of women. But whether or not this hints at some unconscious interview bias is up for debate.

What are the most common interviewee flags?

So, we know that not everyone has had a bad interview experience in their time, but for those who have, we wanted to get to the bottom of why. That’s why we asked all of those we spoke to who had been in a bad interview what the top red flags that stopped them were.

And by far and away, the most common reason was a failure on the potential employer’s part to disclose what the interviewee’s salary would be. In fact, this was flagged by a full 38% of those we surveyed as their biggest turn-off.

Of course, a lack of salary disclosure wasn’t the only red flag highlighted. Continual interview rescheduling was another major factor, noted down by at least 25% of our survey respondents, and being matched to the same degree by interviewers who asked too many personal or irrelevant questions (25%).

Alongside these, other big turn-offs also included interviewers disrespecting their colleagues (23%) in front of the interviewee, the job role being different than originally advertised (18%) to them, and inconsistent answers being given to any questions asked (18%), all of which we’re sure you’d agree with as being major red flags to avoid.

Interestingly, however, only 2% of those we spoke to said that a lack of questions about their past experience was a red flag for them, alongside only 4% saying they were deterred by being given a short timeframe to accept the job before losing out.

What matters the most for interviewees applying for new jobs?

Lastly, let’s also take a look at what people are most interested in when applying for a job. And again, in tandem with our biggest red flag, salary is a big one here.

In fact, 41% of those who responded to our survey stated that salary was the main factor at play when applying for a job. This was especially true for those on the lookout for senior positions, where salary took priority over all other factors at play.

After salary, we then had 29% of respondents stating that their focus lay on the job role itself, before being followed by a  further 17% highlighting good company culture as making all the difference.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, just 12% of those we spoke to actually mentioned job progression as playing an important part in whether or not they applied for a role. Not even for those just starting out.

Instead, at least 50% of those aged 18-24 were entirely focused on getting a good wage, while 43% of those in the 55-65 age bracket were more focused on what the job was. Finally, salary seemed to be more important to men than women, coming in at 43% to 39%, while women were more focused on the job in general (31% to 27%).

Smooth out your hiring process with VoiceNation

There you have it, these are just some of the main red flags to look out for when interviewing. And if you’re the interviewer, these are certainly key areas you should look to overcome when speaking with potential candidates.

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