No Go: Red Flags That Could Lose You The Interview

by Mark Ellwood

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​We are still within the midst of the Great Resignation, and while this makes it a candidate-led market, with employers trying their hardest to fill their vacancies quickly and efficiently, there are still major pitfalls candidates can fall into at interview stage.


Yes, in many industries such as tech and digital, there’s a war for the pools of talent available. But that doesn’t mean job seekers can get complacent. After all, the cost of a single hire is estimated at twice their annual salary.



So, with that in mind, today we take a look at the Top-5 interview clangers:



1.      Jumpy. Job-hopping candidates, usually referred to as ‘jumpy’ by recruiters, are always a major red flag. Seeing a CV that has just one year or less spent in each of the last three or four roles raises questions about how well that person fits into a team, why they would leave roles so soon (before a credible impact can really be claimed) and whether or not they’re being asked to leave because they’re not working out.


At least, that has always been the commonly held belief. However, according to Forbes’ Melanie Fellay;


‘In the new millennium, things are quite different. Even prior to the pandemic, job tenure has been on the decline. Where the average employee once stayed around five years in a role, a 2021 report from the Bridge Group found tenure today to be as low as only 1.8 years’.


And there may be good reasons why someone would have a few short roles prior to the interview – such as a specialist being parachuted into companies on a transformation or turnaround project, or perhaps the focus of the roles changed between interview and start date. But being able to go through the reasons logically and coherently is key.


Candidates need to explain that, for example, there was a shift in culture, or perhaps the learning and development opportunities that were promised never materialised – and that’s a good opportunity to raise the question about the L&D on offer at this new employer.


2.      Disrespect of others. Every company has some internal friction – such as tensions between different departments. In fact, talking about those tensions and how you were able to navigate them – bringing stakeholders onboard, resolving a conflict with a peer – are often a major part of the interview, especially as you become more senior. But bad-mouthing other people in the business is a massive red-flag. This indicates an inability to resolve issues with others and a potentially highly-siloed work practice.


This also goes for the previous firm. Fair enough, many job seekers are sold a grand idea at interview which later doesn’t materialise, but saying you felt misled and regretted taking the role is unwise. Instead, it’s best to focus on the learning experience from that position – for example the team were highly competitive and less collaborative than expected and resistant to ideas to improve collaboration – so you’ve realised you work better in a more collaborative environment.


3.      Disorganised. Things happen, as they say, and it’s not unusual to need to reschedule an interview due to unexpected circumstances – Covid being a big one currently. But if this turns into multiple times, then this becomes a red flag. Does it mean you are totally disorganised? That won’t work at the new employer. Does it mean you’re meeting with several other firms? In which case, any offer will likely be counter-offered. Turning up or dialing-in late to an interview is also a major red flag due to the implied, if unintentional, lack of respect and lack of pre-planning. Unless you absolutely slam-dunk the rest of the interview, this will count as a mark against you.


4.      Unprepared. And talking of pre-planning, showing up to an interview without having done any background research, or dressed too casually, is a massive no-no. It suggests you aren’t taking the meeting seriously or you’re expecting to wing it, or maybe you feel entitled to the role. No of that will fly. Instead – take a look at our online advice regarding interview preparation and our other post on online interviews. Most experienced interviewers will be able to tell pretty quickly of you’re prepared or not. They’ll be asking questions about what you picked up from the website and what attracts you to the firm – questions designed to test your prep.


5.      Arrogance. Displaying any kind of arrogance is a sure-fire way to sink your chances. Certainly, confidence is a big key to any interview – but that is confidence that comes through knowledge, preparation and an understanding of what’s being asked for in the role. Arrogance is not confidence. It may be breed over-confidence, but arrogance is knowing-it-all, appearing superior to the interviewer, scoffing at questions, hubris, conceit and self-importance. Always approach interviews as an opportunity to learn and come across with humility and a desire to hear about the business from the people who work there.



In the age of Zoom interviews and today’s candidate-led job markets, it’s easy to get too confident and to slip-up with the basics. Our advice is to treat every interview the same, always do the prep and to appreciate that someone has taken the time to meet with you.