Job interviews are a two-way process—you’re interviewing potential new hires (either directly or through an employer of record), but they’re also interviewing you. It’s therefore important that you present yourself and your organization in the best possible light so as to not put off your top candidates.
After all, most people don’t want just any job, they want the right job.
According to a recent study, over 70 percent of job seekers have experienced “new-job regret” and 1 in 5 would quit within a month if their new job isn’t what they expected.
Leaving so soon is disruptive for both employers and workers, so ensuring your interview process is transparent and honest about what the role involves and how the company runs is vital in avoiding this.
To help your interview process run smoothly, our researchers have investigated the most common red flags candidates say would put them off accepting a job offer. To do this, we reviewed over 5,100 Reddit comments from jobseekers, exposing the terminology and features candidates reveal are the biggest interview red flags.
The number one red flag is the use of “family” to describe a company. What was once deemed as an attractive tagline by HR staff to entice potential talents is now quite the opposite.
Almost one in five (18%) jobseekers from the study would be put off accepting a position if they were to hear “family” mentioned in an interview.
This could be in relation to a “family owned” business due to worries about nepotism, or it could be relating to recruiters describing the work environment and team dynamic using language like “we’re a family”.
In recent years, many have argued this concept endorses unhealthy norms like blurred boundaries, an exaggerated sense of loyalty, and a lack of empowerment.
The boundaries you have with your family are most likely quite different to those in the workplace and so creating clear, professional boundaries at work helps to maintain a safe, supportive, and favorable environment for all employees.
In second place, 14 percent of candidates view a perceived desperation to hire or extreme staff turnover as a red flag.
On average, a company will experience an 18 percent turnover in its workforce each year. However, if candidates are seeing the same job posting over and over, it could indicate your company is having a hard time keeping someone in the role.
It’s not uncommon for candidates to ask about turnover in interviews, and if you respond with an extreme figure (very high or very low) this may be a cause for concern in some people. Having said that, it’s better to be honest about your organization's situation rather than mislead potential hires.
When discussing desperation to hire, jobseekers raised concerns about being offered a job during or very soon after the first interview. Concerns were also raised about being asked to start immediately, as it could indicate the previous position-holder left unexpectedly or on bad terms.
If your organization is looking for someone to start quickly, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, explaining the reasoning behind your preferred start date to the candidate will likely put any issues at ease. For example, you may have won some new business, you may want to add them to your HR software for smoother onboarding or are restructuring to give employees more time for training and development.
Mentions of overtime are the third biggest red flag for candidates during interviews (13%). It’s one thing to be expected to work long hours during a busy season (tax time for accountants, for example), but it’s another when employees are expected to work overtime all the time, especially if it’s unpaid.
For instance, if you tell interviewees that most employees ‘stick around after hours’, it’s normally code that overtime has been deemed an obligation and it’s frowned upon to only work your contracted hours. If this isn’t the case, then mentioning overtime at this early stage is likely to put candidates off, particularly if they’re keen to keep a healthy work/life balance.
Inappropriate questions (9%), low salaries or upselling perks to “make up” for them (8%) and high or unrealistic expectations (8%) complete the top five biggest interview red flags.
How to set healthier expectations and avoid giving off red flags when running interviews:
- Ensure the job description is clear and free of jargon
- Be transparent about salaries and financial compensation
- Clearly explain company benefits and how the business makes use of employee recognition platforms and without using basic perks like “free tea and coffee” to bolster your offering
- Outline learning, development and career path opportunities clearly so potential hires can visualize progression and a long-term future with your organization
- Explain options for working from home, from co-working spaces, remotely or in-office (with hot desking if this is something your company accommodates)
- Offer transparency about why the predecessor left the role or why the role is open
- The interview should feel like a conversation, not an interrogation
- Follow up with the candidate in a timely manner and offer constructive feedback when possible.
People Managing People extracted 5,172 comments from a Reddit thread on “Red Flags in an Interview that Reveal a Job is Toxic” on 16th February 2023. We reviewed the comments to identify what candidates view as “red flags” when interviewing for a role and grouped these into categories.
We then identified the number of times a red flag was mentioned in each category and calculated the percentage of times each category appeared proportionally to the total number of red flags.