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Five Interview Red Flags and How to Avoid Them

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Job interviews are a two-way street, where interviewer and interviewee both get information about whether the candidate is a good fit for the position. But any two-way street can also have warning signs. Slippery when wet. Falling rocks. Not to mention—the dreaded red flag.

Do you know the interview warning signs?

Bad hires can cost companies a lot—in time and money. For a potential employee, accepting a job offer at the wrong company can make you unhappy and even set back your career.

We asked Aerotek recruiters for stories about interviews-gone-wrong and lessons learned. Here are some key red flags you might see on both sides of the job interview desk. Ignore them at your peril—and make sure you’re not accidentally hoisting one yourself.

Be on time, and expect punctuality

Running late for a job interview is never a good look. Remember: Your ability to be at the right place at the right time is viewed as a basic requirement. Think of it as your first task at your new job.

Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiter Jackie Ross says, “I had one candidate who was never able to find the facility for an interview. Even though we were actually able to reschedule for later that day, the candidate still did not get the job.”

However, if your interviewer runs late, it could be a sign they aren’t well organized, aren’t well prepared or simply don’t respect your time.

Be specific, and ask for specificity

A good interviewer will ask for specific examples of a time you displayed the abilities and traits they’re most looking for. Not sure if you’re ready to do that? Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiter Matt Wiehe says, “We take a lot of pride in making sure all our candidates are prepared before meeting with our clients and take full responsibility when something does not go right.”

As a potential employee, make sure your interviewer can provide specific details about the job description, responsibilities and organizational structure. And take note if different interviewers have contradictory views on what your role will actually be.

Take responsibility for mistakes, and seek accountability

If you’re asked about a time your efforts fell short, be frank and give examples. Remember that the point of the question is not to find out how somebody else did something that wasn’t your fault, it’s to learn how you handled a setback. Show grace.

Aerotek Senior Professional Account Recruiting Manager Megan McCormick remembers a time this did not happen: “I had a candidate interview with a client in the final stages. When asked certain questions he couldn’t answer, he got mad and walked out saying he wasn’t interested in working for the company and that the interview process was ridiculous.” Let’s file that story under “red flag.”

Another red flag to look out for on your side of the interview desk: Your interviewer badmouths the person who previously held the open position. This shows that the company has a problem with trust and blame.

Stay professional

From the moment you’re in public on the way to the interview to the moment you’re back in your own space, you should be professional, courteous and focused on the task at hand. Even a misstep at the last possible second can spell disaster.

According to Wiehe, “My old recruiting partner had an electrician interview for a high level role. The candidate killed it in the interview, and just as the client was about to extend an offer, they asked if there were any questions. The candidate proceeded to ask if it was okay to take extra wire left over from jobs and sell it from his garage! Needless to say he did not get that job.”

Interviewers may in some cases ask “stress” questions designed to see how candidates handle pressure. Ross says, “I haven’t had this happen, but in that situation the interviewer might be testing the candidate, or seeing how they deal with the situation.” Wiehe adds, “We ask that our candidates are always as professional as possible. But if they don’t feel safe and comfortable at all times, it is OK to say no or end the interview.”

Prep for your interview

Want to go beyond avoiding red flags, and nail a big interview? Prepare for your next big opportunity with the help of a trained professional. Contact an Aerotek recruiter in your area to learn job interview techniques that will have future employers saying “wow” when you leave the room.

Aerotek recruiters Jackie Ross, Matt Wiehe and Megan McCormick contributed to this article.

Do you have an interview story? Share with the Aerotek community on Facebook or Twitter. Looking for a job? Visit the Aerotek job board to find your next great opportunity.