What are some of the biggest red flags in an interviewee?

Updated on : December 8, 2021 by Yahir Donovan



What are some of the biggest red flags in an interviewee?

Summer 2018,
Redmond, WA.

I was scheduled to interview a lady for a senior PM position on my team. He had a very well written resume that checked all the correct boxes; I had industry experience, had worked on cool projects, and had quantified most things with metrics and data; something you love to see on a PM resume. I was excited to interview her; it is a lot of fun interviewing good candidates.

When I entered the room, I asked her if she was comfortable and if she needed a break to have a drink or go to the bathroom or just catch her breath; she looked nervous and could only assume

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Summer 2018,
Redmond, WA.

I was scheduled to interview a lady for a senior PM position on my team. He had a very well written resume that checked all the correct boxes; I had industry experience, had worked on cool projects, and had quantified most things with metrics and data; something you love to see on a PM resume. I was excited to interview her; it is a lot of fun interviewing good candidates.

When I entered the room, I asked her if she was comfortable and if she needed a break to have a drink or go to the bathroom or just catch her breath; she looked nervous and could only assume that the previous interview might have shaken her up a bit; I wanted to make sure she was calm and collected during the interview.

As soon as we started talking, the alarm bells started ringing in my head; the person in front of me looked nothing like the person on the resume. He kept talking over and over about a specific project he had worked on a decade ago and kept repeating the same data points in different ways; She kept repeating how difficult things were back then and technology wasn't as easy as it is for “us kids” today. I tried a couple of times to divert the conversation, but she kept coming back to her and asked me to let her finish the story. She was making repeated perfunctory statements about what her team had done and I kept asking her to specify her role in all of this and what she had worked on, but she kept avoiding the question.

I started with a very easy problem; something I normally ask college candidates entering for an entry level position. He had a feeling that she would fight and wow, she did. He was everywhere and I had no idea what he was saying; I would try to take every opportunity to try to relate something to that project you worked on almost a decade ago. At the time he was pretty sure this wasn't going to work. I tried to switch to a more technical question line, as her resume made her sound like an expert in a specific field of security; she clearly wasn't. He struggled with even the most elementary questions and scenarios that one would expect someone who has been in the field for a few months to know; I am literally talking 101 here.

At that point I had almost given up. I told him that parts of the PM role on my team can be quite conflicting; Most people have a love-hate relationship with security teams, as we tend to get in the way of rapid prototyping and time-to-market impact due to security and compliance restrictions they probably didn't plan for. We need to learn how to navigate these rough waters and I wanted to know how you deal with these kinds of situations and give me some concrete examples. Before I knew it, she took the opportunity to start ranting about how her current boss is really terrible, how she has no idea what he's doing, and how she doesn't get along with him at all.

I thanked him for his time and left that room knowing almost with certainty what was going to happen. I was right; all other interviewers had exactly the same unanimous feedback. Turns out, he basically talked to each of us at length about that same project from years ago and pretty much bombed everything else.

What are some of the biggest red flags in an interviewee?

  • A fantastic resume that was probably written / reviewed by someone who knows the business well will only get you foot in the door. If you can't maintain your weight beyond that point, you won't get very far.
    DO NOT falsify a resume.
  • Telling me about all the interesting things his team has done, but without articulating one iota about what his role was in all that, is a great red flag. If the only example you can give me of something significant you've done is from many years ago, that's a huge red flag.
    DO NOT pass off someone else's work as your own.
  • When I ask you about a goat, and you tie it to a tree, and then you tell me about the tree; No matter how much you talk about the tree, I know you don't know about the goat.
    DO NOT cheat on your interviewer. You have probably been doing this for a long time. It's okay to say you don't know something and be willing to learn it.
  • We have all had bad bosses or co-workers at times and it is okay to share an anecdote or learn from the experience; However, if all you do is rant and vent about a person without any indication of a root cause or a lesson from it all; activates alarm bells.
    DO NOT badmouth your boss or colleagues in an interview.
  • There's a good chance that in the tech industry, your boss and your colleagues are significantly younger than you. The fact that they are where they are at your age should probably tell you a bit about how hard they have worked to get there. It's probably not the smartest thing to do to antagonize and snub them for their relative inexperience; clearly, they have been doing something right. At times, interviewees and employees reacted in this way; they simply cannot bear to receive instructions or leadership from someone who has been around for fewer years than they have been in the industry.
    DO NOT antagonize your interviewer.

Every interviewer wants the candidate to rise; their success is always intertwined.


In case we haven't met before, I'm Rohan Kamath.
Thank you for reading. I hope I can help you reflect today. :)

I have interviewed many people over the years, mainly for sales and finance positions. When I interview a candidate, I want to hire him. And then I don't want them to give up. It is expensive to hire and train someone and then have them quit. So "red flags" are often signs that the candidate will not stay. Being prepared is key, and the best candidates tailor their responses to the position and provide intelligent answers to frequently asked interview questions.

These are some red flags that caught my attention.

Candidates who entered:

1. Showing off the offers they already had
, I interviewed a candidate who

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I have interviewed many people over the years, mainly for sales and finance positions. When I interview a candidate, I want to hire him. And then I don't want them to give up. It is expensive to hire and train someone and then have them quit. So "red flags" are often signs that the candidate will not stay. Being prepared is key, and the best candidates tailor their responses to the position and provide intelligent answers to frequently asked interview questions.

These are some red flags that caught my attention.

Candidates who entered:

1. Showing off the offers they already had I
interviewed a candidate who came to tell me that he already had a special offer from a heavily funded start-up. He said it immediately. I hadn't even decided I wanted to hire him, and he was already inciting me into a bidding war.

When candidates blatantly brag about other offerings, it indicates that they are not committed to this particular job. It is a red flag indicating that they will probably accept another offer, using my offer as leverage. And if they do join, as a hiring manager, I worry that they are always thinking "what if". I've seen these candidates resign when the going gets tough, to take another "greener grass" position.

It is not bad to get another offer in the interview, at the right time. Interviews are like a tennis match and timing is everything. The interviewer begins by throwing the ball and the candidate hits back. If you are a candidate with another offer, please set up your current interview first. Then, at the appropriate time, close with: "I am very interested in this opportunity. Please let me know when for the next step, as I also have another offer that I am evaluating."

2. Careless look
Candidates who come to the interview with wrinkled or dirty clothes, show the interviewer that they are not spending time. First impressions are important. How formal you dress will depend on the company, but as a candidate, your best bet is to choose an outfit that does not attract attention. The focus should be on the interview, not the clothing.

I once interviewed a candidate who came in wearing an overly casual and wrinkled outfit. It looked like I was going to a yoga class. Her painted nails were chipped and her hair was messy. However, we ignore the red flag. She was a good candidate and we hired her. He performed well, but resigned shortly after joining. When she quit, she admitted that she had already been accepted into business school and took the job for training and some cash to help her.

As a candidate, I recommend ironing and choosing an outfit the day before your interview. And try on the entire outfit, including shoes, accessories, and briefcase / bag. The last thing you want to think about is that you're ready, and an hour before the interview, you'll find that your pants don't fit or your jacket has a hole in it. Also, if you tend to be a person who sweats a lot, wear a darker colored shirt or jacket.

3. Don't ask questions
A good interview is a conversation in which both parties are engaged. The purpose is to find out if the position matches. If the candidate does not ask questions, it is a red flag. It seems that they are not interested or think they already know everything about the position.

As a candidate, if you really don't have questions, let's say you've already had an extensive round of interviews and are in the final interview, I recommend asking the interviewer something about their experience. Ask them how they got to the market, the industry, or what surprised them the most about the job.

If you are a candidate who tends to get nervous or forget things, it is acceptable to have your questions written down and bring them with you. I interviewed candidates who brought a list of questions with them and took notes.

Warning: While it is good to ask questions, be careful not to ask questions that show you don't fit the culture. For example, I have worked in places where the CEO demanded very strict hours, without exception. In that case, I would be concerned when candidates ask questions about working from home or setting their own hours, when that is not the practice at the company. For the record, I believe in flex time and I think employees should be able to work from home, but I have not been the CEO who sets the rules ...

4. Too aggressive A
candidate once said to me, "Okay, if you're that good, show me how to do it. Sell me this pen." I had not yet decided if I wanted to hire this candidate and found it jarring. After giving my answer (Mira Zaslove's answer to What are some of the best answers to "sell me this pen / pencil" in a job interview?), They proceeded to try to "outdo" me with a -press, presentation of foot. It was too much. It was a red flag for me as a hiring manager. It's hard to train people who ask questions, not to get an answer, but just to show how smart they are.

As a candidate, it is important to show confidence and intelligence. However, competing or arguing with the interviewer is rarely successful. Rather, it is a red flag indicating that the candidate is "untrainable."

Similarly, we once had to rescind an offer we made to a candidate for being too aggressive when he received the offer. When the hiring manager gave them the offer, the candidate proceeded to tell them what "# $ * # * # amazing they were going to be and # $ * # * # kill the market." The candidate screamed loudly, cursed, and began to run furiously, distracting the entire office.

5. With an extra long trip
It is a red flag if the candidate is late for the interview. Especially if it is due to a long trip. I am also concerned if the candidate complains about the commute, parking, or traffic. Some good people stopped working after only a few weeks on the job because the commute was too much. Some people can handle the overtime or will move in search of the right opportunity, but many will be repeatedly late for work or simply quit.

If you want to mention something that you feel is out of line with the culture, please do so * after * receiving the offer :)

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