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Revealed: the biggest red flags in job interviews

The study reveals 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 candidates is now quite the opposite.

Job interviews are a two-way process – you’re interviewing your potential boss and employers as much as they’re interviewing you. After all, you don’t want just any job, you want the right job.

According to a recent survey 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.

New job regret is disruptive for both workers and employers, but what do job seekers view as the biggest red flags in an interview?

To find out, the data analysts at HR and leadership community People Managing People reviewed over 5,100 jobseeker reviews post-interview.

The study reveals 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 candidates is now quite the opposite.

Almost one in five (18%) jobseekers from the study would now describe this terminology as a red flag if they were to hear it in an interview.

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 boundaries at work helps to maintain a safe, supportive and favorable environment for all employees.

In second place, 14 percent of candidates would see desperation to hire or extreme staff turnover as a red flag.

On average, every year, a company will experience an 18 percent turnover in its workforce. However, if you’re seeing the same job posting over and over, it could indicate the company is having a hard time keeping someone in the role and questions should be raised.

A general rule of thumb would see most employees who are satisfied with their jobs stay at the company, so high turnover is usually indicative of a problem.

When possible, candidates should ask why the position is available and how long it’s been open.

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), but it’s another when you’re expected to work overtime all the time.

For instance, if a potential employer explains 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.

Particularly, if you’re a salaried and exempt employee, you won’t earn any extra money for every hour worked over 40. Plus, a job that expects employees to work nights and weekends more than likely won’t have any work-life balance or flexibility.

Inappropriate questions (9%), low salaries (8%) and high or unrealistic expectations (8%) complete the top five biggest interview red flags.

How hiring managers can set healthier expectations and avoid these red flags in the future: 

  • Ensure the job description is clear and jargon-free
  • You’re transparent about salaries and financial compensation
  • The interview should feel like a conversation, not an interrogation
  • Follow up in a timely manner and offer constructive feedback
  • Learning, development and career path opportunities are clearly outlined
  • Offer transparency about why the predecessor left the role

Finn Bartram, Editor at People Managing People Commented: “This study should hopefully encourage potential interview candidates to be attuned to possible red flags in the interview process. “It’s not to say they should go into the interview process overly skeptical, but rather to be aware as these ‘red flags’ can indicate larger issues with their potential boss, team or the organization as a whole.”

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