Avoid Making Bad Hires: 6 Interview Red Flags For Employers

A hiring committee interviewing an individual safe in the knowledge it's not a bad hire as they know the 6 interview red flags for employers to watch out for

Nearly half of senior decision-makers have reported making a bad hire in the past 12 months. Dealing with a bad hire can cost businesses money and even affect business operations and productivity. However, the red flags for employers during an interview can be visible if the hirer takes a cautious and proactive approach to their hiring processes.

Spotting these interview red flags for employers can prevent the wrong person from being hired and save the business time and money.

Interview red flags for employers who want to avoid bad hires

1: Difficulties arranging interviews / rescheduling

If you are struggling to get hold of a candidate, it could be a red flag that they are not invested in your company.

They may have a good reason to reschedule a call/ interview, such as for family or medical reasons. However, if you find it hard to pin down a candidate or they make multiple excuses, this could be an indication that they are unreliable. Life happens, so it would be prudent to avoid discounting a candidate because of one discrepancy or issue. However, if there is no good reason for the candidate being late, missing or rescheduling multiple interviews/calls, you should see this as a major red flag in the interview process.

2: CV experience doesn’t match what they say in the interview

Inconsistencies between a CV and what a candidate says in-person is one of the biggest interview red flags for employers. If their CV matches the skillset you have advertised for, but the candidate can’t seem to go into detail during the interview, you should take note. Some candidates exaggerate in their CVs or take credit for things their wider team did. If you think their answer is vague, question them further on the topic to understand the extent of their knowledge on the subject.

Another good tip is to keep note of whether they are saying “I” or “we” in the interview. If they use the third person a lot, ask them to give specifics on what they personally contributed and their knowledge of the subject.

3: Lack of understanding of what the job entails

This interview red flag is one you will want to catch before progressing the candidate too far into the hiring process. You need to ask yourself whether the candidate has a good grasp of the kind of work they would be doing in the role. You can test this by using technical assessments or asking competency-based questions during the interview. If they don’t understand technical terms they should know or don’t answer a technical question fully, this is a big red flag. You don’t want to make a bad hire and find out they don’t know what they are doing.

This issue could arise because of inconsistencies with the job description or candidate resourcing. If there is a problem with the hiring process itself, you will need to address this quickly. However, if the rest of your candidates are clear on the scope of the role, it may just be an issue with that particular candidate.

4: No references from former managers

Unless the candidate has no previous work experience, you should expect at least one reference from a former manager or HR department. With mixed messages from various sources around whether to include references on a CV or not, you cannot make a judgement over an individual who chooses to leave them off. However, choosing to conceal or evade reference details when they have been requested is a red flag for employers. It could be a sign that the candidate doesn’t think a former manager would give a favourable reference. Even if they have a great CV and do well at the interview stage, checking references is vital as it could give you crucial information that may stop you from hiring the wrong person.

There may be some reasonable explanation for why a candidate cannot provide reference contact details for a former manager. For example, the candidate’s previous manager may no longer work at their old company and they do not have new contact details. However, they should be proactively seeking to provide you with reference details, even if that is just a former employer’s HR department, who can confirm when they worked for the company, whether they passed their probation, had any performance review issues etc. It is vital to secure candidate references. Fail to do so and you might have missed a potential warning sign of a bad hire. Listen to your gut and to employer red flags when they arise in the interview process.

5: A difficult personality

If a candidate acts particularly brash or overly pushy it could be a red flag for employers at the interview stage. Even if their personality is not an issue for you personally, you should consider who they may be working with. If they are going for a management position, would they be a good fit for the team? You don’t want to be confronted by a situation whereby other team members feel alienated by the individual’s behaviour and choose to leave the business as a result.

Additionally, a clear interview red flag for employers is when a candidate is overly negative about previous employers or colleagues. Issues with management or colleagues are normal factors in a decision to look for a new job elsewhere. However, blaming colleagues for everything could be a sign that they don’t take responsibility for their own errors. If they complain about every employer they have had, the issue could be the candidate’s own attitude.

6: No genuine knowledge of your company

You should require each candidate to have a basic level of understanding about your company and what you do as a minimum expectation. A lack of knowledge is a clear indication that either the candidate was under-prepared for the interview or that they are not invested in your vacancy and company. It could be that they have applied to a number of businesses and have multiple interviews, so they don’t value the opportunity enough with you to do their research. This is a clear interview red flag for employers– not because they have applied for multiple roles, but because they don’t value your time enough to adequately prepare for the interview.

There might be a quick turnaround between sending in a CV to your business directly or via a recruiter, and the interview, however, a great candidate will take the time to learn about your business by visiting your website and social media channels, by speaking with their recruiter etc.

Interview questions for employers to spot red flags

Some of the biggest warning signs of a bad hire are a lack of self-reflection and the audacity to take credit for another person’s successes. Some of these questions can give you a better insight into whether these issues are present within your candidate during an interview.

  • What would be your ideal workplace?
  • What skills do you lack the most?
  • What areas of your job do you struggle with the most?
  • When have you failed in your career and what could you have done to improve it?
  • What have been your biggest successes?


Making a bad hire is not an unusual occurrence. However, there are a number of interview red flags to be aware of that might help you avoid this outcome. Reduce the risk of this happening to you and give us a call for help supporting your recruitment processes and securing the right professional for your role.

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