Employer's Biggest Red Flags When Hiring

Young woman interviewing for a job
Written By


Published On

February 22, 2023


Did you know that 44% of United States employees looked for new jobs in 2022? Many companies scrambled last year to begin the hiring process, hire fresh talent, and fill positions effectively. Hiring the right employees to fill positions well suited for them is essential to the success of any company. 

Employers must also consider the cost of hiring those employees that will not lead to long-term retention. According to SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), the average company spends around $4,700 per new hire. But this cost can be as much as three to four times the salary of the position, i.e., if a company hires for a job that pays $60,000 a year, it can cost up to $180,000 to recruit, hire and train for the role.  

Because of these surprising associated costs, employers must ensure they have a clear vision of the type of candidate they are looking for to fill each position. Job seekers may need to learn this exact vision. There are, however, universal red flags that all employers look for in effective hiring. 

We have compiled a list of the most common interview red flags to avoid if you want to get the job. They include:



Companies want employees who will act and dress appropriately for their potential role and someone who will positively represent their company. Employers' biggest red flags when hiring that indicate unprofessionalism include:


Candidates Dressed Unprofessionally

We have all heard the phrase "dress for the job you want," though it might seem outdated, it is still true today. In any job interview, make sure you look professional and appropriate to the company culture. If you are unsure, never dress below business casual. A button-up with a suit and tie or a nice blouse with dress pants is a safe bet for most employers.


Candidates who are Sloppy, Rude, or have a Bad Attitude

Nobody wants to hire someone who is rude or has a bad attitude. However, some job candidates may be presenting themselves this way by accident. Pay attention to body language, make eye contact, listen to your interviewers, and remember to smile when introducing yourself, even if you are nervous.


Candidates who use Inappropriate Language

Though some employers don't mind the language, avoiding it during the interview process is best to be safe. You never know who you might offend, and let's be honest, if you can't refrain from language during an interview, you won't be able to while filling a role in their company.

Inappropriate language goes beyond ensuring you don’t use curse words, though. Refrain from inserting filler words such as ‘like’ and ‘um.’ Slang words are also strongly discouraged, for example, utilizing the word ‘totes.’ Finally, if you are interviewing for a position outside of the country, you may want to spend some time researching inappropriate language for that country; what is acceptable in the United States may not be elsewhere. 


Candidates Chewing Gum

No one wants to have smelly breath for their interview, but smacking on chewing gum is just as much of a red flag for unprofessionalism. If your interview is in person and you are worried about your breath, hurry and pop in a tiny breath mint before you go in.


Candidates Checking their Phones During an Interview

We live in a world where technology is part of life, but even if you are interviewing for a tech company, a hiring manager doesn't want to see your phone out during an interview.


Hiring a developer? Onboard them the right way with our free checklist!



Did you know 41% of employers have fired team members for being late? One of the most obvious interview red flags is being late. With almost half of employers having the experience of letting an employee go due to tardiness, arriving late to an interview is a major red flag you want to avoid. It indicates to an employer that you are unreliable and will not arrive on time for your position. It can also demonstrate that a candidate is not interested in the role and will likely not lead to long-term employment.

If you are late due to extenuating circumstances, for example, a family emergency or car troubles, phone your interviewer immediately. Life does happen, so communication is key to ensure it does not affect your chances of landing the position. 


Bad-Mouthing Past Employers

Whether you were let go from past jobs or left willingly, you must be cautious about how you talk about previous employers. Bad-mouthing a company, even if what you say is true, is a major red flag.

Companies want loyal employees who will put the company's best interests first. You can say you have differing opinions or values, but be careful how you word things.


Lack of Ownership

Being let go from a position is more common than you think. In fact, 40% of employees will be fired within their lifetime, so this is not an automatic reason not to hire a job candidate.

Mistakes happen, but what is important is the candidate's attitude. Complaining about a past employer and not taking responsibility for your part in your last job will not do you any favors. Being honest and giving examples of how you use experiences to better yourself in the future will go a long way.


Inconsistent Career Path

Believe it or not, it is common for even the best candidates to have changed their career path over their lifetime. The important thing is the ability to explain the reason for a significant career change. This can signal that a candidate may get bored quickly and tire of an everyday routine.

Suitable candidates will put hiring managers at ease and help them feel like they hire someone who will stick around.


Lack of Current Career Goals

Much like an inconsistent career path, a lack of current career goals is included in our list of interview red flags. Candidates should be prepared to explain their current career goals and how they hope to achieve them through the hiring company.


Job Hopping

The average American will change jobs twelve times in their lifetime. Job changes often occur organically due to relocating, the desire for better opportunities, increased payment options, etc. It becomes an issue when candidates frequently leave positions due to disagreements with coworkers and managers.

Job hoppers that leave due to disagreements demonstrate the inability to adapt to work environments and get along with fellow employees, with too many demands and not enough compromise.


Lack of Passion or Disinterest in the Position

A hiring manager is looking for candidates excited about their job interview and a potential new job. Many people find job interviews unpleasant, but candidates who seem disinterested and don't want to be there is a major red flag that shows poor listening skills and a bad attitude.


No Questions Asked

It is almost guaranteed that hiring managers will ask if candidates have questions for them in a job interview. A good candidate will ALWAYS have questions prepared. Those who don't come prepared with questions and knowledge of the company will appear uninterested or lazy.

If an interviewer has answered your prepared questions, let them know. Give them a few examples of questions they have responded to so the hiring manager knows you were prepared, and they just did an excellent job describing the company and position. 


Unexplained Gaps in Employment 

Many long employment gaps are explainable. For example, illnesses, caring for a child or family member, education, and even travel are acceptable reasons for an employment gap.

The important thing is to explain gaps in employment because those left unexplained are a major red flag.


Background Check Issues or Lack of Verifiable References

Background checks and references are essential for businesses to hire trustworthy employees. Background checks keep employees, property, and customers safe.

Employees who refuse a background check or list references that companies cannot get ahold of are a major red flag. Candidates must ensure they have the correct contact information for all their references and be prepared to explain anything that may come up on a background check.


Reduce your Red Flags and Land the Job of your Dreams! 

Knowing what hiring managers are looking for is essential to help you hone your interview skills and avoid red flags to land the job of your dreams.

A good candidate will do the following throughout the interview process:

  • They will look and act professionally.
  • They will appear excited about the opportunity to interview for the company.
  • They will come with knowledge about the company and specific questions regarding the company and position. 
  • They will be prepared and able to explain long employment gaps, job hopping, or career changes.
  • They will not bad-mouth past employers and will take responsibility for their actions.
  • They will willingly submit to a background check and provide suitable references with proper contact information.
  • They will offer examples of how they will contribute to and improve the company.

Many variables go into landing a job. In addition to what hiring managers see within their interview, they also consider education, previous work history, and whether you will be a good fit with the company culture. Unfortunately, there are cases where other candidates are more qualified. However, job candidates that seek to avoid red flags, present themselves as professionals, and are excited about the prospect of working for their interviewer’s company have the best chance at securing the position.