This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some of the biggest red flags in an interviewee?
I’ve had the fortune to interview hundreds of people (maybe over a thousand by now) in private education and technology and have found the following to be the biggest red flags in interviews:
To me as an interviewer, there is no bigger red flag than victim mentality. When I ask, “Tell me about your interest in this role,” and I get an answer along the lines of, “Well, I’m at Facebook/Google/Microsoft/
Lack of Product Knowledge or Passion
I have little patience for candidates who have not used our product. It is the easiest, most straight-forward way to prepare for an interview. I’m baffled by candidates who have never used our product or say that they don’t use it much. You are about to spend likely 50%+ of your waking hours on this product. Shouldn’t you love it and be compelled by it? Take the time to read a few blog posts from the company. Use the product. Ask and answer a few questions. It will help you know if you want to actually work on it and will help you perform better and more knowledgeably in your interviews. As one other guidepost, I recommend thinking about preparing for an interview like you would prepare for a final exam. You should spend hours and hours reading and preparing. Whenever I’ve interviewed anywhere, I spent at least 10-20 hours researching before the first conversation. Show that you really want the opportunity!
Luckily it’s rare for someone to make it too far in our process if they are arrogant but every once in awhile someone gets onsite. If we hear of anyone treating anyone at our company poorly (receptionist, recruiting team, interviewers, custodial staff), that’s a huge red flag. If you come into an interview with a huge ego, it’s unlikely to go away when you’re working on a team with humble, nice people.
Short Terms of Employment
I don’t immediately reject applicants who have a shorter term at one company but I’d certainly want to know why. For example, if I saw an applicant at any pre- or post-IPO tech company for less than a year or two, I’d ask why, as I want to confirm whether they were involuntarily terminated. If so, then I’d want to understand more about the circumstances and whether the position we’re considering them for is likely a much better fit.
Again, while I wouldn’t completely rule out a candidate for swearing in an interview, it would be a big red flag. To me, swearing in an interview shows very poor judgment and lack of self-awareness in the situation.
The good news is that the vast majority of candidates don’t make these mistakes and are an absolute pleasure to meet! Still, for those of you newer to interviewing, hopefully this is a helpful list. Best of luck!
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