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7 Interview Red Flags You Need To Look Out For

7 red flags

Hiring the wrong person can cost you a lot of money.

How much you may ask? Well according to the Recruitment and Employment Federation, a poor hire at a middle-management level could end up costing a business over $182,000¹.

This is pretty bad, but the true cost might actually be a great deal higher. A poor fit in your team could hamper productivity and morale, especially if they’re in a management position. This can destroy culture, reduce workplace engagement, and negatively affect both revenue and turnover.

So what can you do to avoid this nightmarish situation?

Have a good hiring process in place, and know when to pass on a job applicant who might turn out to be toxic.

In this article, we talk about some of the interview red flags which you need to look out for, in order for your recruitment process to run as smoothly as possible. 

Interview Red Flags You Need To Look For 

1. Showing A Lack of Ownership (AKA Being A Victim) 

People who struggle with accountability don’t tend to function well in teams.

For one, people who struggle with accountability aren’t exactly ‘team-players’. Whenever something goes wrong, for example, victims typically take the easy way out by blaming others. For obvious reasons, this can become frustrating.

People with victim mindsets can also be very tricky to mentor. This is because they ‘internalize’ feedback negatively, instead of taking it constructively. This can stunt their professional and personal growth.

A good way of spotting these candidates is by asking them about whether they’ve experienced conflict in the past, and if so, how they’ve handled it. If the person excessively blames others or shows little to no self-awareness, be concerned. 


2. Not Asking Enough Questions

If a candidate is not asking any questions, or they’re asking a bunch of ‘generic’ questions, this is a bad sign. 

At best, it shows a lack of preparedness. At worst, it shows a complete disinterest in the role. These types of people are unlikely to be very committed to the job, so are definitely ones to avoid. 


3. Being Disrespectful 

While most candidates are not going to do anything horrendously rude during an interview (at least, hopefully not), there are a number of things they can do which can signal they might once the job starts.

Being late, for example, can be indicative of someone who either is very disorganized or someone who doesn’t care enough about others’ time to show up on schedule.

Dressing sloppily, again, can suggest a lack of self-awareness, or respect for others. Frequently interrupting the interviewer, or repeating questions that have already been answered can also indicate a lack of listening skills.

Bad-mouthing a previous employer is also something to pay attention to. While there might be some legitimate gripe, a candidate who runs their mouth is displaying a lack of professionalism and respect.

Keep in mind that people are on their best behavior during interviews, so if they’re already giving you bad vibes, it’s probably not going to get better once the job starts. 


4. Not Having References

Some people can be amazing during interviews, but hopeless at the job itself.

One way to weed these charismatic charlatans out is by checking their references. Many employers forgo this step, especially when they’re pressed for time. But this is a bad idea.

Following up references takes both time and effort, and in many instances, people will limit the information they provide. But if they have had a genuinely bad experience with your candidate, there will probably be some form of indication or signalling, even if subtle.

Asking the question ‘Would you gladly hire this person again?’, or ‘What advice would you give the future employer of this person?’, offers an opportunity to gain useful feedback. But you’ll be glad (and a lot better off) if you manage to avoid a bad hire down the line. 

5. Having An Odd Employment History 

If someone can’t explain a gap in their job history, this may indicate a problem.

Although, of course, there could be a reasonable explanation for this gap, it could indicate that something went wrong at the last person’s job. Perhaps they fell out with their manager or had trouble with a colleague. 

Either way, it’s not a good sign.

Sporadic career changes, short-term gigs, or extended periods of leave can also be red flags.

While there can be perfectly good explanations for these irregularities, such gaps may also signal a person who is less than reliable, and unable to hold down a job for long. 


6. They Can’t Give You Specific Examples of Experience

Anyone can claim to be a ‘good communicator’ or a ‘team-player’, but not everyone can give specific examples to demonstrate that they are.

Behavioral questions (questions that assess a person’s character) or technical questions (questions that affirm a person’s technical skill-set/knowledge) are designed to help employers get a clearer picture of a person’s capabilities.

Ultimately, if you’re asking a lot of specific behavioral or technical questions, and your interviewee is struggling to answer them, they’re probably not a good fit.

For instance, if someone claims to be great at surgery, but can’t describe a recent case in technical detail to you, they may not be as great as they say.


7. The Person Doesn’t Match Your Practice’s Values 

Practice values are fundamental for a good work culture (if you are in doubt about this, check out our research on the topic here). If your candidate doesn’t match up, then they may not be the right person for you.

For example, if a core value of your practice is to have ‘fun’ in the workplace, and the person you’re interviewing leans towards the serious side and struggles with humor, then they’ll probably not mesh well within your practice’s wider culture.

While values can often take a backseat to a person’s clinical skills, this is a mistake. Practical skills can be developed and changed, whereas a person’s values are not going to change fast, if ever.

If you’re ever considering someone who has answered all your technical skills perfectly but missed the mark for your behavioral questions, the decision will be tough, but we recommend passing and waiting for a candidate who fits your values. 


The Bottom Line 

There is always an element of risk when it comes to recruitment.

No matter how thoroughly you are, there is always the chance that you will make a hiring mistake.

But don’t lose hope. As long as you are hiring according to your values, and using a well-thought-out process, the chances of this happening are vastly reduced. And for each good hire, your culture will improve.

Happily, practices with good cultures hire faster and have lower staff turnover. So the effort involved in hiring well has a positive compounding effect over time. 


  1. ‘Perfect match: Making the right hire and the cost of getting it wrong.’ 20 Jul. 2017, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

  2. ‘27 Interview Statistics: All You Need to Know in 2021 – WhatToBecome.’ 11 Aug. 2021, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.


Want to learn more about veterinary leadership? Register for Dr. Dave's free veterinary leadership webinar, and learn how to avoid staff drama in your practice.

How to run a successful practice without all the drama, by Dr Dave Nicol


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