5 Interview Red Flags for Potentially Toxic Employers

When you’re in the middle of the job hunt, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you are also trying to find the best fit in both culture and function for your skill set and personality. Consequently, it is critical to seize every chance you get to assess if the company, team and position are good matches for your skills, goals, needs and career path. Even if you take advantage of every opportunity, it can be difficult to gauge how good of a fit a position and company will ultimately be. However, there are interview red flags that clearly indicate that there could be trouble ahead if you know where to look for them.

Two professionals shaking hands in a meeting with colleagues.


When interviewers are shining the spotlight on you to provide the “right” answers during a job interview, it can be difficult to focus on your responsibilities to yourself. This is especially true if you’re excited about the opportunity. Consequently, most candidates end up only focusing on demonstrating their own experience and skills, so interview red fags can go largely unnoticed. This can cause professionals to jump into a position that isn’t right for them and regretting it.

So, it’s critical to stay focused to catch interview red flags that suggest a toxic work environment.

5 Critical Interview Red Flags

1. Lack of Interviewer Preparedness

If your interviewer is clearly reading your resume for the first time when you are sitting directly in front of them, then you should probably prepare for more interview red flags to come. Pay attention to the general level of preparedness – thoughtfulness of questions; amount of information about the job or the company, professionalism, etc. If you see that the interviewer is faltering, then you should ask some questions. Ask about organizational structure and processes. Probe deeper to find out if these are individual issues or reflect systemic problems throughout the company.

2. Issues with Organization

Take note if interviewers struggle to provide basic information about company and the job. Also, pay attention to the general office environment. Does it seem chaotic? Look for any missteps and mix-ups during the hiring process that reflect internal mishaps. These may reflect the sorts of issues you’ll have to handle if you take the job.

3. Vagueness

If there is vagueness surrounding the position and the organization, then it could be that they are purposefully leaving out negative details. Understandably, the interviewer may not be able to disclose sensitive company information this early. However, you should still receive thoughtful, thorough and detailed answers to all your questions and explanations for any information gaps.

4. Coworker or Organization Complaints

If your interviewer peppers the conversation with complaints about the organization or colleagues during the interview, this is a clear indication that you could be walking into a toxic workplace. Don’t only focus on what they say about the people, departments or the organization. Pay attention to how they talk about these things. Evaluate their energy level, attitude, enthusiasm and sincerity.

5. Internal Tension

If you interview with a hiring committee or group of people, watch for signs of any tension between them. Pay attention to any subtle undermining or upstaging. These could be your future colleagues, so their dynamic could be a significant element in your daily affairs.

Next Steps

It’s critical to ensure a potential employer can meet your professional and personal needs. However, it’s also important not to lose sight of what you bring to the table. For a successful job search, let your best self shine through at every interview with preparation and practice.

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