Are you giving off red flags in job interviews?

Written by Emilie Brunet on July 26, 2023

Want to make it to the second round of interviews? Avoid saying or doing these 5 things to get there.

Entry and junior level positions can be hard to break into. There are usually countless applicants with a variety of backgrounds.

For recruiters, initial interviews are a quick way to weed out the candidates who don't meet the bare minimum of what they are looking for.

And this can often come down simply to attitude.

Every job has different requirements and every company has different values. But avoiding these 5 things may just help you make it past that initial step.

So let's get into it.

🚩 1. Not knowing what the company does

It’s a little cringe that we even have to put this one on the list. But you’d be surprised by how often it happens.

Many people walk into interviews barely having put any effort into understanding what they'll even do at the company if they are hired.

Look, you don't need to know what the CEO's favourite ice cream flavour is. But you do need to know what the goal of the company is.

Whether it’s true or not, not having done this research tells the interviewer that you don’t care enough about the role to prepare for it.

Or even that you're not organized enough to prepare for it.

Instead: Do your research!

Before your interview, do as much research as you can. Here are some questions you might want to look into:

While researching the company, it may bring up more questions. Take notes and jot down anything to which you couldn’t find the answer.

You’ll be able to ask those questions in your interview. Plus, asking questions in an interview is always a green flag. It shows you care and are interested in learning more!

🚩 2. Bragging

This one is a little trickier. There’s a fine line between talking about your accomplishments and bragging.

In an interview, you are actively trying to talk yourself up so that you get the job. Yet, what sometimes starts off as self-confidence can slowly devolve into a lack of humility if you don’t watch out.

It can come off as though you value the wins you have as an individual more than team wins.

Instead: Reframe accomplishments in alignment with their values

Look at what the company’s values are and see if you can frame your accomplishments in a way that is in alignment with their values.

If you can’t find the company’s values on the website, remember that most company’s value teamwork.

Don't say: “I graduated top of my class.”

Instead say: “I had very supportive instructors who motivated me. They played a huge role in my ability to graduate at the top of the class.”

Also, this feels like it should go without saying, but avoid statements like “not to brag.” It just sounds like you’re giving yourself the excuse to brag.

🚩 3. Giving too many “suggestions for improvement”

You want to show your value. You want to show how you’ll be such an asset to the company because look at how good you are at fixing their problems!

But there’s a time and a place for that.

Suggestions for improvement can come off as though you think you know how the business can be run better than those already at the business. If you're applying for an entry-level or junior position, you need to approach these interviews with humility.

STORY TIME: As the People & Culture Manager at Journey, I’ve been through my fair share of interviewing. I once asked a question to a candidate who instead of answering it said, “That’s not a good question. The question you should be asking me is…”. Needless to say, we did not hire them.

And before anyone comes for us and says, “It’s just feedback.” No it’s not. There’s giving feedback and there’s implying that you can do your job better than someone. That’s not the same thing.

Instead: Wait until you’re asked for feedback

Wait until the interviewer asks you what you think you’d improve upon if you were hired. If they don’t ask this question, simple solution: don’t share it.

Do you genuinely feel like there’s something that has room for improvement? Show off your skills by framing the feedback in a way that recognizes the existing knowledge and expertise of the company.

Example: “I noticed that your website doesn’t have an employer branding page. I’m not sure if it’s something you consider a priority, but if it is, I would love to create one for the company if I got hired!”

🚩 4. Asking about pay right away

Now I know this one might ruffle some feathers.

So before we go any further let's be sure to clarify. In an ideal world, salaries would be posted on every job description.

But they aren't.

A transparent company will have a pay range already written in their job posting and honestly sometimes it’s a red flag on their part if they don’t. (We'll need to write a newsletter on "company red flags" next!)

If it’s not written, you might have the instinct to want to ask the question right away. But don’t.

If you're thinking, "I don’t want to waste my time.” That’s fair. We get it.

We’re not saying don’t ask about pay.

We’re saying don’t make it the first thing that comes out of your mouth. Asking about pay right away sets an awkward tone for the rest of the interview.

Instead: Wait until the end of the interview

You make it to the end of the interview. The interviewer now knows that you’re qualified, that you have the appropriate skills, and is maybe even thinking that you’re the right fit for the job.

Now is the time to ask about pay.

When you ask about pay at the end of the interview, you’ve already shown what you can offer. It’s now their turn to show you what they can offer in return.

If the pay isn’t in alignment with what you’re expecting, you can express that.

If you express that the pay is not in alignment with what you expected at the start of the interview, then continuing the interview feels like a waste of time for everyone. And ending it is awkward.

Waiting until the end gives you the opportunity to show your worth. If you nailed the interview and they have the budget, the company might reevaluate what they are offering for the role.

If they don’t have the budget, then you may be opening their eyes to see that what they are asking for from an employee is not aligned with what they are offering in compensation.

🚩 5. Not being genuine

This is the biggest red flag of them all.

It doesn’t matter how you nail the above sections. If you come off as fake, unrealistic or too much of a "yes man", then the interviewer will feel that.

Instead: Be yourself, but professionally

It’s okay to be nervous — everyone can get nervous in interviews!

Take the time to ground yourself before the interview. Show up early. Take several deep breaths.

Don’t over rehearse.

Answer questions genuinely.

When you meet the interviewer, smile and try to remember your values and your skills. You’ll do great!

Do you agree with these red flags? Did we miss any? Let us know, we want to hear from you!

About the author

Hey, I'm Emilie 👋🏻

I'm the People & Culture Manager at Journey Education. I have always had a passion for writing, organization and finding creative solutions. I aim to be personable, empathetic and compassionate and believe that kindness can go along way in both business and life.

Having worked and organized with anti-capitalist, feminist and queer organizations, I strongly believe that EVERYONE deserves, not just a living wage, but a thriving wage and that it should be the priority of every business to create an inclusive, caring and diverse work environment that doesn't just ensures the work happens, but allows people to be people while the work is happening!

My approach to everything I do reflects my training in trauma-informed practices, active listening and harm reduction as well as my interest in understand the way people work, behave and exist as their full human self. I want to create safer spaces for people to explore, create and excel in a supportive environment - whether that's in life or at work.