${ company.text }

Be the first to rate this company   Not rated   ${ company.score } stars     ${ company.industry}     ${ company.headquarters}

Career Resources

${ getArticleTitle(article) }


${ tag.display_name }


${ getCommunityPostText(community_post) }


${ contributor.full_name }

${ contributor.short_bio }

Jobs For Employers

Join InHerSight's growing community of professional women and get matched to great jobs and more!

Sign up now

Already have an account? Log in ›

  1. Blog
  2. Interviewing
  3. Last updated December 20, 2023

Trust Your Intuition: 7 Major Red Flags to Look Out for During Job Interviews

How to deflect inappropriate questions, reconnect with a recruiter, and spot a job with too many responsibilities

Woman heading to a job interview
Photo courtesy of BBH Singapore

It’s commonplace to apply for dozens of jobs that are far from your dream gig, but when you’re stressing over a job hunt and have been for a while, it can often feel like you can’t be too picky—you have to take what you can get and run with it.

That’s not always the best way to approach a job search, especially if you get that nagging feeling during the interview that the job just isn’t the right one for you. We tend to focus on what we can do to impress employers (the best resume! the best cover letter!) when in actuality, the hiring process is a two-way street. You are ensuring the company is right for you, just as they are sizing you up. Fail to recognize that, and you could end up accepting a job that leaves you feeling miserable and unfulfilled.

Here are six red flags to look out for during the interview process, including how to determine whether accepting the offer is in your best interest.

7 red flags to look for during job interviews

Red flag 1: There is high turnover and indicators of a toxic company culture

High turnover and a toxic company culture signify potential underlying issues, like dissatisfaction among employees, potential challenges within the work environment, and broader concerns such as poor leadership, lack of support, or even discrimination. These red flags raise significant questions about employee wellbeing, growth opportunities, and the effectiveness of management practices within the organization. For candidates, they can signal potential challenges in job stability, professional development, and the overall fit within the company.

Tameka Green, director of diversity and inclusion at Weber Shandwick, says checking websites like InHerSight, Glassdoor, or LinkedIn to see the company’s reputation before applying or starting the interview process will give you some insight into the state of the company's culture. Twitter user and Talent Acquisition pro @1andOnlyMelissa says thoroughly researching a company online is a must. One negative company review shouldn’t impact your decision, but if you see consistent negative comments, then it’s time to pay attention.  “Every word is not gospel, but common threads can tell you a bit about culture and offer direction on questions you may want to develop for your interview.” She also suggests asking the hiring manager about why the job is open and frame questions around mobility and career pathing. “If it’s a dead end, low pay, or toxic culture, they may have challenges maintaining the role.”

Read more: 5 Creative Interview Questions That Can Reveal Red Flags

Red flag 2: The interviewer asks illegal and personal questions

Questions about race, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital status, and parental status are all illegal in the United States, according to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Laws. Green says an interviewer can ask if you have been convicted of a crime but should stay far away from questions that focus on dimensions of diversity. If you are asked any illegal questions, you can redirect the conversation, flat out refuse to answer, and make a formal complaint.

Choosing to redirect requires finesse and professionalism to handle the situation without causing discomfort or conflict. Here are several strategies to handle such situations:

  • Directly address the concern: Politely acknowledge the question's intent while steering the conversation back to relevant topics. For instance, if asked about personal information like marital status, respond with, "I appreciate your interest, but I believe my qualifications and experiences in [relevant skill or experience] make me a strong candidate for this role."
  • Refocus on professional skills: If faced with questions about age, disability, or other protected characteristics, pivot the conversation to your professional attributes. Emphasize your skills, achievements, and how you can contribute to the role by saying, "I'm enthusiastic about discussing my qualifications related to this job, such as my experience in [specific skill] and my ability to [accomplishment]."
  • Seek clarification or rephrase: Politely ask for clarification or rephrase the question in a professional context. For instance, if asked about family planning or child care, redirect by saying, "Could you clarify how this relates to the requirements of the job?"
  • Bridge to relevant topics: Quickly acknowledge the question and transition smoothly to a relevant aspect of your candidacy. For instance, if asked about religious affiliation, respond with, "While I appreciate your interest, I’d like to focus on my qualifications in [specific area] that I believe align well with this position's requirements."
  • Set boundaries firmly but politely: If the interviewer persists, calmly reiterate your discomfort with the question. For example, "I prefer not to discuss personal matters that aren’t relevant to the job. I’m happy to elaborate on my professional qualifications and experiences."
  • Use humor or deflection: Depending on the situation, a touch of humor or gentle deflection can redirect the conversation without causing tension. However, ensure it remains professional and doesn’t detract from the seriousness of the issue.

Read more: What to Do If You’re Asked Illegal Questions During an Interview

Red flag 3: The recruiter falls off the face of the earth

If it’s impossible to get a response or follow up from the recruiter, then it’s a red flag regarding communication. The hiring process can be lengthy, but if you have questions or need to send more materials to the recruiter to move things along, being ghosted by the company can be unsettling. It probably means they have a history of hiring mistakes, high turnover, and bad communication in general.

When reaching out to a recruiter who hasn't responded to your previous communications, it's essential to maintain professionalism while gently prompting for a response. Here's a message template you could use:

Example message

Subject: Follow-up: [Position Title] Application

Dear [recruiter’s name],

I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to follow up on my previous emails regarding the application for the [position title] role at [company name]. I understand your schedule may be busy, and I wanted to reiterate my enthusiasm and interest in this opportunity.

I remain genuinely excited about the possibility of contributing my skills and experiences to [company name]. I've been keeping up with [specific company developments or projects] and am even more inspired by the company's vision.

I understand that timing is crucial in the recruitment process, and I'd greatly appreciate any updates on the status of my application or any further steps in the process.

Thank you for considering my application. I am looking forward to the opportunity to discuss how my background aligns with the needs of [company name].

Best regards,

[your name]

Remember to personalize this message with details specific to your application or any previous interactions you've had with the recruiter. The aim is to be courteous and express continued interest in the position while gently nudging for a response.

Red flag 4: The recruiter or hiring manager can’t explain clearly what the role you’re interviewing for entails

“If your potential supervisor can’t clearly explain the expectations or goals of the role you’re interviewing for, chances are you’ll be doing more than what the job description calls for,” says Green. Twitter’s @1andOnlyMelissa adds, reviewing the job description and asking for them to describe a standard business day will also give you an idea of expectations. “It’s common for orgs to want a rocket scientist, not say so, yet have expectations, hold you accountable. Be clear on the role for salary purposes and personal goal alignment.” If they duck and dodge answering those questions, then it’s an obvious red flag.

If you receive the offer, congratulations, but listen to your intuition when determining when to take the job. When someone is tasked with handling multiple responsibilities or roles within a job, several phrases or terms might be used to describe this situation. Common phrases include:

  • Wearing multiple hats: This phrase implies that the individual is taking on various roles or responsibilities within their job, often requiring diverse skills or abilities.
  • Juggling several roles/responsibilities: It signifies the act of managing and balancing multiple tasks, duties, or positions simultaneously.
  • Jack/Jill-of-all-trades: Describing someone who possesses a wide range of skills and can handle various tasks or responsibilities effectively.
  • Multi-tasking: Refers to the ability to work on and manage several tasks or projects simultaneously without compromising quality.
  • Handling diverse portfolios: Used in contexts where an individual manages multiple projects, departments, or areas within their job.
  • Diversified role/position: Describing a job that encompasses a wide range of tasks, requiring flexibility and adaptability.
  • Versatile position: Implies that the role requires versatility, involving various tasks or responsibilities.
  • Hybrid role: Outside of indicating work location, this describes a position that combines different job functions or requires a mix of skills from different domains.

Red flag 5: Salary negotiations seem challenging

While it's normal to discuss compensation during the job interview process, an overly contentious or aggressive approach to negotiation may signal potential issues in the company's culture or alignment with your pay expectations. The company's compensation structure or budget might simply not be enough to meet your needs, potentially leading to dissatisfaction or ongoing conflict if an agreement isn't reached. Additionally, an excessive focus on salary negotiations early in the interview process might indicate a lack of alignment between the candidate's priorities and the company's values, culture, or the job itself, potentially hindering a collaborative and mutually beneficial working relationship.

“You shouldn’t feel like you are stepping into the boxing ring to fight for more money,” says Green. If the requested salary amount aligns with your qualifications, you should be able to ask for what you are worth. @1andonlyMelissa says checking compensation information on ahead of time will tell you where the company stands regarding salaries.

Red flag 6: The company is in a rush for you to start

“It’s not unreasonable for you to take some time to review the formal job offer and address any questions with the recruiter, but if they are asking you to start ASAP, then this is a red flag,” says Green. A company rushing to fill a role often indicates a sense of urgency that might stem from various issues, such as high turnover, unexpected departures, or a lack of proper planning. Rushing to fill a position may imply that the company prioritizes speed over finding the right fit, potentially leading to hasty hiring decisions that could result in mismatched candidates or inadequate evaluations of qualifications. It might also suggest underlying problems within the organization, such as an unsustainable workload, insufficient resources, or a volatile work environment. A rush to hire without adequate consideration might impact the quality of onboarding, training, and ultimately, the long-term success of the chosen candidate within the role.

Red flag 7: The company lacks diversity

You're a woman, but you've only been interviewed by men. You're Black, but you've only met white employees so far. A lack of diversity within a company can signal several red flags during a job interview. It may indicate a potential deficiency in the company's commitment to inclusivity, equity, and creating a welcoming environment for employees of diverse backgrounds. Such an environment might hinder innovation, creativity, and diverse perspectives crucial for problem-solving and growth. Additionally, a lack of diversity may suggest potential issues with the company's culture, recruitment practices, or biases that could impact the overall workplace dynamics, limit opportunities for growth and learning, and potentially lead to an exclusionary or non-inclusive work environment. And while this doesn't have to be a deal-breaker, a hiring manager should be able to address your concerns. If this is the leading red flag, explore these 10 questions to ask a prospective employer about their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

How to reject a job that isn’t right

If you decide this isn’t the job for you, then there is a way to gracefully bow out and thank them for their time. Green says to include the following in your communication to turn the job down:

  • Thank the employer for taking the time to speak with you about the role

  • Tell them after reviewing the expectations that it’s not the best fit and you are withdrawing from consideration

  • Wish them luck on finding the right person for the role.

Green also says it’s okay to disclose why you turned the job down if you are comfortable doing so. “It may be helpful for the [the company] to ensure they don’t make the same mistakes to other candidates in the future.” Here's an example template to help you communicate with the hiring manager in a postive way:

Example message for declining a job offer:

Subject: Gratitude and Appreciation for the Job Offer

Dear [hiring manager’s name],

I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to express my sincerest gratitude for the offer extended for the [position title] role at [company name]. It has been a pleasure getting to know the team and learning more about the exciting opportunities at your organization.

After careful consideration and thoughtful deliberation, I have decided to pursue another opportunity that closely aligns with my career goals and personal aspirations. This was not an easy decision, as I have the utmost respect for [company name] and the team.

I genuinely appreciate the time and effort invested by yourself and the entire hiring team throughout the recruitment process. I am truly honored to have been considered for this role and am grateful for the opportunity.

I hope our paths may cross in the future, and I wish [company name] continued success in its endeavors.

Thank you once again for your understanding, and please convey my gratitude to everyone involved in the selection process.

Warm regards,

[your name]

Read more: No, Thanks! How to Reject a Job Offer (Like the Professional You Are)

About our expert${ getPlural(experts) }

About our author${ getPlural(authors) }

Share this article

Don't Miss Out

Create a free account to get unlimited access to our articles and to join millions of women growing with the InHerSight community

Looks like you already have an account!
Click here to login ›

Invalid email. Please try again!

Sign up with a social account or...

If you already have an account, click here to log in. By signing up, you agree to InHerSight's Terms and Privacy Policy


You now have access to all of our awesome content

Looking for a New Job?

InHerSight matches job seekers and companies based on millions of workplace ratings from women. Find a job at a place that supports the kinds of things you're looking for.