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  1. Blog
  2. Interviewing
  3. December 4, 2023

7 Clear Signs of a Bad Interview with a Prospective Employer

Plus, how to politely turn down a second interview

woman realizing bad signs after an interview
Photo courtesy of Karolina Grabowska

Even when you’ve thoroughly researched a company, studied the most-anticipated interview questions, and reviewed best practices for interview preparation, an interview can still go awry. It may not always be your fault either—sometimes the interviewer falls short in their preparation.

It’s how you handle challenging interviews that’ll speak volumes to your professionalism and adaptability. While successful interviews can certainly open doors to exciting opportunities, a bad one can still serve as a stepping stone for growth and informed decision-making in your career journey. 

Recognizing red flags in an interview can help prevent you from investing excessive time and effort in pursuing a role or company that might not align with your career goals or values. By recognizing the signs, you can gain valuable insights to better prepare for future interviews and refine your approach and strategies. Let’s delve into the signs of a bad interview and remedies to navigate this type of situation. 

Read more: Did You Bomb a Job Interview? These 4 Follow-Up Emails Can Keep You in the Running

7 clear signs of a bad interview

An interview is a mutual evaluation process, and there can be signs on both sides that the interview is going in a less than stellar direction. You know if you’ve bombed the interview: You were unprepared, you blanked on several answers, you didn’t ask any questions, and so on. 

But how do you know if the interview is bad because of the interviewer? 

1. There’s a lack of preparation 

If the interviewer appears unacquainted with your resume or asks generic questions that don't align with the job requirements, that indicates a lack of effort in understanding your qualifications or a disorganized interview structure.

2. They convey negative body language or tone of voice

Non-verbal cues, like crossed arms, minimal eye contact, or impatient gestures, from the interviewer communicate disinterest or skepticism. A tone of continuous criticism without constructive feedback hints at a negative work environment. It can also signify a lack of appreciation for diverse experiences and a rigid mindset. If an interview feels purely transactional and the interviewer doesn’t attempt to build rapport or understand you beyond professional skills, that can signal a culture that lacks camaraderie or teamwork.

3. The interview is rushed or disorganized

An interview that seems hurried, with shortened timeframes or frequent interruptions, reflects poor planning or conflicting priorities. Such disorganization can undermine the depth of conversation and evaluation.

4. They don’t offer clear expectations or information

When the interviewer fails to provide clear details about the role, responsibilities, or company culture, it can leave you in the dark. Ambiguity can lead to misunderstandings about expectations and potential fit within the organization.

Plus, “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 Tameka Green, global head of culture, belonging, and inclusion at Chegg Inc. 

5. They don’t offer an opportunity for questions

A one-sided conversation where you aren't encouraged or allowed to ask questions suggests an interviewer's disinterest in engaging with you or sharing crucial information. If the interviewer avoids specific questions or evades providing direct answers, it can hint at a lack of transparency or potential issues within the organization.

6. There’s an abrupt ending or unclear next steps

Interviews concluding suddenly without a proper discussion of follow-up steps can make you feel unsure about the hiring process and may reflect poor communication or lack of consideration on their part.

7. There’s an obvious misalignment

If during the interview, it becomes apparent that the job expectations or company culture vastly differ from what you anticipated, it could signal potential future dissatisfaction or difficulty in fitting within the organization's ethos.

Keep in mind these signs aren't definitive proof of a bad workplace fit, but they do highlight areas you might want to address or consider when evaluating a potential employer. Identifying and understanding these signs can help you navigate the interview process with more awareness and preparedness.

Read more: 6 Red Flags to Look for During Job Interviews

6 remedies for a bad interview

Encountering challenges during an interview doesn't necessarily equate to a lost opportunity if you want another shot. Employing strategic remedies can potentially salvage the situation or, at the very least, provide you with valuable insights for future interactions.

While these actions might not reverse all negative perceptions, they showcase your proactive and adaptable nature, leaving a positive impression regardless of the interview's outcome. Each presents an opportunity to steer the conversation in a more favorable direction and mitigate initial setbacks.

1. Take initiative

When faced with an unprepared interviewer, taking the lead by offering additional relevant information about your experience can fill in the gaps. Initiating discussions on specific accomplishments or skills can redirect the conversation towards your strengths. Politely rephrase or reiterate unanswered questions to encourage transparency and demonstrate your commitment to understanding the role and company dynamics thoroughly.

2. Use positive body language

Despite the interviewer's demeanor, maintaining positive body language—like open posture and active listening—can positively influence the atmosphere. Engaging eye contact and a warm smile can subtly encourage a more positive interaction.

3. Seek clarification with intentional questions

Politely requesting more information about the role, company structure, or expectations can steer the conversation towards valuable insights. Politely expressing interest in understanding more about the company culture, team dynamics, or day-to-day responsibilities can indicate your eagerness to align with the organization's goals.

Here are a few examples of what you can ask:

  • "Could you please elaborate more on (specific aspect of the role/company)?"

  • "I'd love to hear more about how (specific skill or experience) would be beneficial for this position."

  • "I'm eager to learn about the team dynamics and how I could contribute."

  • "I'm enthusiastic about the possibility of working here and would appreciate more insight into the company culture."

  • "Could you provide more details about the next steps in the hiring process?"

4. Redirect any negativity

In the face of criticism, steering the conversation toward positive aspects of your experiences and skills can help balance the tone. Highlight any achievements or lessons you learned from challenges to showcase your resilience and adaptability. You can also try to initiate a brief discussion about any shared interests or experiences you might have with the interviewer to help establish a more personal connection. 

5. Clarify next steps

Ask about the follow-up process or the expected timeline for decisions showcases your proactive approach and interest in the opportunity. 

6. Follow-up with gratitude

Send a thank-you email expressing gratitude for the opportunity and reiterate your interest in the role to leave a positive final impression. This gesture underscores your professionalism and keen interest in the position. Here’s a simple recipe for a post-interview thank-you letter.

Read more: Post-Interview Self-Evaluation: How to Conduct an Interview Autopsy

How to reject a company at the end of a bad interview

Sometimes, you can feel a job isn’t the right fit. Trust your gut—if you know there’s a misalignment that won’t be able to be fixed, don’t lead the company on. Rejecting a company at the end of an interview, while delicate, can be done gracefully and professionally. 

Here’s are tips on how to handle it:

  • Be appreciative: Start by expressing genuine gratitude for the opportunity to interview and learn more about the company. 

  • Be honest: Politely convey that, upon learning more about the role and company culture during the interview, you’ve realized that it might not be the ideal fit for your career goals or values.

  • Emphasize respect: Reiterate your respect for the company and its goals. Explain that you believe in finding the best mutual fit, and you want to ensure that the role is filled by someone who aligns perfectly with the organization's needs.

  • Express interest in future opportunities: If you’re interested, you can leave the door open for potential future engagements. Politely mention that while this specific opportunity might not align, you’re keen to explore potential matches in the future if they arise.

Here’s an example of what you can say at the end of a bad interview:

"Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview with (company name). I've gained valuable insights into the company culture and the role during our discussion, and while I truly appreciate (specific positive aspects), I've come to realize that this might not be the perfect fit for me at this time. I have a lot of respect for (company name)'s goals and vision, and I believe finding the right match is essential for both parties. I’d love to stay connected and explore potential opportunities in the future that might be a better fit. Thank you once again for considering me."

This approach allows you to respectfully decline the opportunity while leaving a positive impression, maintaining professionalism, and potentially fostering a future relationship with the company.

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