Red Flags to Look for When Interviewing

I haven’t dipped my toe into working with another company to provide one-on-one executive coaching services;

however, recently, I had a recruiter contact me and ask me to apply to be a coach for a company. The company is a startup that is about a year old and focuses on leadership and executive coaching. I looked up the co-founders on LinkedIn—both are young white men who have never served in the c-suite. I decided to give it a whirl and a few weeks ago I had an interview with the co-founder who is focused on sales.

I ascribe to the belief that job interviews provide an opportunity to assess if a company aligns with my values, goals, and professional aspirations. There are two things I like to ask during an interview—what the company’s diversity goals are for its workforce (in this instance for coaches) and how a specific value has played out in the past week. My interview started off with red flag number one and by the time I was done, there were enough red flags that I quickly sent a note to thank the co-founder for the interview and let him know that the company doesn’t align with my goals. After I sent it, I thought about how many times I have coached women not to simply see the interview as needing to convince the company to hire them; instead, to use it as an opportunity to evaluate the company themselves. I decided I would share some of the red flags I came across during this interview.

Tardiness without acknowledgment:

The cofounder was five minutes late to the interview. I’m usually a very punctual person and in most situations I give others a five minute grace period. The co-founder was at the end of that five-minute grace period when he hopped in the zoom room. In my mind, a good leader recognizes that he has kept the other person waiting and apologizes for doing so or, at a minimum, thanks them for waiting on them. Neither happened in the interview room. Instead, he immediately started asking me questions as if thought that constant chatter would cover up his tardiness. This lack of acknowledgement of his tardiness was red flag number one for me.

Lack of interest in the human side of the interviewee:

I like to share not only about my work experience; I also share about what I like to do outside of work, because work is no longer my life. When I shared about my interest in hiking and spending time trying to meet the more relaxed pace of my family, there was no response, like no smile, no comment, nothing except moving on to the next question. This told me that the co-founder wasn’t interested in me beyond my work achievements. I already had the impression that this co-founder was a workaholic and now I had red flag number two that my suspicion was right.

No room for women and people of color at the table:

When I asked the co-founder the diversity goals for the coaches and whether he hit the goals, he explained to me that diversity has a lot of factors in their company. They have coaches with diverse industry experiences; they have coaches with diverse company size experience; and they have coaches from diverse locations, so they have a very diverse group of coaches. It took everything I could do to stop myself from making a snarky remark about all the white men sitting around his “diverse” table. So, this was red flag number three for me.

Inability to articulate a value in action:

One of this company’s values is integrity, which is a value for me as well. I asked how this value has played out in the last week and got a blank stare. I asked in the last month and still got nothing. Finally, I asked how the company envisions this value in action and was told that when someone does something wrong, they own it, which is integrity. Okay, I agree that is important, too; however, there are so many ways to see integrity in action if you really believe integrity is important. For starters, it can be seen in how we treat others and how we value their time, which brings me full circle to red flag number 1. Someone who can’t see that their respect for other people is an important aspect of integrity is probably not someone who understands what integrity really means. This, then was red flag number four.

At the end of the day, I was actually glad that the red flags were so clear, because it made my decision very easy. When the red flags are less clear or fewer in number, I encourage you to trust your instincts and debrief your experience with a trusted person, like a coach.

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Some of my clients tell me that until they started working with me, they always picked the job that had the highest pay or the best job title. Once they work with me, they know that there is more to life than money and titles. If you need some clarity on how to sort through your options, click here and pick a time for us to talk.

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