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Is Your Company Doing This in Interviews? (Well, You Shouldn’t)

Posted by: Karen Booher on June 4th, 2023

Why risk turning off top talent in the interview and hiring process?

In a January 2023 survey of 1,000 job seekers by the IT trade association CompTIA, nearly half (46%) said they have turned down a job opportunity because of perceived red flags when they were interviewed by hiring managers. The following are several examples highlighted in two recent SHRM articles that serve as important reminders to employers.

Asking Personal Questions

Some candidates may discuss aspects of their personal life in response to a general question such as “tell me about yourself”, but if they don’t bring it up themselves, it’s best not to go there.

Abigail R. Kies, Assistant Dean for Career Development at the Yale School of Management warns that asking an applicant to share too much can be a turnoff to a candidate. “Students tell of interviewers making small talk and asking about their relationships and families,” Kies says. “While hiring managers may authentically want to get to know the full person, it can make candidates feel like their answers may influence whether they get hired. For instance, candidates with young kids worry that mentioning them puts them at risk of not receiving offers that require travel or long hours. Unfortunately, these situations and concerns occur even more with women.”

J.T. O’Donnell, a career coach and founder and CEO of Work It Daily says, “Interviewers should be more focused on what a person’s drivers are and why they want to work for you. O’Donnell suggests asking questions like:

Asking Odd/Irrelevant Questions

You may think it’s a good test to see how a candidate responds to a question that’s a bit “off the wall”, but you also run the risk of turning off a candidate by doing so. Does it really matter what superhero they would most aspire to be, or what their favorite type of food is?

In the end, it’s better to stick with questions that are relevant to their experience, skills, and how they handle situations at work.

Saying “We’re Like a Family”

After analyzing 5,172 comments from a Reddit thread titled “Red Flags in an Interview that Reveal a Job is Toxic”, it was revealed that the biggest red flag in an interview is the use of the term “family” to describe a company.

Although it may be meant to illustrate that the organization is collaborative, team-oriented, trusting, and respectful, it could also be interpreted as an environment where undying loyalty is expected, or commitments go beyond typical job duties and work hours.

Instead of warm and fuzzy, people could be reminded about family dysfunction and toxicity, said O’Donnell. She recommends that instead of using a trite metaphor, employers should convey the company culture through examples. “People expect you to help them visualize what it would be like to work there. Say ‘This is a place where everyone’s voice is heard’ or ‘This is an environment where you will be supported.’”

Not Prioritizing Interviews and Dragging Out the Process

Not Incorporating Diversity into Your Interview Panel

Higgins-Bigelow cautions that it may be difficult for candidates to see themselves working at an organization if the interview process consists entirely of people who don’t resemble them.

To attract diverse candidates, include diverse representatives from your organization on the interview panel, or make introductions through an office tour, or meet-and-greet.


  1. SHRM HR Daily Newsletter, 5/30/2023. “First, Do Not Scare”, by Dana Wilkie, May 9, 2023.
  2. SHRM’s HR Week, 5/21/2023. “Candidates Reveal 4 Biggest Red Flags in Job Interviews”, by Roy Maurer, May 15, 2023.

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