The 11 red flags to watch out for during an in-person interview

interviewing tips

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. Inpartnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What is one major red flag startups and small businesses should look out for during in-person interviews, and why?

1. Lack of self-direction

As a CEO, you’re looking for people to be able to identify and solve problems proactively — not just turn the crank on an established process. Ask about a time when they hit a professional roadblock at their last position. Did they solve the problem, or simply move on to something else?
John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation


2. A job hopper

People who jump from job to job on a regular basis are always a red flag, as are individuals who have been in a particular industry, but have failed to get a meaningful job title and/or salary promotion. Ideally, you want candidates who are making steady progress up the career ladder.

Matt Mickiewicz, Hired




3. Interest in only the job description

Due to limited resources, startups and small businesses are the types of companies that need team players — people who can wear many hats, work well with others and put in the extra work where it’s needed. Look out for people who will only perform their job descriptions and aren’t interested in going above and beyond.
Evrim Oralkan, Travertine Mart




4. Negativity

Any negativity is an instant red flag — negativity about former bosses, other companies, etc. If they speak negatively in an interview, imagine what they could be like on the job.
Jonathan Swerdlin, Fdbk




5. Homogeneity

Be careful of people just like you. Your team is too small to all think the same. By seeking diversity, you ensure a broader range of ideas, which is absolutely critical to the success of a small businesses. It’s easy to like people just like you, so instead, search for the opposite.
Tim McCormack, Business Finance Store



6. Lack of preparation

If a candidate comes into an interview without a good sense of what your company does, it means they don’t care enough to do the few seconds of research it would have taken to figure out that information. This is a leading indicator of things to come, and it should be a red flag in the hiring process.You want to hire people who are passionate about what you do and think proactively.

Dave Nevogt,




7. A misalignment of motivations

You really need to dig into what people’s motivations are. You can determine this by asking the right questions such as, “What makes you want to be a part of our company?” Later, follow up with an ambiguous and unrelated question that verifies the behavior expressed in their answer about what they want from you. If the candidate’s motivations don’t align with the company’s interest, move on.

Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee




8. Low energy

Startups need talent that will energize clients, team members and everyone they come in contact with. It’s that energy that drives a business to create a sense of urgency to get things done.
Andrew Fayad, eLearning Mind




9. Embellished accomplishments

It’s easy to list skills and achievements on a resume. To ensure the candidate did (and can do) everything she says she is capable of doing, ask a lot of questions like, “Walk me through the critical moments of this project from beginning to end.” If a candidate gets flustered, starts using buzzwords or repeats lines of the resume verbatim, there is a good chance accomplishments were embellished.
Brittany Hodak, ZinePak



10. A strong focus on salary

Salaries aren’t stellar at startups — at least, in the beginning. Everyone has the right to focus on salary, but hyper-focus on salary isn’t a good fit for a startup. You need someone who understands his salary will grow along with the company. They need to have a long-term, growth-oriented view. If a candidate’s main questions focus on salary, it’s not a good fit for an early-stage startup.

Mitch Gordon, Go Overseas




11. Over-the-top confidence

Watch out for people who seem over-the-top confident right away. Anyone who’s really good at something knows how difficult it is to get to that level, and they know that nothing is ever easy. The “no-problem” people are a problem — they’re overconfident because they don’t have a good grasp of the challenges that lie ahead.

Michael Mogill, Crisp Video Group

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