Here's What Won't Land You the Job — 8 Red Flags for Hiring Managers

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Lorrie Thomas Ross59
CEO and The Marketing Therapist

As great as someone’s qualifications might look on paper, there’s a chance the person behind the resume isn’t a good fit for the organization. Hiring managers have to figure out how to narrow the field to the most qualified individuals.

If you want to stay in the running, don’t get taken out early by committing one of these interview process “sins” that cover communication pitfalls, forgetting to bring the energy to the interviews and cringeworthy interview outfit choices.

Avoid these common red flags and you’ll be sure to go far in the interview process—and maybe find yourself with a new job offer and paving a powerful career path.

1. Poor email etiquette. 

You don’t need to be an author or English major, but if you want to get far in the interview process, don’t let poor email etiquette ruin your chances.

Remember that yours is one of many emails in their inbox. If you want yours to get read, subject lines should summarize the reason for sending and draw in the reader.

If a hiring manager reads your email, they should get the impression that you are articulate, can get to the point, and communicate clearly, yet in an actionable way, because you respect their time is valuable.

The end of your email should include a signature of your full name, email address and phone number at the least. Add a link to a personal website if you’d like, though double check that everything is accurate and current.

Lastly, email pitfalls like using your current work email address to converse, or the yahoo or Hotmail one you created when you were 12 years old, could kill credibility and bring your chances to a halt.

2. Unprofessional interview attire.

Never, ever neglect your personal appearance when meeting with hiring managers—live or virtually. The number of stories I’ve heard about candidates showing up to interviews in overly casual clothes or with greasy, unwashed hair would shock you.

What you choose to wear to your video or in-person interview says a lot about you, and hiring managers are looking for candidates they can trust to conduct themselves in a professional setting as a potential new representative of their company.

So when you need to nail this very important first impression, dress to impress by avoiding sneakers, jeans, low-cut tops and athleisure. Keep makeup classy, don’t overdo it. And if you are meeting live, go easy on fragrances or loud, clunky accessories.

You can be professional and smart in your choices without sacrificing your personal brand. Don’t be afraid to own your style, you don’t have to dress like a banker, but dress to impress.

And remember, successful does not mean expensive. You never have to break the bank to look good in an interview. Invest in a few nice pieces you can wear again and again.

3. Not enough or too much interest in a position.

Too many times, qualified candidates are passed over a position because they didn’t show enough interest, or came on too strong.

Hiring managers want candidates who are excited about the role, genuinely interested the company and do a great job demonstrating they’re a good fit.

They will pass on people who don’t make an effort to make themselves stand out, or who give a “I could care less” vibe. 

And on the flip side, being too eager can make you look like an energy vampire.

How much interest you show is a balancing act for professionals. The other red flag for hiring managers is applicants who are being, well, a bit extra about the role.

I’ve spoken to candidates who were great on paper, but then overdid me how much they needed (not wanted) the job. Coming off as desperate does not sit well.

You want to show real interest in the position and company.

4. Frequent job hopping.

Thanks to Millennials and Gen Zs, the stigma around holding multiple roles in a short time, aka job hopping isn’t as bad as it used to be.

Hiring managers are understanding about hopping from one company to another due to layoffs, or moving in search of higher pay and titles—to a point. 

Where the alarms go off for them is seeing short stints with several employers, no forward movement, bouncing around industries or no pattern.

It’s expensive for companies to hire new employees, and hiring managers want to know that you plan to grow with them. They also don’t want to miss an opportunity with a better candidate, so if they feel like you are uncertain of what you want to do, or not a safe bet, they won’t consider you.

5. No follow-up questions.

So the interview is going great. You’ve answered all the hiring manager’s questions and showed how you can deliver.

Then this happens: “Do you have any questions for me?” Whatever you do, don’t say no.

Follow-up questions are an unspoken part of every interview, which like a conversation, work both ways. The hiring manager wants to know about you beyond the resume, and they expect you to do the same beyond the job post, so come prepared. 

The other reason why you need to ask follow-up questions, beyond being a tactic to gain more insight about the company or show why you’re a good fit for a role, is they keep the conversation going and make your interview memorable.

Refrain from asking about the review process, how soon you can request off or anything related to salary or benefits that makes your interests seem more about you than them. That stuff comes later.

6. Issues with references.

Professional references are the people who speak to how amazing you are and why any company would be lucky to have you.

If you give a person’s contact info as a reference, it makes sense to get their permission first before sharing that info with the hiring manager. And if you have permission, but it’s been while since you asked, give the reference a heads up that company X might be calling, for what role and things they may want to highlight. 

The last thing you want is for a potential job to fall flat because your reference was slow to get back, wasn’t down to talk, or worse—didn’t have nice things to say.

Keep the list short to the most important people you’ve worked with professionally, or can vouch for the rock star you are, like a colleague or a previous manager that you have a good relationship with, or a person that worked with you on a big project.

These should be professional references. I’m sure your grandmother is a nice lady, but unless she can speak to a project or something specifically related to the job you’re going after, save her for an emergency contact.

7. Your social footprint.

Just like you’re researching your dream job, expect the hiring manager to do the same about you, starting with your social footprint. And anything they can see—your bio, image and posts—is fair game. 

The easy breezy way to keep your Twitter musings, Tik Tok videos and Facebook posts from prying eyes is adjusting privacy settings on all your accounts.

I’m not saying that you should make everything private. If you are fine with some accounts being public, at least go back and scrub them of anything you don’t want them to see, or take the wrong way.

I’ve had clients tell me about great candidates that they weren’t sure of because they were posting all the time, or that it felt like they wanted to be an influencer more than being a part of their team.

8. Neglected LinkedIn.

Speaking of social platforms, the one that’s a must have for career seekers is LinkedIn. 

While you won’t find its users posting the latest dance craze or challenge, LinkedIn’s professionals come together to share career advice and network with others.

If you’re taking stock of your social footprint, make sure you have a LinkedIn profile up and complete. It should reflect your resume in places you’ve worked and have all the sections filled out—and should definitely have a clear headshot of you.

Hiring managers don’t like to come across neglected LinkedIn profiles, so make sure this is a part of your social footprint review before applying.

Never underestimate the power of your personal brand.

As women make professional changes from seeking jobs to establishing careers, too many miss the important role that their personal brand plays in helping them stand out in interviews.

The things I look for in ideal candidates is not just expertise, but personality and style. 

Other hiring managers are doing the same, eager to learn why you are a good fit for their organization and the unique characteristics you bring to the table. 


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Lorrie Thomas Ross is a marketing optimization expert, coach, speaker and CEO of Web Marketing Therapy Inc., marketing optimization, training and management firm and Wild Web Women, coaching, masterminds and conferences to help women in web and social media businesses grow gorgeously. She loves helping leaders lead themselves...unapologetically.

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