EYN#034 - 4 Red Flags For Interviewers

May 21, 2024
Picture of red flag

I was clearing out my desk the other day and came across my notes from a customer talk I gave a few years ago ... "How does our leadership foster and maintain a culture of continuous innovation?" In it I talked about my hiring experience and some specific red flags that I look for when hiring people.

In the tech world we need to constantly learn, constantly innovate and constantly deliver results. Are you hiring people with these red flags? Or if you're the candidate, are you giving out these red flags.

The red flags I talked about were people who:

  • Have Never Failed
  • Never Been Criticised
  • Only Learn What They Must
  • No Stories of Empathy


Let's dig into them.


Have Never Failed

"Tell me about a time when you failed at something".


You want people in your team that want to improve and constantly develop. Self-awareness is the foundation of personal development. People need to know where they need to develop and that comes from self-awareness .

I remember early in my career being asked this question and struggling to answer it. When I think back it's probably because I was uncomfortable showing vulnerability in an interview when I was younger. Surprise surprise, I didn't get that job.

People that are able to say when they failed, articulate what they could have done better and share what they would do differently in the future show a growth mindset. Nobody in this world is perfect, and if you can't think of time when you failed at something you're kind of saying you are.

You want people to take accountability for the things they didn't get right and understand how they would do better in the future.


Never Been Criticised

"Tell me about a time where you were criticised or given some constructive criticism"


You want people that are self-aware, take onboard feedback and criticism and use it to help them develop. I`m surprised when people say they've never been criticised. Really?!? Have they never had feedback from a manager on how to get better. Have they never had a customer or colleague get fed up with the way a project was going.

To me that means either they haven't internalised something that was said to them, they make it really difficult for people to give them feedback, or have never pushed themselves to take risks. None are those options are great.

You want a team full of people that push themselves, embrace feedback and look to develop.


Only Learns What They Must

"Tell me about how you learn and what you've been learning recently"


A passion for learning is essential in Tech. The world is changing so fast and at such a pace, you need to constantly learn. People that only learn what they have to, when told by their manager will struggle to innovate and lead people into the future.

I love it when people tell me stories about people they learn from, the conferences they attend, the latest thing they built in their test lab. In tech, a proactive approach to learning is pretty essential.


No Stories of Empathy

"Tell me about a time where you demonstrated empathy in the workplace?"


Perspective taking and empathising with colleagues, customers and partners is vital. We all need to communicate effectively with other humans and the ability to take someone elses perspective, understand it and then take action based on that understanding is vital in performing in a great team.

So if you're an interviewer, add these questions to your question bank. If you're an interviewee make sure you've prepared for these questions.

Hope this helps.



Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

  • Podcast:  The latest episode is "Learning Lots Fast" with Whitney Lee. Check it out on the Elevated You website,  Apple, Spotify, YouTube or Amazon Podcasts.
  • Technical Storytelling Essentials: Accelerate your career, increase your impact and influence people.  Affordably priced, world-class course digital course for individuals.
  • Technical Storytelling for Organisations: Programs designed to increase the impact of your team.  Inspire, develop and motivate your team to influence key stakeholders and generate action with your customers.