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What are the "red flag" interview questions?

crenshaw_dev profile image Michael Crenshaw ・2 min read

A college debate coach once said that debates are won and lost in a few key "moments" that stick in the judge's memory.

Interviews feel a lot like debate "cross-examinations" to me. The high-pressure back and forth are critical moments for making impressions.

During my wife's most recent job hunt, a common question was "what brought you to Charlottesville?"

When answering this seemingly-innocent question, my wife has learned to avoid mentioning me at all. She has noticed that the mention of her marital life has sometimes been met with a noticeable decline in interest. Somehow the answer raised a "red flag" in the interviewer's mind.

(In truth, I moved to Charlottesville before she finished her master's degree, knowing we'd both want to live there eventually.)

You're probably thinking that this loss of interest is a red flag in a potential employer. And constructing an answer that avoids a potential sexist response might cause one to miss this warning sign. But sometimes maintaining candidacy is more important than identifying problematic behavior in the interviewer.

So here are my questions:

  1. What answers do you have to carefully construct to avoid raising "red flags" with an interviewer?
  2. What questions do you ask employers to help reveal any potential "red flags" in their behavior?

Ideally both the answers and the questions would have minimal downside for the interviewee. For example, my wife now focuses on the qualities of Charlottesville that attracted us both to the area and which appeal to interviewers such as tech opportunities, outdoor activities, etc.

I'm not looking for ways to mislead or trap interviewers. But my wife's development of a strategy to sidestep an instance of sexism in interviews makes me think others have probably done the same. It's a class of problems that technically-experienced people are well-equipped to address. And I'd love to hear what you've come up with!

Discussion (2)

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dylanesque profile image
Michael Caveney

Whenever I have a phone screen, I make sure I have this post up in my browser.

jasperhorn profile image

I don't really have an answer to your questions, but I did want to mention that it stings to hear that men make women feel they need to hide their marital status in order not to lose their interest...