Interviews are a two-way mirror.

The interview process is a way for employers to screen applicants – but it's far from being a one-way street. Because while you, the employer, are doing your best to figure out whether the person you're interviewing is a good fit… they'll be doing the same with you and your company too.

So how do today's applicants screen companies? What are the things they consider before applying for a job? And, once they've made it to the interview stage, what are the red flags that would make them leery of the job they are applying for?

We spoke to 320 technical and business professionals in London to find out.

Pre-interview

Before applying for a job, the main thing that applicants care about is whether or not the role helps them with their career growth. 53% of applicants said that they pre-screen a job by the opportunities it offers, either for internal advancement or as a stepping stone in their career. The next most common criteria – at 31% and 25% respectively – were the projects and job specs that the job entailed, and whether or not their skills were a full match for the role.

After the self-reflection stage, applicants then moved on to inspecting the company itself. 19% explicitly stated that reviews from online ratings companies such as Glassdoor would affect their interest, especially in terms of company culture and treatment of employees. 16% said a company's location could be a pre-interview dealbreaker, while 9% said that the company or team size would affect their decision (though whether the preference was in favour of larger or smaller teams remains unclear). Finally, 3% said that they would judge a company on moral issues – such as its position on gay rights, animal testing, or whether or not it was involved in the gambling or smoking sectors.

Post-interview

After an interview, the applicant's responses whittled down to broadly fit into four 'red flag' categories: culture, career, the interviewer, and job ad misalignment.

The least damning thing for applicants was job ad misalignment, with only 12% saying that it would be a basis for rejecting an offer. A lack of career progression or uncertainty about the role or the company's future was the next key red flag for applicants, at 18%. A negative or unfitting culture were, at 41%, one of the largest put-offs for applicants.

"I'd be a bit suspicious if there was inconsistency between what they advertise and what they actually ask for. But if the job was still in line with what I want to do, I'd still accept an offer." Creative Marketer

"I look at the surroundings and the office environment – the general atmosphere and whether or not people seem happy. If not, it's a big red flag to me."
UX/UI Designer

"For me, a red flag would be i__f the company isn't open to new ideas. That's a bad sign."
.NET Developer

But the most rampant no-go for applicants sat with the interviewer(s) themsel(f/ves). At 53%, over half of applicants said that the person who interviewed them would make or break their opinion of the company or the role. Most of this revolved around the interviewer's attitude and how they presented themselves in the interview.

Rudeness or a bad attitude from the interviewer – either toward the applicant or towards other people – were a key factor in applicants refusing to go forward with a company. A lack of interest on the interviewer's part was also highlighted as a bad sign. And, of course, an interviewer's interviewing techniques came up too: applicants mentioned that they would be put off by an interviewer who grilled them or who was aggressive and dismissive in nature.

"If the interviewer can't explain the opportunities for career progression, I'd think they were unprepared or that there was no growth in the role – both a big nope for me."
Application Support Engineer

"I'd be upset if there was negative behaviour from the interviewer, or if I felt that the interviewer was being rude. It would make me feel unappreciated and like they don't want me there."
Front-End Developer

As an interviewer, you are the face of your company.

So, act like it! Showcase the sort of behaviour and excitement you want applicants to bring to your company. Prepare for interviews and be respectful of the applicants' time – after all, they've taken time out of their day to go meet you.

Also try to resist the urge to submit your applicants to a summer-barbeque-style grilling. Frame your questions in a way that keeps applicants engaged and relaxed, but that also ensures you get the answers you're looking for. (Want to know more about how you can do this? Talk to us about our interview training for hirers.)

Make your company culture a positive one & shout about it!

Nobody wants to be in a workplace where they are made to feel uncomfortable or unhappy. As much as possible, applicants will try to minimise their chances of this by pre-screening companies via impartial third-party services and websites.

So be sure to highlight all the ways your company is an awesome place to work – as long as you walk the talk! If your employees are naturally friendly and comfortable to work with, any applicants coming in will feel this positive vibe and will be far more interested in becoming a part of the team.

Also be sure to manage all the portals where people are reviewing your company. Nothing says uncaring or dismissive management like bad reviews on Glassdoor that go unanswered.

If you don't already, pay attention to your applicant experience.

It's clear that applicants don't appreciate feeling unappreciated or being on the receiving end of rudeness. To be fair, who does? But your interview processes could also be contributing to this in ways you might not have anticipated.

Be proactive about improving your company's applicant experience, and you will soon find yourself reaping the benefits.

Subscribe Now

Get the latest hiring tips, market research and industry interviews straight to your inbox. Oh, and you can read our privacy policy here.