How To Talk Through Bad Grades and Other Interview Red Flags

A red flag, what does that mean? What are some of the things that an employer would flag as questionable? These are great questions! The biggest red flags that come up during the hiring process are having been fired, poor grades, a criminal record, and no experience. Some employers would also consider poor references, having no degree, large timeline gaps, or even being over-qualified as red flags.

An interviewers job isn’t just to find out why they should hire you, but also to unveil reasons not to hire you. This is why they sometimes ask about times when you failed, your weaknesses, and also prey into any red flags that may come up through the venting process. Below is an exercise you should practice to feel more prepared and comfortable answer those difficult questions.


Conduct an honest personal assessment by writing down the following:

    1. Identifying the red flags of your work habits that might affect your employability.
    2. Identifying the reasons or set of problems that cause these behaviors.
    3. Explaining what you have done to improve the situation and the lesson you learned to reassure the employer that the behavior will not be a problem.

Here is an example:

    1. Red Flag: I was fired at XYZ Company.
    2. Reason: I was late for work many times.
    3. Explanation: At the time, I was working two jobs. One was a late night shift and the other started at 6am. When factoring in the commute time for both jobs, I was left with only 3 hours of sleep a night causing me to be late. While I take full responsibility for being late, my situation has changed where I no longer have to work 2 jobs. I assure you that if you hire me, I’ll demonstrate how reliable, consistent, and hard working I am on the job.

Make sure you focus on how you have changed the situation and learned from the experience rather than focusing on the actual problem. I suggest going thorough this exercise and identify what truthful information you can divulge that won’t be harmful in your obtaining a job.

Also, I don’t suggest to voluntarily offer this information, but only if it comes up during the candidate screening process. Just so you know, legally employers cannot ask you certain questions, per the U.S Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC): so understand your rights and what questions are acceptable to answer.

You want to make sure you reassure the employer that history will not repeat itself. Making excuses or blaming others for your problems highlights a more serious behavioral problem – not taking responsibility for your actions. Don’t be that person.  Be the person that is confident, resilient and dedicated to give your absolute best!

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Gelila Sebhatu

Gelila Sebhatu is the Owner of GPS Professional Coaching,, which provides individuals career and life enhancement services, as well as, GPS Management Consulting,, a business management consulting firm. She is excited to share her experience at Fortune 500 companies, to assist others achieve their goals. She has an Executive Master Business Administration (EMBA) degree from Virginia Tech University and a BA Bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion University.