Red Flag Words in an Interview

Before my webinar last week, I was chatting with the organizer, and experienced project manager. He said that when he interviewed a project manager, and hear words such as “I control projects” that’s a red flag for him. No, he’s not an agile project manager–he’s a smart and effective project manager who realize that people control their own tasks. But he got me thinking about other red flag words.

When I hear testers say, “I control the release” that’s a red flag for me. Testers provide information. The release decision is way above their pay level.

When I hear business analysts (or anyone!) say, “I just know what the customers want. I don’t have to go back and talk to them.” Oh yeah? If they’re so clairvoyant, why doesn’t all software work the way I want it to?

When I hear architects say, “I don’t write code. I architect a system.” Oh sure they do. On paper. Or in PowerPoint (full credit to Venkat and Andy for naming these people PowerPoint Architects in Practices of an Agile Developer). Architects who don’t participate in product development are just as bad as house architects who never use the bathrooms they “design.”

Red flag words are an indication that the candidate is not sufficiently introspective about why the company pays him or her. You might still want to hire a candidate with red flag words, but you’ll have to work with that person to make him or her a fully valuable member of the team.

3 Replies to “Red Flag Words in an Interview”

  1. A few years ago Roy O’Bryan and I wrote a book about projects and people. A key part of the book were the red flag phrases we heard on projects.

    One of the recent red flags I hear is, “When so-and-so arrives, everything will be much better,” or “when such-and-such technology arrives, everything will be better.” Magic is coming. Evil will be vanquished. WE won’t have to do anything.

    My advice is to run and hide.

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