It is freaking me out to realize that since I started interviewing people for jobs in 1980, I’ve been interviewing job-seekers for thirty-six years. Since I was twenty years old and a fledgling supervisor in a tiny company in 1980, I didn’t get any training before I was thrown into my first job interview.
I just talked to the person in front of me the way I would talk to anyone. I asked them about their life so far (we were the same age) and they asked me about the job. Since then I’ve interviewed thousands of job applicants. They are in a tough spot because so much of the conventional wisdom for job-seekers tells them to grovel and beg for the job in an interview. In reality that is one of the worst things you can do in a job interview.
Managers hire people they trust to take care of some of the manager’s problems. Who trusts someone who begs for the job? The conventional wisdom is wrong. You don’t need to contort yourself into pretzel shapes to get a good job. Just because a manager may ask you questions about one tool or skill set or another, it doesn’t mean that you have to have those experiences to get the job.
Many job-seekers get nervous in job interviews, and who can blame them? A traditional job interview is a stressful situation. When we get nervous, we can start to spill details about our personal lives that have no place in a business conversation.
No one who’s interviewing you for a job needs to know the grisly story of how you left your last job. They don’t need to know who lives with you or how you’ve been supporting yourself between jobs. It can be tempting to unburden yourself to a sympathetic interviewer, but it’s not a great idea.
Here are ten personal details never to share in a job interview:
It is easy to slip and say something about your reduced financial state but it cannot help you get the job and could easily hurt you. I understand completely if you’re proud of the way you’ve risen to the challenge of a lost income but your financial life is none of your future manager’s or any interviewer’s business.
Many job-seekers are used to explaining their situation by telling the personal story behind their job search, like this: “I moved to Atlanta with my husband in 2013 but then he lost his job, and I was supporting both of us, and then we got divorced last summer just around the time I got laid off.”
Lots of empathetic people will feel for you in your challenging situation but your personal life is not a good topic to introduce into a job interview conversation.
Apart from the fact that some people have biases, any mention of relationship problems can get you tossed out of the running for a job opening because people may think “We don’t need that drama coming in here.” Keep your personal stories to yourself.
There is a movement across the United States to bar employers from asking job-seekers if they have ever been convicted of a felony or not. There is no reason to bring up any unpleasantness with law enforcement or any other kind of legal difficulty on a job interview. “I’m being sued by my ex-partners but I’m sure I’ll prevail, heh-heh” is not a statement that will build anybody’s confidence in you. Leave your legal situation completely out of the job interview conversation.
Illness or Injury
If you took time off work because of illness or injury, you don’t have to disclose that in a job interview. You can say you took a personal sabbatical, something it is every person’s privilege to do whenever they want and can afford to. You don’t have to go into detail about why you took some time off the conveyor belt.
Let your interviewer assume that you made a fortune at your last job and had the means to take a break – that’s the American dream, after all! You don’t have to disclose a health issue when you are interviewing, and why would you want to? If you can do the job without any accommodation, you’re better off keeping your medical situation to yourself.
Employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is not legal but that doesn’t stop some employers from engaging in it. Sometimes managers don’t know the law. They’d rather hire someone who isn’t pregnant than someone who is. There is no need or reason to disclose your pregnancy on a job interview unless you want to. Likewise, if you in the process of adopting a child, you can share that news or not as you wish.
Unpleasant Departure from your Last Job
Our stories about our abrupt and even comical departures from past jobs would make for very watchable movies and readable comic books, but that doesn’t mean those stories belong in a job interview! You can say “We agreed to part ways — the relationship had run its course” or “I was ready for something new.” No matter how sympathetic your interviewer seems to be, keep your bad-job-breakup stories out of the interview!
Unless there is a very specific reason to share your religious affiliation at a job interview (a good reason might be “They asked me what religion I follow, because the company is formed around a particular religious tradition and they only members of that religion”) don’t do it.
Religion and politics are the two topics we are most often told to steer clear of at work, and that includes job interviews!
It is always fun to talk about our hobbies and avocations outside of work. As a job-seeker you may want to be sensitive to the risk of sharing too much about your most important pastimes, especially if they sound like time-consuming activities that will consume much of your energy.
A prospective manager might not understand that you can balance your job and your role as the president of the local dachshund rescue organization very well. If your commitments outside of work are manageable without any special scheduling limitations there is no point in mentioning them at your job interview.
Complaints about Former Bosses
It has been said before and I will say it again: resist any urge you may feel at a job interview to bash, badmouth, belittle, criticize, satirize or smear any past boss, no matter how evil the boss was. Your friends will listen and laugh with you as you tell your bad-boss stories, but they are not for airing in a job interview, no matter how friendly the interviewer is.
How Can I Stop Myself from Babbling at a Job Interview?
Many job-seekers find it helpful to ‘get into character’ for a job interview the night before. They find a quiet place to sit and think about the job opportunity, the people they will be meeting and the likely Business Painbehind the job opening. They step into character for the scene they will play – the job interviewer – the next day.
They imagine walking into the interview room and shaking hands. They visualize the whole conversation. They walk through likely job interview questions and tell their Dragon-Slaying Stories in their heads. After some contemplation of the character they will play in the interview conversation, they feel more at home. The interviewer becomes easier.
A final interview tip is to tire yourself out. Getting winded and out of breath does wonders for your nerves, your comfort level and even your tone of voice. If you can find a staircase near your interview location, run up and down a flight of stairs three or four times.
Get exhausted so that you have to really recover. That’s when your body will be in prime interviewing shape – no nerves at all. You’ll still be breathing deeply when you walk into the interview. You’ll be calmer and find it easier to stay in your body that way. Try it!
source: forbes.com by Liz Ryan