What Not to Talk About During an Interview

April 12th, 2013 | Articles, Interviewing | No Comments »

During a job interview, the reliable standard is to always tell the truth. We know that when asked a direct question, the response should be honest without any extra filigree or fabrication. If you lie, you will eventually be caught & let go, risking a permanent blemish on your job history. Does that mean you should approach interviews with your internal filters off, voicing every stray thought that comes to mind? Definitely not.

Like any professional interaction, there are certain things that should be left unsaid in the context of an interview. Aside from answering direct questions, you need to cherry pick only the best responses, aggressively preventing rotten ideas from ruining the rest. The following should be avoided outright.

Negative comments: If you discuss previous employers or previous jobs, make sure to eliminate the negative from your response. An interview should never degenerate into a venting session where you air your frustrations. If it does, a perceived weight may leave your shoulders long enough to transfer over to the hiring manager; most perceive griping as a big red flag.

If asked the reason for leaving a job, find a way to put a positive spin on a negative experience. For instance, if the office environment was the problem, say you are looking for a better cultural fit. If your workload was too static, say you are looking to branch out into new opportunities. Use your creativity and can find the right spin for any previous problem.

Remarks about appearance: Regardless of what you think about a hiring manager’s appearance, you should keep those thoughts to yourself. Comments on appearance, no matter how neutral, can be construed as flirtation or as an insult when made during an interview. In this space, you can derail the entire dynamic and taint the rest of your responses with just one otherwise innocuous comment.

Intense personal details: At times, you may feel a strong connection with the hiring manager. Your dialogue over the course of the interview may have a natural, conversational feel but you should not take that as the signal to unleash the more casual you. The interview setting is still professional & you should avoid any overly personal story, statement, or comment that strays beyond the surface of your personal sphere. Despite any chemistry you may have, the divulgence of personal details can easily backfire. So, quickly adjust the conversation if it begins to go in that direction.

by James Walsh

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