A job interview is your opportunity to shine by bringing the information on your resume and cover letter to life. It’s also an opportunity for a potential employer to learn more about you and determine if you are compatible with the company’s culture. However, disclosing too much information can derail your employment chances. Below are four things that you should never reveal during a job interview.
1. Too Many Personal Details
While interviewers will ask questions to learn more about you, keep your answers on a professional level. Jane Trnka, executive director for the Career Resource Center at the Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business in Winter Park, Fla., tells Investopedia that personal details are irrelevant to your ability to perform your job duties. “If an interviewer asks if you have reliable transportation, all you have to say is ‘yes’ and nothing more—no details about getting your children to school or the cash you dropped to have your 1992 car repaired.”
Unless you need a medical accommodation, Trnka also warns against divulging details about your medical history. And she strongly cautions against sharing your personal views on such subjects as politics, religion, and the economy – unless these topics are job-related.
These are the types of personal information that many job candidates share while trying to be personable. Kristen Zierau, director of executive recruiting at JMJ Phillip Executive Search in Hills, Michigan, says candidates share entirely too many private details, which can be job interview deal breakers. She tells Investopedia, “The company evaluating you for employment doesn't need to know how messy your divorce was or that you are struggling financially.”
And other types of information that may seem harmless could actually be detrimental to your employment chances and bring your job hunt to a screeching halt. Stephanie Kinkaid, assistant director of the Wackerle Career Center at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill., warns candidates against revealing their marital or parental status because this may give employers an opportunity to discriminate against you. “The discrimination may not be intentional, but if you mention you have toddlers at home, and the job requires some evenings, an interviewer might think you will not be available during unconventional hours, even if you know you have reliable childcare.” Focus instead on sharing information that demonstrates your skills and abilities.
2. Negative Feelings About Employers/Co-Workers
Even if you believe you had one of the worst jobs of all time, resist the urge to badmouth them during your job interview. Kristin Scarth, career services manager at Employment BOOST in Troy, Michigan says she’s still surprised how many candidates are willing to throw a former boss or co-worker under the bus. “As a hiring manager, all I can think is ‘they are going to do that to me, too.’ When interviewing, you don't need to share that there was a problem with your old boss or co-workers, because if you had a problem there, it can make it seem as if you're going to have that problem everywhere.”
You may be asked about your present or past employment situation, and while you have to answer, Tracy Cashman, Boston-based senior vice president at WinterWyman Executive Search tells Investopedia that your answer should be brief and neutral if you’re still at the company. “If you are no longer at the company, explain why. If you were let go, be honest, but make a short statement about what you learned. If by chance your last manager will still serve as a reference, then mention that, too.”
3. Certain Reasons for Leaving/Searching for a New Job
Even if you don’t speak negatively about your boss or coworkers, you need to be careful when explaining your reason for wanting another job. Of course, we would all like a job that pays over $100K a year, but Cashman cautions against ever saying that you want more money. And she warns that sometimes your answers may not be perceived the way you intended. “For example, ‘I want more room for growth,’ can be interpreted as, ‘I get bored easily,’ by a hiring manager.” She recommends a brief statement about how much you’ve enjoyed working for your present employer and how much you’ve learned from them. Then explain that you are looking for a new opportunity where you can gain whatever it is that you want to gain from a new job, and then close by saying that’s why you want this position and want to work at this company.
Our experts have differing views on revealing your weaknesses. Jason Ma, San Francisco-based founder, CEO and chief mentor at ThreeEQ, says, “If asked about your past mistakes or blunders made, answer sincerely regarding what you’ve learned along the way and how you’ve overcome them or how you’re working on converting past weaknesses into strengths.” He recommends showing your true character.
However, Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed, assistant director of the Office of Career Services at Touro College in New York, says this question demonstrates if you’ve been coached for your interview or not. “Do not answer by giving a real, unaddressed weakness - doing so will help ensure that they move on to another candidate.” Shapiro recommends focusing on a weakness that can be seen as a strength instead. But he tells Investopedia readers to skip the "perfectionist" weakness because it is overused.
The Bottom Line
While a job interview is an opportunity for potential employers to find out more about candidates, it’s important to avoid the temptation to reveal too much information. Companies don’t need to know that you’re drowning in student loan debt or having relationship problems. The wrong personal details can often disqualify an otherwise excellent candidate.