What NOT to Say in a Job Interview

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What NOT to Say in a Job Interview

Successfully navigating a job interview can be a minefield. What do you say? What do you not say? It can be really hard to anticipate bias. Plus, we all know that there are a ton of potential red flags that you should avoid. So, how do you decide what to sidestep? Should you lie in a job interview? (The answer is an unequivocal no. DO. NOT. LIE.)

If you know me IRL, you’re probably aware that I’m a huge fan of transparency. I generally say exactly what I mean and there are times when I certainly don’t mince words. How do you approach topics that you already know ahead of time will be challenging in a job interview? My advice on most of these areas is to tell the unvarnished truth.

We can’t avoid bias. It’s present in nearly all aspects of our lives. Just be aware that if you talk to 10 people, you will get 10 different opinions on this topic. My opinions below are simply that – my opinion based on 20+ years of experience as a resume writer and recruiter. Basically, I advise folks to confront the issue head-on. Declare it (within reason). The best strategy, the one that I’ve seen work the most often, is to make the area of bias irrelevant through the strength of your accomplishments, work history, and potential to crush it in your next role. 

Having said that, here’s a list of the most common questions about bias and my answers.

  1. Should I hide my age in a job interview? No. Quit hiding your age. You are literally wearing it on your face. I don’t recommend advertising it – but don’t feel as though you need to be embarrassed. Legally, they can’t ask your age, anyway!
  2. Should I say that I was fired from my last job? Yes, if it comes up, and no, if it doesn’t – though there are some situations that I think bear consideration. First, being laid off is not the same as being fired. If you were laid off, you were NOT fired. Just remember that lying in a job interview is bad, and if you’re caught, there is no way that you’ll get hired. Explain the situation and be honest. In some cases, the hiring or HR manager will appreciate the unexpected honesty and consider taking a chance on you. All you need is one job offer. 
  3. Should I explain why I want to leave my job in an interview? Yes. But here’s the rule – never – ever – badmouth your current employer. It is okay, however, to share factual information such as “I frequently work unpaid overtime” or “the leadership at my company isn’t clear in communicating their expectations” or “we have had 4 changes to the commission structure in the past 6 months.” 
  4. Should I avoid mentioning my sexual orientation in a job interview? No. But you don’t need to advertise it, either. Remember that this is a job interview and personal stuff generally doesn’t have a place here. I do think that we are evolving in our acceptance of sexual orientation, and that true change begins with us and how we approach this issue. So let’s be open, honest, and transparent. (Though always in a professional manner.) Would you really want to work for a company that clearly shows a bias regarding sexual orientation in a job interview? Probably not. 
  5. Should I say that I am pregnant in a job interview? NO. NOT EVER. 
  6. Should I disclose a disability in a job interview? No, not if you are fully able to do the job without accommodations. If accommodations are needed, then I would add this at the very end of the interview. Again, would you really want to work for a company that discriminates based on a disability? Nope. 
  7. Should I say that I have children in a job interview? Maybe. If there is an opportunity to bond with the interviewer without mentioning draws on your time, then go for it. My youngest son is medically complex, so there is no way I should disclose that. He’s just too much of a wildcard. 
  8. Should I talk about my hobbies in a job interview? This is a complicated answer. If your hobby is sports, then yes. Everyone loves an athlete! Girl Scout or Boy Scout leader? Yes. Coach of your kid’s team? Yes. Sunday school teacher? Yes. Bar hopping on the weekends? No. 

The topics I could list here are endless! Do you have any others that you’d like to ask about? Post comments here or email me at krista@virtuosoresumes.com. I’d love to hear from you!

(If you’d like to learn a bit more about interviewing skills, I have a list of the worst interview fails that I’ve seen here, tips for acing phone interviews here, and how to handle a job interview if you’ve been fired here.)

By | 2020-03-17T10:03:42-07:00 March 14th, 2020|Career Advice, Interviewing|Comments Off on What NOT to Say in a Job Interview

About the Author:

I'm a professional resume writer, recruiter, and job search guru who works with clients from every walk of life - CEO to software engineer, advertising executive, teacher, mechanic, doctor or even mortician (true story). My specialty is crafting individualized documents, telling my clients' stories - and making them shine.