Leave This Info Out of the Interview

Rachel Zupek, CareerBuilder.com Writer

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Everyone knows someone privy to sharing too much information – the TMI, if you will. TMIs have no boundaries and no shame. They will tell you any and every piece of personal information, whether it's filling you in on her latest try at the fertility doctor or the dream he had about your boss last night.


Sharing too much information with your co-workers is an office no-no; sharing too much personal information during the interview is an entirely different ballgame.


"The No. 1 risk of offering up too much information is losing out on the second interview," says Linda Lopeke, a career advancement expert and creator of SmartStart Virtual Mentoring Programs. If you say something that inadvertently touched the interviewer's hot buttons, you've automatically characterized yourself as a bad fit, Lopeke says.


"You always want to leave them wanting just a little bit more of you," she says. "Employers are looking to hire people who generate goodwill for the company and who make a good first impression on those they meet."


Need help deciding what information crosses the line and what doesn't? Here's a list of what personal information Lopeke says is safe, borderline and absolutely forbidden in your interview.


Green light: Go ahead with the following personal info.


- Goals. It's OK to talk about what you want in your next assignment and what inspired you to apply for the position. "This is the 'what you want, why now, why them' conversation," Lopeke says.


- Growth. You can and should talk about the things you've done up to this point to invest in yourself and your professional development.


Highlights. "Relate the highlights of your greatest professional achievements to date without exaggerating or pontificating," she says.


- Motivations. Talk about what motivates you, excites you, what brought you to that particular industry and what attracted you to that specific employment opportunity.


Yellow light: Discuss with caution.


Vacations.  If you can chat about a past vacation in relation to the company, it might be OK for your interview.


"For example, if you know the prospective employer is a big supporter of Habitat for Humanity and you vacationed in the same spot where a new housing initiative was just built, it could work for you," Lopeke says.


But, if you're bragging about the six month trip around the world you took during your unemployment, you should probably refrain.


Allergies. "If the interviewer is suffering from allergies and you do too, it could be a bonding moment," Lopeke says. But, "if you use the moment to declare you're allergic to stupid people, you'll get tagged as arrogant."


Pets. Talking about your furry friends at home can work for or against you. Dogs and cats shouldn't get you into too much trouble, but exotic or high-maintenance companions can be perceived as an issue.


All skills. It's not necessary to possess every quality the employer has put on its wish list. If you mention only a couple of skills, it shows you have both initiative and growth potential.


"It also lets the interviewer feel there is something the company can offer you as well. Reciprocal relationships are the most satisfying," Lopeke says.


Red light: Do not delve into these personal topics during your interview.


Lifestyle choices, politics, religion or family plans. "Controversial topics may make for stimulating conversation but an attractive employee does not stimulate water-cooler frenzy among the masses," Lopeke advises.


Endless name dropping. You can establish that you know some of the same people as the interviewer to build rapport, but don't think you're upping the ante by upping the volume.


"While you may know certain people who work for the company already, you don't always know how they are perceived by their employer," Lopeke says. "If they're on the hit list for any reason, you could be painted with that 'birds of a feather' brush instead of being evaluated on your own merit."


Health history. Stay away from your health history – mental and otherwise. "You're supposed to be positioning yourself as dependable and reliable; not as a candidate likely to spike the bell curve on benefit-related expenses," Lopeke says.


House problems, nanny drama or rehab trips. Employers don't want to know much about your life except as it relates to what you've done professionally and what you're likely able to do for them.


Bosses from hell. Simply put, no prospective boss wants to hear a litany of "boss from hell" stories. They'll hate you for it.



Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.


Last Updated: 09/04/2008 - 10:57 AM


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