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John Daly: Topics to Avoid During a Job Interview

It is natural to feel a certain amount of stress during a job interview. It becomes especially uncomfortable during moments of silence. So, it’s always wise to be prepared in advance to prevent yourself from making blunders that you will regret later. First order of business is to present a positive image to the interviewer. Prepare a list of questions that you can ask that will keep you on topic and help you avoid negative topics during a job interview.

Avoid the following topics during a job interview.

Never complain about former or current employers.

If the interviewer asks you why you left a previous job (or want to leave a current one), always have a positive response ready. One positive answer is: “I want a career path with advancement opportunities.”

You may have grievances about past jobs, but don’t bring them up! If you do, you will come across as unprofessional. You obviously want to make a change, so don’t dwell on anything negative.

Don’t provide much personal information.

Your personal life isn’t relevant to your ability and qualifications for the job. So don’t talk about a pending divorce, a spouse who stays at home and cares for the children and needs to talk to you throughout the day or the fact that you have had to take a lot of time from work to tend to a sick child. If you do, you will give the impression that you aren’t able to concentrate on your work assignments, and the interviewer will throw your resume in the rejection pile.

Don’t discuss your personal dislikes.

Not only is discussing your personal dislikes unprofessional but you may end up offending the interviewer. You may come across as a complainer. Don’t jump in even if the interviewer offers a personal opinion about something. Consider that he or she may be testing you. Counter by asking a question about the open job position or the company.

Don’t appear to be inflexible and bring up what you won’t do on the job.

You should be focused on all the reasons why you are a positive fit for the company. This is another negative position that might reveal you could be a difficult person with whom to work. Avoid it unless the interviewer asks you something specific. For instance, if he or she says that you will be expected to work on the weekends, and you are unable to do so, just be honest. Remember, you are interviewing the company too, and certain aspects of the job may reveal that it is not the right fit for you.

Don’t share proprietary information.

Information regarding your former or current employer is proprietary. Do not share it with the interviewer in the hopes of scoring points during the interview. If you do, you are betraying a trust and you are proving that you are not trustworthy. If you are asked for proprietary information by the interviewer, be polite but explain that you cannot betray the trust of your former or current employer. Again, this may be a test, and you will prove that you are a candidate to be trusted.

Avoid politics and religion like the plague.

The only reason to discuss these topics is if you are applying for an opening in a political or religious organization. If the hiring manager expresses political or religious opinions, don’t interject or add to what he or she is saying. Be respectful and listen. At the first opportunity, re-direct with a question relating back to the job.

Never make racist or sexist comments.

Most interviewers will put you in the rejection pile if you make a racist or sexist comment. Having an employee who is capable of making these types of comments can put the company in a questionable position. Not only can these comments be illegal but they are highly offensive. Co-workers who are offended by them could claim sexual harassment or discrimination against the company, and employers won’t hire anyone who has the tendency to do so.

Don’t be overly chatty.

Preparation is the key here. Practice with a list of potential questions the interviewer might ask. Answer each question and then stop talking. If you ramble on, the interviewer will see you as a person who can’t focus and who will spend too much time socializing.

What’s More, on Video

How to formulate good interview answers:

(The Interview Guys video)

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John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or get information on Thursday night classes in Santa Barbara. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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