Job Interview Tips

10 Personal Things Not to Say in an Interview

Written by Peter Jones

We know we’re supposed to make a personal connection with our interviewer, wherever possible, but it is so easy to go overboard and, well, overshare. It’s also easy to get nervous and babble—next thing you know you’ve gone and told a totally unnecessary story that won’t make you seem friendly and approachable, but a little bit too much.

Avoid making an inadvertent wrong impression by making sure to withhold details about the following 10 personal matters.

1. Money Problems

No matter how broke you are, this is not fodder for the interview. Even if you pulled yourself out of a big black hole, financially speaking, this is a story to tell over drinks once you’ve worked somewhere for years, not during the interview.

2. Relationship Problems

Your interviewer may be really nice and empathetic, but your divorce, your spouse’s needs and wants, your childcare disasters, your troubled ex… none of this will help you get the job. These details can actually hurt. You never want to present yourself as that colleague who can never shut up about their personal life. Keep your interview, at least, drama free.

3. Legal Problems

Whatever you do, don’t bring up any brushes with the law or lawsuits. No matter whether you are at fault, it won’t help your interviewer to look kindly upon you. Leave your legal woes for your lawyer’s office.

4. Health Problems

Your illnesses and injuries are not good topics for an interview. You don’t have to bring them up—even if you took time off to deal with them. If you can get away with not disclosing that information, do. Let your interviewer make more positive assumptions about why you took that year off from an old job. Then you won’t seem like a liability to hire.

5. Family Plans

It’s always best to leave out that you’re trying to have a baby and you anticipate taking maternity leave soon—or cutting back on hours just after you’ve been hired. It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy—even the intent to become pregnant. But don’t give any hiring managers who don’t know the law the chance to talk themselves out of offering you the job.

6. Burned Bridges

So you had a less than savory departure from your last job. Keep it to yourself. Stay classy, keep the high road, and move on. Say you were just ready for something new. This will signal to the interviewer that you aren’t a risk of bad-mouthing their company, should you end up leaving this job in unsavory circumstances too.

7. Religion

Unless you’re applying for a job in a religious institution, you can keep your faith to yourself. (You don’t have to answer this question, by the way, even if asked directly.)

8. Politics

When in doubt, just steer clear. Unless, of course, you’re applying to work at a political firm or company. Otherwise, keep mum. Political conversations among coworkers can be contentious enough.

9. Extracurriculars

It’s always great to mention particularly interesting hobbies or volunteer work. But make sure you don’t play them up too much, and risk your interviewer getting the impression that you won’t have time to do your real job for all the time and effort you put into your outside, unpaid one.

10. Complaints

Particularly when it comes to former jobs or bosses. Keep a positive spin on everything you say. Friends are the people you rant too when you need to get some frustration off your chest. Your interviewer wants to see the very best of you.

Keeping calm and very well prepared can prevent you from babbling and running into any of the above traps. When in doubt, practice until perfect. And take a good deep breath before going in. Stay calm and keep it professional and you’ll do fine.

About the author

Peter Jones