Job Interview Tips

The Dos and Don’ts for Sharing Opinions in an Interview

Written by Kate Lopaze

“It’s not polite to discuss politics or religion.” We’ve all heard it—and it’s good policy in the workplace, where people of all perspectives come together to get the job done. But how should you handle it if someone else—specifically, an interviewer—asks you for your opinion on a controversial subject?

Here are 5 tips to keep in mind as you prep for your interview.

DON’T feel obligated to answer.

This is not a question that should come up in the course of a regular job interview. Maybe the interviewer is taking advantage of a casual setting (say, over a lunch during an extended interview process), or is just not aware of what’s appropriate and what’s not. Just because someone may be able to offer you a job does not mean they’re entitled to truth serum-level answers. Would you give him or her your Social Security number? Your bank account balance? You should consider your personal opinions just that…personal. You’re not obligated to give a full and honest answer if you’re asked for your opinion.

DO respond with a question.

In a case like this it’s perfectly fair to answer with a cautious question of your own, like “what makes you ask?” You may just be stalling for time and hoping to defuse the line of inquiry, but it’s a legitimate next step.

DON’T use it as a launchpad for your favorite political rant.

It may seem like an open opportunity to unleash the real you, but that’s deceptive. If you do give your honest opinion about abortion/gun control/healthcare reform, you run the risk of alienating the interviewer. Sure, it wasn’t especially fair of them to set you up like that, but human nature being what it is, they may disqualify you based on your opinions and not your qualifications.

I fell prey to this temptation once, as an intern in college. I was 19, and was positive I had politics all figured out. During a lunch with colleagues, I shot off at the mouth about my disdain for the president at the time—only to find out later that one of the colleagues present was a huge supporter of President [name redacted]. I wasn’t asked to return to that group the next summer. In all likelihood that wasn’t the main reason, but it could have been. And I still cringe when I think about how unprofessional it was for me to unleash my righteous political fury at a work lunch.

DO try to change the topic.

It’s okay to give a mild, middle-of-the-road response and then move back to the interview track. If the interviewer asks you about your political affiliation, try something along the lines of, “I’m pretty fed up with all politicians these days. I’m more interested in what I can do every day to make things better.” It may sound lame, but at least it dodges a potential bullet.

DON’T open the door to this question yourself.

If your notebook has a “Feel the Bern” campaign sticker on it, or you have a “Make America Great Again” tattoo, make sure those are out of sight when you walk into the interview. Similarly, if you’re, say, a vegan and you object to the fancy leather shoes the interviewer is wearing, don’t go out of your way to point out the folly of his ways. Again, this should be about your qualifications—not your personal views and beliefs. You probably won’t be able to convince this person of the superiority of your opinion in one sitting, and even if you do, you’ve already put yourself in a box before you even get a job offer.

There’s plenty of time to talk about your personal opinions with friends and family, or on anonymous internet news comment sections. The job interview is just not the place for it. And if you’re asked to bring in your personal opinions on potentially controversial topics, you should feel comfortable in sidestepping that land mine.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.