Interview Answers: Never Volunteer Personal Information

Be very careful never to be lulled into providing personal information in an interview. No matter how natural the conversation is going, no matter how much of a “bond” you seem to be establishing, keep the conversation completely focused on work, and don’t stray into personal discussions.

Example of what not to do: You notice pictures of children on the desk of the manager, and you ask a fairly innocent question like “how old are your children”…100% of the time this will lead you to volunteer that you have children as it will be “human nature” to try and establish rapport with another parent, and compare kid stories – DON’T DO IT.

Why? Because in my 20 years I have never seen personal information help a candidate. At best it is neutral, and at worst it can cast you in an unfavorable business light.

Let’s play this out with a seemingly innocent, and very frequently heard, dialogue:
“How old are your kids”…”I have 3 of my own, ages 4, 9, and 11.”…”The oldest is so much fun to watch playing soccer. His dad takes him every other week, but I get to watch him play twice a month and it is so much fun”

What has the manager learned? That you have 3 kids who will be in school, 1 in day care, and now he is worried about sick days, school holidays, doctor appointments, sports engagements…and he probably assumes you are divorced, and have to handle all of this on your own. How does the manager feel about this? Well, the other candidate he interviewed didn’t mention anything about children, divorce, spouses, etc. – not to say he isn’t married or divorced and has kids, but it wasn’t front and center.

So how he has a choice between 2 qualified candidates, but now is viewing one of them as someone that will be out of office quite a bit [whether true or not], possibly will miss critical meetings, may have travel restrictions, etc., whereas the other candidate was equally as qualified, but is assumed not to have any personal conflicts or situations that would prevent him from being totally dedicated to the company and the role.

A work-life balance strategy is in play at most larger companies, but AFTER you get hired and prove yourself. Given the choices above, the manager will almost always pick the person that did not share personal info, and cast doubt on his availability.

Make sense? I’m not saying it’s fair, but this is what springs to mind when we hear tidbits of personal information. We’re not allowed to ask, so don’t volunteer anything. Keep the entire interview focused on business, and business only.

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