Red+EnvelopeIf you have been through more than a couple of job interviews as a candidate you most likely caught on quickly that you can't anticipate what you'll walk into. Anything from a casual conversation with a manager to a panel inquisition awaits you behind the door. Sure it's daunting, I don't know many who would say their favorite activity is going to a job interview.

The very minimum you should be guaranteed is that you'll meet with professional, nice, friendly staff and you won't be asked illegal questions. Employers should not ask about your race, gender, religion, marital or family status, age, disabilities, ethnic background, country of origin, sexual orientation or age*.

If I were attending an interview that included questions along those lines I wouldn't answer them and if it continued I would call it to the attention of the interviewer and end the interview. Then I would go home and write a letter to the CEO of the company explaining what happened and include a copy of the EEOC FAQ's that explain the Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination. Though the temptation to "do something about it" might be there, the reality is I wouldn't want to work there because I would never be happy working in a place that had those kind of managers around. So, I would actually be relieved to find out about that up front rather than later after I had made considerable investment in the organization. I would hope to receive an apology and to have contributed to making the world a better place and helped to prevent a "next time" for them and someone else.

Call me charitable.

But what about candidates who push the envelope? Sadly, if the hiring manager is awake they sabotage their opportunity. But, just like an employer must not practice illegal questioning of candidates, the candidate who initiates conversation on these topics could quickly become as undesirable as the plague.

The preferred candidate checks chattiness at the door and sticks to the mission - answering the interview questions.

There are plenty of ways to infuse your personality, character and style into your conversation and answers. The point is not to initiate conversation that could easily backfire on you. After all, you want to set yourself up for success not failure, right?

I have had the pleasure of interviewing some fabulous, stellar talent. Some candidates presented themselves exceptionally well and have promising or tenured careers. Others will continue to have a very difficult time landing desirable employment, all the time wondering why and feeling like the forces of nature are against them and the world just isn't fair. Naturally, self confidence, presentation skills, professional appearance, personality, character and the desired skills and experience for the job cannot be overstated or overlooked as essential interview traits. Where many candidates fail to make the grade is in the amount of non job related commentary they engage in. Be it nerves, over confidence, a feeling of entitlement or the gift of gab, TMI from a candidate causes interviewer heebie-jeebies .

  • Bringing up what a great hockey mom you are invokes images of you needing to leave work early or not being available to work late.
  • Talking about your illness brings thoughts of absenteeism and your ability to carry your own weight in the organization.
  • Mentioning your sexual orientation will create concerns about why you feel the need to bring that up.
  • Though you might be rightly proud of raising 3 kids all by yourself, you create mental images of late starts, tons of calls from school to pick up the kids because they're coughing and other childcare concerns.
  • Whether you defy biology like I do and will always be 28 or not, putting out there that it's been tough to get a job since you turned 40 or 60 isn't relevant or helpful and points out your being in a protected class like a sore thumb.

Any of these all too real scenarios can cause the interviewer to stick fingers in ears, sing lalalalala, chant "God bless equality" and wish for a swift painless end. It certainly causes the interviewer quandary and panic about what to and not to include in the interview notes and frankly, after a candidate causes that much trauma the chances of getting the job have shriveled like private parts submerged in ice.

Sound harsh? I'm trying to make a lasting impression here..

So, be good, be great, be prepared, stick to the interview questions, don't push the envelope and be hired!

*This post is geared to job seekers in the U.S. If you are job hunting in another country be sure to check for similar laws governing equal opportunity employment before you interview!


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