Four topics to avoid during a job interview

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, June 20, 2024

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A 2018 survey of more than 1,000 hiring managers and human resources professionals revealed some surprising things about modern hiring practices. The survey, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder®, provided a wealth of insight into the hiring process, including some of the unusual things people have done in interviews. Asked to share the most unusual things candidates have done during interviews, employers and hiring managers indicated job seekers had asked for a cocktail, broke out in song in the middle of an interview, asked to taste an interviewer’s coffee, and even wore a costume of Darth Vader to an interview.

Though many of those replies undoubtedly elicited a laugh (and likely some shock), they indicate that many people aren’t entirely sure about how to act during a job interview. Most professionals probably don’t need to be told to avoid asking for a cocktail or leaving their costumes at home when leaving for an interview, but some might not know how to avoid specific topics. Others may simply venture into uncomfortable conversational territory due to nerves. Though there might not be a formula for a successful interview, if there were, it might include avoiding these four topics.

  1. Negative experiences about current or past employers: Positivity should reign supreme during a job interview, so candidates should avoid any negative comments about a current or past employer. Such comments give interviewers the impression that a candidate could be difficult to work with, and they also suggest that a candidate is unprofessional.
  2. Politics: Whether it’s office politics or the goings-on in the political arena, this topic should not make it into a job interview. Politics understandably brings out a passion in many people. Still, candidates should emphasize their love for the opportunity and not their enthusiasm for a particular politician or political party during a job interview.
  3. Personal life: Hiring managers, and in fact, anyone conducting a job interview, are legally obligated to avoid topics that could be interpreted as discriminatory. Candidates who bring up their personal lives in an interview could put interviewers in an awkward position, which may ultimately affect their impressions of the person being interviewed. Candidates can do their candidacy and their interviewers a favor by avoiding discussions of their personal life during an interview.
  4. Salary: Bringing up salary might not be as big a red flag as political opinions or negative comments about past employers. However, it’s best to wait until the interviewer broaches the topic. Asking about salary before the interviewer brings it up could give the impression that a candidate is only interested in the money and not the opportunity.