An interview is truly your one opportunity to really showcase your skills and personality, but please do not mistake it as an open forum to talk about anything and everything that crosses your mind. Through my experience in recruiting, I have often been left in awe of what some of my candidates have said during their interview. There is such a thing as interview etiquette and you must avoid saying anything like some of my past candidates.

The “I hate my past/current job” Candidate

As employers we know that you are not going to love every single job you have held. We can all empathize with working in a role that you didn’t enjoy, dealing with a difficult coworker, and working in an unpleasant environment. But just because we can empathize with our own past experiences does not mean that we should be discussing those topics in your interview. We do not want to hear you slandering a past employer, we want to hear that you respected your past employers and that you work well with others. I once had a candidate respond to the simple question of “How well do you know Tom Jones?” to a rant on how terrible this person was to deal with. That Tom was never around and when he was actually around he was yelling at everyone for no reason. And finally the only reason Tom was still employed was because he was a brownnoser. Well, as luck would have it that question was aroused from Tom’s sister in law. Talk about putting your foot in your mouth! Keep your comments positive or neutral and think back to Bambi’s friend Thumper “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.

The “Let’s bring up taboo topics” Candidate

There are such a thing as illegal interview questions for a company to ask you. They cannot ask you the basis of your race, age, religion, national origin, gender, and marital/family status. These questions are prohibited to protect candidates from discrimination. They are sensitive topics that can often lead to uncomfortable conversation. While as a candidate you are not prohibited from bringing these topics to the table, they certainly should be avoided.

I had a candidate during his interview start speaking about how God is constantly showing him the way and that today was a blessing from him. Which then took a turn into preaching and asking the interviewers if they would take Jesus to their hearts; that they should attend service with him that weekend. They could not steer the candidate to communicate relevant work experience or get him to respond to a question without turning it back to religion. The interview turned into a flop; upon the end of the interview time the team felt uncomfortable and was unable to provide professional feedback on the candidate.

The “TMI” Candidate

A lot of times interviewers will ask a candidate to tell them a little bit about themselves or what they do on their free time. When they ask that questions they are trying to see what other interests you have, they are not looking for a sob story or too much personal information.

I had a candidate tell his interviewers that he was glad the company offered breakfast because his wife stopped making him breakfast as she was mad at him because they hadn’t had a 2nd child yet. He then went on to the whole reason they don’t have a second child is because they need a bigger house and their finances were tight with her working 2 jobs and he needed a higher paying position. He claimed that she had no right to be mad when he is helping to support her parents. The interviewers were just trying to talk about some of the company’s great benefits they did not want to know all of that personal information.

Moral of all these stories- make sure you have appropriate conversations during your interviews. Stay far away from getting too personal, bringing up sensitive topics, and speaking poorly of other employers. You need to remain professional and leave the interviewers wowed by skills and pleasant personality. You can do it! Now, get out there and have a successful interview.


Emily Sullivan
Career Coach- General Business + BABA