Clients often ask me if they should tell potential employers about certain personal matters. My answer is usually "No."
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Many people have never been taught – and have never bothered to learn – what questions an employer can ask during the interview and what questions are off limits. Applicants simply want to be honest and up front with their potential employers, but they need to err on the side of caution.
Below are five common things that may cause employers – particularly small business owners – to pause when an applicant reveals them:
If you are not visibly pregnant, do not reveal that you are pregnant during the interview. Training an employee is an expensive endeavor, and many small business owners cannot afford to provide maternity leave. What's more, when a pregnant employee is away from work for doctors' appointments or on unpaid maternity leave, the rest of the staff must cover for that employee's absence. Few small companies have room in the budget to hire a temporary employee to help out.
This gag order also applies if you are planning to start a family in the near future. Do not divulge this information. If the interviewer asks about your family or marital status, do not overshare. I have even heard of women going so far as to take off their engagement rings before interviews because they fear the interviewer will assume they want to start a family soon and count it against them.
One business owner confided in me that once, when a job applicant told her she was a few weeks pregnant, she felt like she had been slugged in the gut. The business owner felt she could not afford to train an employee only to risk losing her after she had delivered her baby.
2. Military Spouse
When you reveal you are a military spouse, the interviewer hears "We will be moving soon." Again, it is expensive to train an employee, and because of the potential flight risk, hiring a military spouse is a real fiscal gamble. Employers never know when the service member will receive orders and their spouse will be forced to quit.
One other, less obvious reason to not reveal that you are a military spouse is because employers typically offer lower wages to military spouses. They assume the military spouse is desperate for a job and will work for a lower wage than someone unaffiliated with the military.
3. Family Struggles
While you may be tempted to do so, never let on or imply that you are applying for or need the job because you need the money. Financial pressure and stress can make for less than effective employees, and employers will always hire the financially secure employee over the insecure one. Employers don't want to worry about you embezzling.
On a similar note, never let on or admit that you are having (or may have) car trouble or day care dilemmas. No one wants to hire someone with drama in their life. Employers want employees who will show up on time and be 100 percent focused on completing their work with enthusiasm and dedication.
4. Military Reserve Status
Unfortunately, some employers can also view this as a non-starter. When you say that you're willing to drop everything and serve your country at a moment's notice, they hear that you will need time off on short notice for drill weekends, annual training, and possibly deployment for months at a time.
If your disability requires no accommodations, then I recommend that you avoid revealing it. However, if you are applying for a job with the Federal Government or another agency that is actively recruiting and hiring persons with disabilities, then revealing your disability may be a good idea. To avoid a potentially negative response from an employer, research the company or agency's website first to see if it mentions actively hiring persons with disabilities.
If any of the above applies to you, be careful not to overshare. Many employers genuinely do not ask questions they know they can't ask. However, when attempting to establish rapport and make small talk, they might accidentally bring up topics that are off limits. Practice what you will say if asked a question that is illegal. Know your rights, and do not over share.
[Ed. Note – It is illegal for employers to discriminate against job seekers on the basis of pregnancy, military reserve status, or disability. Unfortunately, some employers make mistakes – and a few bad apples may ignore the law entirely. The information provided in this article is meant to help job seekers protect themselves from discrimination, not to condone illegal behaviors.]
Jaynine Howard is a military veteran whose work as a career strategist and reinvention specialist has been recognized by professional organizations throughout the nation.