Doing well at a job interview involves more than just coming in prepared and having the right skills. For an interview to really be successful, you'll need to not only establish some sort of rapport with your interviewer, but also find a way to let your personality shine through. After all, nobody wants to hire someone who may be smart and qualified, but is seemingly incapable of carrying on a conversation. Furthermore, if you're being interviewed by people you might actually end up working with once hired, they'll want to make sure you're the type who would fit in well on the team.
But while showcasing your personality may not be the easiest thing when you're talking job-related specifics, one good way to help others see who you are is to take the conversation outside the realm of work. In fact, according to job site Glassdoor, "what are your hobbies?" is among the most common interview questions that get asked. And while it's a valid question, it also opens the door to trouble -- namely because in talking about yourself, you might end up revealing certain tidbits of information that could end up costing you the job.
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How much detail is too much?
Talking about your personal life might seem like a natural thing to do at an interview, especially if prompted. But there are certain details you should aim to keep to yourself.
Say your favorite hobby is volunteering at your church with your spouse and children on weekends. That's certainly a respectable way to spend your downtime, but what if the person interviewing you holds some sort of bias against children and religious institutions? Suddenly, you've touched on two somewhat touchy topics without even meaning to.
As a general rule, you should always aim to keep certain subject matters out of the conversation during an interview, such as religion, politics, and family status. Of course, if you wear a wedding ring, it's easy enough to infer that you might be married, but unless you have your children's names tattooed on your forehead, there's no need to mention them up front.
Though this advice might seem a bit extreme, the thing to remember is that you never know how your interviewer(s) will interpret the details of your personal life you choose to share. For example, if you talk about your three young children, the person interviewing you might think something along the lines of "hmm, this person's bound to miss a lot of work if she has that many kids, so we'd better not hire her." Will all interviewers think like that? Absolutely not. But do you really want to take the chance?
Discuss interests that highlight your strengths
While it often pays to keep certain personal details to yourself at an interview, what can work to your advantage is sharing hobbies or interests that not only make you seem well-rounded, but play to your strengths. For example, you might mention that in your spare time, you like to train for marathons or other such athletic events. This sends the message that you're a motivated person who's constantly striving to achieve goals.
At the same time, don't oversell your commitment to your hobbies. Otherwise, the person interviewing you might get the impression that you have too much going on in your personal life to put in the time required for the job.
Finally, before you attend an interview, read up on what you are, and are not, allowed to be asked by law. For example, interviewers can't inquire about your religion, marital status, or family situation (whether or not you have children), so if any of these topics do come up, simply reply that you'd rather not discuss that aspect of your personal life in an interview setting.
Talking about your personal life during a job interview really boils down to striking the right balance. Don't overshare, and with any luck, the people you're talking with will get a strong glimpse of the winning personality you know you have.
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