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It is always good to break the ice in a job interview. But some attempts can easily turn into a case of too much sharing that ultimately backfires, if the small talk expands to an area that makes the future employer uncomfortable or suspicious.
Remember, a hiring manager isn't a friend who has a handle on the overall context of your life. Whatever you mention in a job interview can be looked at solely as information about you, your personality and professionalism.
That is why it is important not to rush into getting too friendly with a hiring manager or an interviewer, even if the person seems responsive. In many cases, an interviewer may simply follow your lead to learn more about your style. If you take that as approval, you may be walking into a trap. Your entire communication during the interview, including formal and informal, will be part of how the decision will eventually be made. Whether you're waiting in an office lobby, chatting about traffic and the commute, or answering direct hiring questions, make sure you maintain a professional demeanour and slip into sharing information too personal or controversial.
Here are several areas that can negatively impact a hiring decision:
Presenting yourself as more than a worker is important. But there is a fine line between adding a human touch to your personality and sharing intimate information that can make a future employer uncomfortable. For example, if you refer in passing to your favourite sports team, your children or your most recent vacation spot, that can be a nice personal note that softens the formality of a job interview.
But if you get into details of your marriage — good or bad — or your financial problems, you simply may be sharing too much, and putting everyone in an awkward position. Being too personal can also be in terms of what questions you ask the interviewers.
While a question about how long one of them has served with the company can be acceptable, any — absolutely any — question about their personal lives, cultural background or anything that isn't clearly associated with the job probably won't be tolerated. It is always best to err on the safe side and avoid any discussion that might be taken the wrong way, especially in view of the cultural diversity in a market like the UAE.
If you decide to share a personal story, make sure that you don't have anything in it that may be interpreted as a character flaw, such as having an anger management problem. Assuming that you think the story is funny and shareable, think of what else people may read into it. Anything that violates social customs or work ethics can hurt your entire application.
Even a story that indicates a lack the ability to function within a team or shows impulsiveness in a non-work situation can still be held against you. With that in mind, think twice before rushing into small talk. In fact, try to have a couple of tried and tested and tried that you resort to break the ice.
Similarly, if you're name dropping, make sure you don't associate yourself with someone who may not be known for integrity and honesty. Always make sure any attempt to share a personal story doesn't reflect negatively on you.
Health and hygiene
Although employers shouldn't discriminate against you on medical conditions, elaborating on any problem that may be a future inconvenience to co-workers may be an aspect that could nag your hiring manager as the decision is made. Do your allergies make you sniffle for months? This may not be a deal breaker, but certainly not information you must share as a sort of disclosure or for adding a personal aspect.
Similarly, watch out for any hygiene points that may gross out your interviewers. If your close friends think that not showering for several days is a sign of how nerdy you're, employers probably won't.
Just like you dress nicely for the interview, make sure you maintain the same decorum in your discussion. Still, it is always better to avoid this entire personal topic as much as possible.
Too much sharing?
Avoid sharing or asking about intimate details.
Personal stories should be free of moral issues.
Don't get into health or sickness details.
If unsure, avoid a topic altogether.
Get tips on how to sell yourself in an interview
Source: Rania Oteify, Special to gulfnews.com
The writer - a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor