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What Not to Do in an Interview, Part I

As companies shed more jobs and hire fewer new employees, having an impressive resume and perfectly polished interview skills are crucial. Giving applicants the benefit of the doubt is a luxury that employers — who are often pinching pennies and learning to do more with less — just don’t have.

I've given you lots of suggestions for what you should be doing in an interview — but what about what you shouldn’t be doing? Over the next few weeks, I'll cover some of the biggest interview faux pas you may not even realize you’re committing. To see the first one,


Don’t overshare.
When employers ask open-ended questions like "How did you end up in this field?" or "Tell me a little bit about your background," it can feel like an invitation to launch into your life story. I've interviewed applicants who’ve answered these questions with everything from stories about their loveless marriages and ensuing divorces to rants on their political views.

The best way to avoid this pitfall is to remember that at the root of every interview question is a more basic question: Why are you the right person for the job? While letting your personality come through during your interview is important, divulging too much personal information is unprofessional and distracting to the employer.

Answer general questions like these thoroughly but concisely, leaving out details like your recent breakup with your boyfriend or your persistent health concerns. If you feel that you’re beginning to ramble, ask yourself, "Am I still addressing the question?" If not, it’s probably a smart move to steer away from the amusing anecdote about your last trip to Europe, and back to the topic at hand.


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