Credit: Dilbert

Credit: Dilbert

When going to an interview, pretend (a little) that you are going to a dinner party…either with your own family, or some other clan. And be hip to the fact that certain topics are inappropriate at such assemblages.

Your political or religious affiliation

“I have contributed many man-hours as an event planner for the Democrats (or Republicans or Libertarians or United Methodist Church…)”

We live in a time when one’s social and spiritual affiliations matter less in the workplace than they once did. In the 21st century industrialized world, most societies no longer afford special status to one belonging to a certain religion or political party. So unless you can articulate such experience into a secular and/or arithmetic advantage, your best bet is to leave this evidence of personal devotion outside the door.

Your partying ways

“I didn’t have any problems finding the office; in fact, just last night I was at a bar right around the corner…”

The fact that you are familiar with the neighborhood where the business is located may be something for you and your interviewer to chat about; in fact, the topic may provide some welcome relief to cancel any anxiousness surrounding the interview. But that you were stoned at a nearby bar or friend’s apartment is not something that will necessarily meet with interviewer applause. And by the way…why were you out at all last night? Shouldn’t you have been home preparing for today’s interview?!

Your post-interview agenda

“After I leave here I’m going to meet an old colleague who works nearby for lunch.”

This sounds like a harmless, innocent mouthful to toss out during your interview, though your interviewer may, rightfully or wrongfully, come to the conclusion that you want nothing more than to finish this dialogue up as quickly as possible. And if this conclusion is entertained, it will definitely prejudice, in a negative way, your interviewer’s summation of your desire to work at his or her organization. The fact is, you shouldn’t make definitive plans for right after your interview. How could you have predicted how long the session would have lasted…or even that your interviewer—pleased with your performance—wouldn’t have preferred to conduct or continue the dialogue at lunch? (Hopefully, their treat…)

Are there exceptions to the rule for exploring at the dinner table or place of business these sensitive themes? Of course, but before you let loose, consider all possible interpretations of what you’re about to share with your interviewer…and then compare the potential risks to the likely rewards.