What should you do if your interview gets too TMI?

Interviews can be one of the most tasking aspects of the job hunt for many applicants. We all want to keep it professional and make a great first impression during the interview, but what if things take a turn towards the personal? 

A recent survey conducted by JDP shows that one in five respondents have been flirted with during a job interview — and that 58 percent of women and 71 percent of men flirted back. Additionally, 86 percent of respondents said that it's important to look physically attractive in a job interview, and 63 percent believed they benefited from their appearance. 

While interviewers are expected to keep their questions professional and appropriate, the survey revealed that 59 percent of respondents have been asked about their personal life, while one in three respondents have been asked about their relationship status. The survey also concluded that 86 percent of the professionals surveyed preferred to be seen as more competent than likable, contrary to popular belief. 

Using this information, we discuss ways to handle these tricky situations if they come up in your next interview.

Flirting

It may be surprising, but there is some controversy when it comes to flirting during a job interview; some stand firmly that it is wrong in every way, while others believe that it's acceptable as long as the flirting is minimal. Our take on this? Don't ever flirt in your job interview. 

The interviewer might simply be testing you to gauge how you react — or worse, you might have misinterpreted their gestures and body language when they meant nothing of that sort. Be sure to remain professional throughout the interview session, even if the interviewer isn't doing the same. 

If you have to flirt with the interviewer to create an interest in your talents, the job might not be a good fit for you after all. Be confident in your skills and impress the interviewer with your knowledge and competence instead.

Personal questions

Sometimes, hiring managers are not well-versed with HR protocols and end up asking inappropriate questions. These may not be jaw-dropping queries, but rather subtly awkward questions that leave you squirming in your seat. As an interviewee, you probably shouldn't outright correct the hiring manager. The best way to handle personal questions in a job interview? Tactfully answer them while remaining calm.

Example 1:  A majority of our employees are young men who are willing to put in long hours at work. Are you willing to do the same?

This question is inappropriate; any question that asks about your age, race, gender, religion, marital status, and sexual orientation is illegal.

How to answer: While it's against the law for the hiring manager to ask about your age, they are allowed to ask whether you can handle the expected workload and schedule. 

To avoid bringing up age, discuss how you handled your workload in the past, the hours that were involved, and the challenges that came with them. If this new job requires much longer hours than you can commit, you can always choose to not accept the offer.

Example 2: Are you planning to have more children?

Questions about your family should be a no-no in any job interview, but a naive hiring manager — or worse, one that's biased — might still ask them. What do you do when faced with this awkward situation?

How to answer: The polite way to answer this question is to emphasize that you'll be able to perform all the duties expected of you in this position without any hindrance. This way, you're answering the question with a non-answer, but this is still more diplomatic than refusing to answer their question at all. Sometimes, the interviewer might not be aware that this question is inappropriate, so it's best to be tactful in your response.

Appearance

When you walk into your job interview, the first thing the interviewer notices is your outfit and overall appearance. While you've wowed them with your resume and credentials, don't sabotage your chances of landing the job by wearing something inappropriate for the interview. Black, white, navy, grey, and beige are all acceptable colors when it comes to dressing professionally. You may want to avoid bright colors and loud patterns so that the interviewer is focused on you, not your bold sense of fashion. 

For the ladies, if the company you're interviewing for functions in a more business-casual setting, you can choose between either dress pants or pencil skirt with a nice blouse, or a knee-length dress. Meanwhile, the gentlemen can portray a polished business-casual look with a sweater over a button-down, a button-down and an open jacket, or a polo shirt with slacks. 

If the company operates in a more business formal environment, ladies can opt for either a pantsuit, dress pants or pencil skirt with a nice blouse and blazer, or a knee-length dress with a blazer during the interview. For men, business formal often means a black or navy, three-piece suit with a tie and closed-toed shoes. 

Overall, don't wear tight or revealing clothing when going for a job interview. Keep in mind that anything that shows cleavage, too much skin, or midriffs are unacceptable.

Competency or likeability?

Since job interviews can be nerve-wracking, some applicants end up trying too hard to be likable and forget to keep the conservation focused on their skills and abilities. While being likable helps in a team setting, your competency carries more merit when it comes to landing your dream job. 

How do you effectively communicate about your accomplishments without needing to self-promote? Consider framing your achievements in a way that not only touches your abilities, but emphasizes your efforts too. For instance, instead of just selling yourself as a go-getter, you can talk about how you willingly spend extra hours after work to ensure that projects are completed no matter the deadline. Talking about your struggles and efforts conveys warmth and relatability, signaling to the interviewer that you can be trusted. 

Remember, a job interview is not only for the hiring manager to find someone that fits the role, but it's also about the company being the right fit for you. You can prepare all you want to tackle these tricky situations, but if your interview gives off a negative and inappropriate vibe overall, it's time to reconsider whether this is the right work environment for you after all. 

Sometimes it's hard to tell if a hiring manager is being inappropriate. Our interview coaches can help. Learn more today. 

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