Any social situation is a potential trap, especially when your goal is to impress strangers. The possibility exists that you’ll get overeager and attempt a joke that doesn’t land, or accidentally insult someone with an off-handed remark.
A job interview multiplies this concern. You aren’t just driven by the general human desire to impress. Your future earnings depend on making a good impression. It presents an even greater temptation to stretch and say more than you should.
Not just a trap, a bear trap. More than even a bear trap. It’s a dragon trap.
But there are some rules you can follow to avoid the most obvious foot-in-mouth situations. A key first step: avoid sure-fire losing conversation topics.
There are certain subjects that pose an unquestionable danger. Don’t bring them up. If an interviewer brings them up, try to pivot to something safer.
Here’s a list of the five top subjects to avoid in a job interview:
You know the jokes about how tense Thanksgiving has gotten since the 2016 election? Project that to the office environment.
You may think you’re scoring points with a clever quip about politics, but you can never tell someone’s beliefs. A key influencer in the room might be insulted by what you thought was a relatively innocuous comment.
Better to avoid the risk and stick to safer subjects.
Like politics, religion represents another component of many people’s core belief structure. You can expect deeply-held opinions that don’t have a lot of wiggle room for a sense of humor.
Meanwhile, with the trend towards inclusiveness and diversity in corporate management, questions about religion have become taboo in most companies. Your interviewers likely won’t bring it up and won’t have much to say if you do.
Your Past Bad Behavior
In the quiet, early morning hours, in the genial glow after a long night of revelry, in barrooms or in dorm rooms across the country, a contest sometimes develops to figure out who has the best “I was so stupid…” stories. You know, the life experiences fueled by youth, overconfidence and (occasionally) alcohol.
They may seem funny and engaging in the wistful hours just before dawn. The stories don’t have either of those qualities at 9:00 AM in a cold company conference room. Don’t sabotage your chances by telling your interviewers about the time you were “…so stupid…” It may seem disarming and self-effacing, but it probably won’t end well.
Criticism of the Company You’re Applying For
Sometimes people try to throw a little gamesmanship into their interview. They attempt to work a critique of the company into the discussion and then position themselves as the solution.
“I notice your social media marketing is a bit lagging…that’s just the kind of experience I have.”
Sometimes the tactic works. Usually, it backfires. You’ll hear someone at the interview pipe up: “I’m the head of social media marketing and I think we’ve done wonders with the resources we have.”
Gripes about Your Last Boss
Freed from any need to suck up to their old boss, people have a tendency to unload after they leave a position. Years of frustration may have built up and it doesn’t take much to spark a heated rant about their previous employer.
Don’t let it happen to you. Whatever your real feelings, the tone of any interview should be upbeat and positive.
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