Sharing excessive details can quickly derail your job search

Nick-KossovanIn Mad Men’s season four episode Waldorf Stories, Roger Sterling tells Don Draper about the advice he gave to a junior copywriter candidate who happened to be his wife’s cousin. “I told him to be himself. That was pretty mean, I guess,” knowing this advice rarely works in the corporate world.

The key to getting hired is telling your interviewer what they want to hear without sinking yourself by telling them what they don’t need to hear. Always remember: Employers make judgments about what you communicate.

For example, if you live close to the employer, you should let them know, as this will be seen as a plus, whereas if you don’t, you should keep it to yourself. (If you live quite a distance away, stating your address on your resume could disqualify you as a not “geographically desirable candidate.)

The hiring process, especially at the interview stage, is a process of disqualification. Five hundred applicants, one position to fill necessitates disqualifying 499 candidates, which makes hiring a fundamentally adversarial process. Therefore, the fewer excuses you give an employer why they shouldn’t hire you, the higher your odds of getting hired.

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Photo by Nick Fewings


I see it all the time: job seekers who run themselves into walls by oversharing. More than once, I wanted to say, “Don’t say that! You’re coming across as if you can’t control yourself.”

Nobody is entitled to acceptance. I know from firsthand experience that being “myself” often has consequences. Call it arrogance or overconfidence; in terms of job searching, I’m a let the chips fall where they may type of guy. For me, it’s imperative that I feel welcomed and that I’m a good fit. Therefore, throughout the hiring process, I don’t hide my personality, hobbies or how I approach and value my work.

If I’m not hired for those reasons – being who I am –  which has happened many times, then that’s not an employer I’d be comfortable working for; therefore, I averted what would have been a negative working situation.

Despite my “this is who I am” attitude, I’ll say this as someone who has worked in the corporate world for longer than I care to admit: Sometimes, you need to filter, especially when speaking with someone who can hire you. Learning how to read a room – call it having “social intelligence” – and using your reading to know what to say and, more importantly, what not to say is a skill that’ll serve you well.

It should go without saying that what you communicate about yourself will influence what the other person thinks of you. Hence, before “communicating,” ask yourself if what you’re about to reveal, be it on your resume, LinkedIn profile, social media or especially during an interview, will help or hinder you. What will the reader/person you’re speaking with do with the information you’re offering?

Over the years, I’ve interviewed many different personality-type people, resulting in some interesting interactions. I once had a candidate reveal they were seriously contemplating having a sex change and were in the process of consulting doctors. I still have no clue why they decided to bring this up.

When communicating with employers, only share relevant information about yourself that will sell you as an asset to the bottom line and enable them to gauge you as you want them to, thereby influencing some, but not all, of the employer’s hiring decision-making narrative, including, but again not all, biases. For me, I want a potential employer to gauge whether I, as authentic me, will be a fit, thus why I communicate who I am as much as I do. I don’t want to put on a show to be accepted only to end up in a workplace that doesn’t work for me. NOTE: I speak for myself.

Suppose you want to convey you’re a team player. In this case, besides offering examples from your work history, mention you play in an adult baseball league. Want your interviewer to see you as someone creative? Then, mention you paint landscapes. Compassionate? Let your interviewer know you volunteer at the local suicide hotline. Healthy? Mention you jog five km every evening to unwind.

Fair or not, everything you communicate about yourself, including your speech (e.g., vocabulary, pronunciation, use of profanity) and physical appearance, is used to form an opinion about you. You control much of how people perceive you, which means you control the determining hiring decision factor: Hiring managers hire candidates they feel good about.

As a rule, steer clear of the obvious taboo subjects – religion, politics, gossip, conspiracy theories and partying. In addition, don’t bring up:

  • Your finances.
  • Having a side business.
  • Your retirement plans.
  • That you’re desperate for a job.
  • Health issues that won’t interfere with your job performance or require special accommodations.

When you overshare, especially during an interview, you increase the odds of providing information that’ll be used to disqualify you. Before you say anything, post it on your social media or LinkedIn profile or include it on your resume; think carefully about how you’ll be perceived, then act accordingly.

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job.

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