If you’ve ever felt like squirming uncomfortably while someone you barely knew told you very personal information about themselves, you are not alone.
There’s a reason “TMI” is becoming an increasingly popular term — most of us simply do not want to hear “Too Much Information.”
Rudolph F. Verderber and Kathleen S. Verderber, authors of the book Communicate!, say “people are often embarrassed by and hostile towards others who try to saddle them with personal information in an effort to establish a relationship where none exists.”
From an employer’s point of view, an applicant who makes inappropriate personal disclosures may be likely to exercise poor judgment in other areas as well.
Yet, oddly enough, many job-seekers decide to use cover letters and interviews as an opportunity for true confessions. To avoid damaging your career prospects, here are a few things you should avoid telling employers:
Do you enjoy hunting? Delight in writing poetry? Can’t get enough of Star Trek conventions? Love playing solitaire for hours on the computer? Unless a hobby is directly related to the job you’re applying for, it’s usually best to keep it to yourself.
Your Life Story
Some applicants think a cover letter is an ideal place to share their biography. We recently saw an application that began: “Photography has been part of my life since I was 6 months old and my favorite toy was a photo album.” Even when discussing relevant work experience, employers rarely want to hear what you did more than 10 years ago.
Your Personal Life
Avoid disclosing personal information such as your age, height, weight, marital status or past health problems. Except in special circumstances (for example, if you’re applying for a job as a runway model) it’s against the law for employers to ask personal questions during the application process. So why volunteer anything that could be held against you? If you say you have or want children, an employer may envision you taking time off every flu season to care for a house full of sick kids.
Your Problems at Other Jobs
This is one area interviewers will probe and try to get you to spill the beans. Beware of open ended questions such as “Tell me about your most recent job” or “What was your last boss like?” It’s generally okay to say you had different ways of doing things, but it’s usually a no-no to say you thought your boss was a loud mouthed moron with a bad hairpiece.
Yes, employers still ask this question, despite the fact that many people find it difficult to identify, let alone honestly share, their own weaknesses. (By the way, if you think you have no weaknesses, you could ask your former co-workers or an ex-love what they think.)
While disclosing certain weaknesses may help you find a job that’s a good fit (for example, if you’re not good at cold calling, you won’t get a job that requires you to call strangers all day), it’s generally not wise to admit that you’re lazy and take home office supplies.
If you feel the urge to share personal information, consult a therapist, phone a friend, or tell it to Dr. Phil. Just don’t share this kind of information when you’re applying for a job.