How much information will you disclose in an interview or professional setting? It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” This does not mean you should have to feel insecure that everything you say might be stupid or offend someone. What it does mean, however, is that you should think before you speak. In doing this, you can avoid disclosing too much information about yourself. In fact, what or how much you disclose can influence how others’ perceive you and how much they trust you as a potential employee or colleague. For example, “too much disclosure” may cause an interviewer to think you have “issues” or cause them to question your ability to keep information about their company or clients confidential. Not enough disclosure, on the other hand, can make you appear “cold” or unfriendly. Thus, employing skillful self-disclosure when communicating with potential employers can play a critical role in your success.
- With skillful self-disclosure in mind, think very carefully about how you will answer questions about your “weaknesses.” For example, saying, “Because I am detail-oriented, I often get lost in details, it takes me longer to do my job, and I can generally only focus on one task at a time” might produce some red flags; a response like this may lead the employer to think you might be one that would ask to many questions, be slow, and not have the ability to multi-task when needed. Thus, you should reframe the “weakness” questions so that you do not over-disclose on your weaknesses…without patronizing the interviewer (See Career Builder for more information on handling your weaknesses).
- Avoid/go around questions interviewers ask about your personal life. Although some personal questions are illegal for employers to ask, it does not mean that they will not. They may be trying to get as much information out of you as they can…OR they may be trying to push you to test your disclosure skills. This could put you in a sticky position, so be prepared to diverge. Remember that there is a time and a place for personal disclosure. It may be acceptable and encouraged to update your Facebook status or Tweet about your relationship problems, feelings, and health/medial issues. Yet, in work or professional settings, it is not best practice.
- It is generally best to stay away from topics such as religion, politics, or other subjects that two individuals may have very different (yet strong) opinions about. You could easily offend someone.
- It is also best not to bad mouth previous bosses or coworkers. Although you may be able to use your previous experiences as examples when answering questions (i.e., “tell me about a conflict you have experienced and how you handled it”), talking too negative or revealing too much of the story could backfire on you.
Additional references on self-disclosure: