Think Before You Speak: The cost of sharing TMI during a job interview


Kathy Lavinder, CFE
Owner and Executive Director of Security & Investigative Placement Consultants

As a fraud investigator there is almost never too much information (TMI) to consider during an investigation. Granted, data analytical tools may be needed to sift and sort huge amounts of information, but it’s better to have more information than less during an investigation. However, the same is not true when you’re a job seeker. Of course you will want to learn all that you can about a new professional opportunity, including more about the role, the employer, how success will be measured, etc. That’s an understandable and prudent approach for a job seeker.

There is a danger for job seekers in oversharing. Just as many people overshare in social media, I’m encountering more and more candidates who share way too much information during the interview process. It’s not helpful, and, in fact, it is counterproductive to share too much personal information during an interview with a recruiter or hiring manager. One recent example I encountered was a candidate who told the hiring manager that she tended toward hypochondria and would rush to see a doctor if anything seemed “off.” Another candidate became more relaxed as the interview progressed, and he began to offer various opinions, including his thoughts about one of the higher ups in the firm he was seeking to join. The interviewer had not asked for his opinion; the candidate simply decided to opine on the person’s technical knowledge and overall competency. With no surprise, both of these candidates were declined by the respective hiring managers.      

What is surprising is how many professionals these days speak before they think. That’s a terrible quality in an anti-fraud professional, and a negative in most any role and environment. Employers are looking for fundamentally good judgment in their new hires, and one way they assess that is to consider the person’s oral communication skills.

If you’re being interviewed for a new role or a possible promotion, plan ahead. Before the interview, make notes about points you want to emphasize during the interview. Have concise answers ready in your head that will address standard interview questions and topics. You don’t want to sound robotic or rehearsed, but you can benefit from advance preparation that helps crystallize your thoughts, refine your talking points, reflect on your accomplishments, initiatives and results, and articulate how you will be of value to the organization. 

I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep your opinions to yourself. Critical comments about a co-worker, supervisor or employer are almost always the kiss of death. Even if your comments are fair or widely shared in your current organization, they could cause the interviewer to conclude you are a disgruntled or negative person. The best way to avoid this common interview pitfall is to let the interviewer do as much talking as she or he chooses. Be a good listener and respond succinctly to questions without opinions, digressions or a hint of negativity.