Glenford Smith | Do not disclose all at job interviews
QUESTION: I have found your columns informative so please assist with conflicting opinions on a topic. During an interview for an administrator position, an applicant disclosed that she had recently started a part-time/evening master's programme, not directly related to the job for which she had applied. However, my question is: Should applicants take the risk of not being employed if they truthfully disclose that they are studying, or should they simply keep that aspect private and reveal it only if it becomes necessary?
CAREERS: Thank you for the question. Your email had to be condensed, because of space considerations. Nonetheless, the information was useful in presenting the full case for me to understand.
Oftentimes candidates, in an effort to be honest and transparent, feel that they have to be forthright and tell all, even what they are not asked by the interviewer. This is a huge mistake.
You are under no obligation to share any information with the interviewer that is not asked for directly, once you are being one 100 per cent honest and complete with the answers you do provide. If she will not need to ask for time to study or take an exam, she should not disclose that she is studying.
In the situation you shared, the candidate may feel that the interviewer will positively regard the fact that she is studying. The interviewer may think that is positive and may look on her favourably, as a growing person who is not stagnant or complacent. All these may be the case. These may be the facts. However, she needs to be careful.
Someone on the interview panel may see her as a threat, as someone who could eventually replace them. Or the interviewer may think: 'But hold on a moment; I'm interviewing this candidate and she will soon earn her master's degree. She will obviously be overqualified for this position I'm interviewing her for, so she will leave the company then. This is just a transitional job until she finishes studying'.
In your letter, you noted insightfully that "she would just be using the job to finance the programme, that she should not expect to be studying during working hours, and that generally if hired, the position would be just a stepping stone". That may be correct. However, to the person receiving the information, this could be true or untrue - that's the way most reasonable people would see it. We are dealing with human beings. That is why it would have been better had she kept that information to herself, unless it is asked for.
Let me address another concern that you raised in your email. It is that she would feel as if she was being dishonest and disingenuous by withholding that information. The fact is that there is nothing dishonest about not sharing information at an interview. Everyone holds back information, whether they are conscious of it or not. For example, you wouldn't go to the interview and tell them how last weekend you went to a friend's party that was swinging and got drunk, and detail what a whale of a time you had. No, you wouldn't.
If, however, you suspect that you are going to need time off beyond what you are due, you should mention it. If you won't need time off within normal working hours, do not divulge.
Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'. firstname.lastname@example.org