A job interview is an opportunity for you as a candidate to showcase your competencies, experience etc. It’s an opportunity to market yourself and for a prospective employer to learn more about you and decide whether you are the right candidate for the role and if you are a culture fit to their organisation. However, it is critical to know what you shouldn’t disclose as that can minimise the chances of your employment in their organisation.
It’s critical that all job applicants be truthful from the moment they apply for jobs. Your CV has to be a true reflection of the qualifications, skills and experiences you have acquired over the years. The National Qualifications Amendment bill aims to clamp down on dishonesty from applicants who embellish the truth on their CV.
Trust is a critical foundation of any relationship, and an employment relationship is no exception. Both Employees/candidates and Employers have very specific rights in terms of common law, as well as labour legislation, and balancing these rights is crucial to a fair and successful employment relationship.
Section 6 of the Employment Equity Act of 1998 (EEA) prohibits discrimination against job applicants on numerous arbitrary grounds, which include race, gender, pregnancy and age. This means that a potential employer may not ask a job applicant questions pertaining to his or her HIV status (unless this question is medically relevant), marital status, sexual preference or religious practices. Furthermore, a woman does not have to divulge whether or not she is pregnant. Questions about disability are also considered to be unfair if such questions are discriminatory – however it is reasonable to enquire how a work environment can be adapted to make a disabled employee more comfortable.
What you should never disclose during interviews:
- Too many personal details.
- Limit your responses to professional information only, unless there is a direct link between an aspect of the role and your personal life.
- a) For example, if the role requires for you to travel extensively, in your response you can include the fact that in your private life, you also enjoy traveling for leisure and mention if you had to travel extensively in your previous jobs.
- b) If the prospective employer wants to know if you have your own reliable vehicle, your answer only should be a ‘yes’. Do not elaborate further.
- c) Refrain from divulging your medical information unless it’s a requirement of a job, however in such cases, the prospective employer will send you for medical testing before extending an offer of employment. These tests are only required where it is absolutely necessary and are as part of the requirements of the role e.g. such tests are normally required before you are employed in the mining and some manufacturing industries.
2 Refrain from sharing your personal views re politics, religion, and the economy – unless these topics are job-related.
- Avoid revealing details about your marital issues as some employers might discriminate against you, although this might not be intentional. Focus instead on sharing information which demonstrates your competencies and abilities.
- Sharing negative feelings about your previous employers:
Although you want to be as honest as possible in terms of the challenges that you’ve faced with your previous employer, refrain from bad mouthing your previous employer. Hiring managers think that if you bad mouth your previous employer, you will do the same to them, therefore you will be reducing your chances of being employed. You need not share that there was a problem with your old boss or co-workers, because if you had a problem there, it may come across as if you’re going to have that problem with every employer. Your answer should be brief and neutral if you’re still at the company. If you are no longer at the company, explain the reasons thereof. If you were dismissed, be honest, but make a short statement about what you’ve learnt from that experience.
- Reasons for leaving your previous employer:
You need to be careful when explaining the reasons for being on the job market. For example you might state that the reason for you actively looking for work is because you want ‘more room for growth’ however this can be interpreted as if you tend to get bored easily which will minimise the chances of you being employed. The appropriate response should be a brief statement about how much you’ve enjoyed working for your previous employer and the new skills that you have acquired through that experience. Also mention that you are looking for a new opportunity where you will gain whatever you need to gain from this new position, i.e. competencies etc. Prior to the interview, read about the Company’s values, mission and vision and how you personally identify with these.
When a question about your weaknesses arises, what is required is for you to be as sincere as possible and for you to demonstrate what you have learnt from your previous mistakes. You also need to demonstrate how you have converted these to strengths. Always prepare for this type of question as most hiring managers like to ask this type of question.
- Pregnancy or the fact that you are planning to fall pregnant: When you disclose the fact that you are pregnant or planning to fall pregnant, all the hiring manager will worry about is the time the company will spend investing in your on-boarding and training, only for to take a leave of absence before they can see the value of their ROI and that you might also not return after your leave of absence. Rather disclose your good news when you have received an offer of employment and you can share a plan on how you will make this work for yourself and your new employer.
- Always prepare to answer a question about what you are willing to accept as a cost to company package. You need to know what you are worth before the interview. Payscale.com and other salary grading systems will give you guidance about salary ranges. Alternatively, you do not need to share the actual salary that you are currently earning however, do not just refuse to share these figures. The appropriate response should be that, “I would rather not disclose my current salary, as I would like to earn a salary which will be fair based on my competencies, experience etc. and what I have to offer the Company.” Always ask for a dummy payslip before you accept any job offer because it’s imperative for you to know what your new net pay will be vs. your current net pay.
- Even though SA is experiencing tough economic times and a high unemployment rate, do not settle for less than your ideal job. Employers don’t want employees who will settle for just a pay check and are just there until something better comes along. You need to show enthusiasm and focus on the value you will bring to the prospective employer.
What you may be required to disclose during interviews?
- Any previous transgressions that you might have. Rather be honest with your prospective employer as trust is a cornerstone of an employment relationship and you do not want such transgressions to only come up during the employment checks as these can potentially impact on your employment relationship or can disqualify you from receiving an employment offer. For example,a failure to disclose an employee or candidate’s alcoholism has been considered to be a breach of contract in the past and can lead to dismissal.
- Dismissal in this case will be deemed fair because an employee/candidate failed to disclose during an interview that he/she was dismissed due to gross negligence during the performance of his or her duties. However, it would seem that it is not necessary to disclose a conviction for contravening various provisions of the Insolvency Act – Source Business Tech.
- Criminal and credit checks: a prospective employer will enquire about criminal records. Tread carefully with regards to your response. It would seem unfair if previous convictions of minor offenses are considered if they have no bearing on the requirements of the role which you have applied for. However, a traffic fine might seem as a minor offense but if you will be required to drive a company car etc., rather disclose the traffic infringement and make a short statement that you have paid up your traffic fines and are abiding by the rules of the road. For criminal and credit checks, the prospective employer can run these only once they have received your written consent. Ideally, the credit checks should be conducted only in cases where a prospective employee is required to be honest when dealing with cash or finances. If you have encountered financial difficulties, especially due to you being unemployed, disclose this during the interview and also state that should you be appointed in this role, you have a plan of action to clear these financial judgements against you. Reiterate that this only occurred during the time when you were unemployed.
Nonoshe Ramphele is an HR expert with over 14 years’ experience in the HR field.