The other problem is, even if someone asks you something that appears questionable, since you’re not inside the interviewer’s head, you don’t know his or her intent. Sometimes questions come up organically in a conversation—such as how many kids you have—and sometimes a manager really doesn’t want to deal with an employee and his or her potential childcare issues. There is just no good way to tell.
Instead of being on guard, she suggests you treat an interview conversation like a cocktail party: “You want to be charming and let people get to know you,” she says, “but you’re not going to blurt out every personal detail about yourself.”
An easy way to avoid revealing too much is to be conscious of your small talk. During any interview there’s usually a point where you’re talking about the weather or your weekend. Feldman says to be cheery but don’t give away the farm. “You can say you went away for the weekend, just don’t tell them you took your son to a church picnic,” she says. That could expose you to two protected classes, religion and familial status.
A few prickly interview questions tend to come up a lot in interviews. Here are four you should know how to deflect when an interviewer starts getting nosey, and you want to point the conversation back toward your skills.
1. What have you been doing for the past year?
While a seemingly innocuous question, this can be a loaded gun, especially for parents who’ve been home with a new baby or young kids for a stretch. The obvious answer is to be honest and say you’ve been a stay-at-home mom, but Feldman says not to leave it at that.
If you have been at home, be truthful, but if you’ve also been doing anything like volunteer work, part-time work or work from home, be sure to mention it—and quantify what you’ve done. “I’ve been volunteering with the Red Cross and I was part of a team that raised $20,000,” or, “I’ve been home with my son while teaching a class at the community college.”
If your kids have been your sole focus, make it clear that you’re eager to get back into the workforce. Feldman says a good line is, “I’ve been home with my son for the past year but I am eager to be back in an office. I miss the intellectual stimulation of being part of a team.”
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