Is it OK to talk politics in a job interview?

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In our democracy, voting is something of a sacred right that should never be taken for granted. But that doesn’t mean that as a job seeker your political views can be expressed anywhere and everywhere.

“From a job-searching perspective, unless you’re going after a job that’s affiliated with a particular party, why would you bring that up?” said Tammy Gooler Loeb, a career and executive coach in the Boston area. “You don’t know how other people feel.”

A lot of times, a view you have as a voter could be a deal breaker for the person on the other side of the desk. If that person is a hiring manager and you’re in the middle of a big job interview, politics could be the deadly third rail of your job search.

It might seem strange that a conviction you hold so dear — whether it’s about the war in Iraq or Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest attempt to make New York City healthier — can actually be so offensive to someone else, but experts say that job seekers shouldn’t take that risk, especially on a job interview where you’re being scrutinized on everything you say.

“Unless it has some specific role in the job you’re applying for, I think it has no place in the conversation,” said Loeb, who used to work as a political strategist in the cutthroat world of Boston politics.

Everybody has their own beliefs, and one person’s passion could be another’s angst. A recent poll shows that politics separate Americans more than anything else in the county, including race and class. “We are such a divided country right now,” Loeb said.

In an election year, this polarization gets even more extreme, and it’s best to avoid political topics — especially the stickier ones such as healthcare, gun control and abortion rights. Sometimes, just the mention of a topic can put off a recruiting manager even if you didn’t mean to express a point of view.

For instance, the phrase ‘Obamacare’ has been absorbed into the American vocabulary as a synonym for the controversial Affordable Care Act. However, its roots come from the heated political debate surrounding the passage of the law, and use of the phrase can be construed as having a negative opinion on the law itself — depending how you say it. “I think it depends on what tone you use when you say ‘Obamacare,’ ” Loeb said. “Ninety percent of all communication is nonverbal.”

Other seemingly benign phrases can squash your hopes of a new job as well. “Conversations can get touchy when people start talking about taxes,” Loeb said. “Sometimes that gets into talking about military spending.” She added that even non-political personal matters can create unwanted friction between an applicant and a hiring manager.

“If you’re in a job interview, you don’t bring up what religion you are or how many children you have,” Loeb said. “There are some things that are not relevant.” A New Yorker living in Boston, Loeb joked that even some sports feuds, such as the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, can touch on sensitive areas and should be handled carefully during a job interview. But when it comes to your personal politics, she said it’s best to save that for the voting booth.

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3 comments

Trailers #permalink

this is funny. why would anyone want to talk politics in an interview? ok if its something related to that field than its acceptable, if not you are just making a fool out of yourself

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Alexander Jade #permalink

Just remember, the only reason for the job interview is to assess a person's suitability for employment. There is no reason to address anything else.

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philharmonic #permalink

Just like on a first date, don't discuss politics.

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