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The Dirtiest Job Interview Tricks

Recently I wrote an article that generated a lot of comments; some good and some not so good. There were a couple of examples in “10 Most Common Illegal Interview Questions” which I added to give a real world perspective, however it came across to SOME as justification to discrimination. That was not the intent. I will be more clear and deliberate in my real world examples going forward. This conversation continues here on the SmartRecruiting blog with the dirty tactics and tricks that I’ve heard of interviewers wrongfully using, and more importantly, how jobseekers should defend themselves.


The biggest interview trick that interviewees fall usually occur during the “small talk” of the interview. Small talk? Yes, small talk. Most of us feel better about our chances of getting the job when the interviewer engages in casual conversation. It’s a great way to break the ice and put someone at ease. Most of us get a little nervous before and during an interview so we look for affirmations that we are connecting with the interviewer; small talk is a great indicator that you’ve made a connection.

But there is a fine line with small talk. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the conversation is purely professional and relevant. It’s nearly impossible to tell if they use small talk as a way to get you rambling on about things. Here are some examples of which you should be careful of:

The Compliment

So you walk in and the interviewer compliments your suit, or your shoes, or your bag, or jewelry, what should you say? Well the simple answer is “Thanks” but some people tend to say more. “Oh, it’s Gucci,” or “Yeah, its Versace and its awesome,” or “Yes it’s expensive but it’s worth it” Do not go into the name brands and the costs. Just say “thank you” and refocus them back to the interview.

Another trick that I want the female readers to watch out for is the compliments on the wedding or engagement ring. I had a job seeker client who went to an interview and the person said, “Wow! That’s a nice ring; your husband must really love you?” She smiled and said “Yes,” then the person said something like “Seriously, that’s a nice ring, what does your husband do?” Now, that’s not an illegal question, but it made my client feel uncomfortable. She wasn’t sure if she was being judged based on her wedding ring? Should she have taken the ring off? Should she be embarrassed because of the ring? Does the interviewer feel she does not need the job?

Whenever an interviewer asks a question like that, or makes a comment like that, the best thing to do is to bring them back to the interview itself. Here’s some suggestions to manage this brand of small talk.

“Oh wow that’s a nice ring?”

“Thank you.”

“You must really be loved to have a rock like that, huh?”

“Well, thank you again,” or “I appreciate the compliment and thank you for taking time to meet with me. I’m looking forward to discussing this job opportunity with you.”

You refocus them back to the interview.

Family Matters

We’re all proud of our families – the kids, the dogs, the life – sometimes it doesn’t take much to get someone talking about their family. When an interviewee starts to ramble on, an interviewer can gain a “wealth” of knowledge which could be used against the jobseeker (or in a court case against the employer). We all know that you are not supposed to be asked about family, but often times an interviewer will talk about their family which just invites a person to engage in a conversation about their own family. It’s hard to tell if it’s merely conversation or interrogation.

I once knew a hiring manager who had no kids of his own; however he had a picture of himself and his nieces and nephews on his desk. Whenever he had an interview scheduled, he would have to picture facing the interviewee, and usually they would look at and say “Oh is that your family?” and he would just smile and nod and the interviewee would the talk about their family. It was a trick and it “worked.” So try not to engage in conversations which do not pertain to the interview. Don’t comment on pictures or items in the room and don’t disclose things from your own personal life. Refocus the interviewer back to the business at hand – the job interview.


chris fieldsChris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who also helps job seekers write great resumes. Photo Credit EQcomics’ Dan Long.

SmartRecruiters is the hiring platform with everything you need to source talent, manage candidates, and make the right hires. Check out more interview tips on our blog.

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who blogs and dispenses great (not just good) advice at Cost of Work & ResumeCrusade.