Interviews: Sharing Too Much, or Not Enough?

During the interview process how do you gauge how much to disclose about yourself? When you decide what to disclose…when do you disclose it?

How you handle these decisions will have an effect on your interviews, your job, and your career. On the front lines of talent acquisition and retention I see the success of those who handle it well and the carnage in the careers of those who do not.

Explicit vs. Tacit Knowledge

To understand transparency, you must first understand the difference between what communication experts call tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it. With tacit knowledge, people are not often aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. Explicit knowledge is knowledge that has been articulated, codified, and stored in certain media. It can be readily transmitted to others.¹

Basically, tacit knowledge is what you can keep hidden and explicit knowledge is what is made public.

This holds especially true for the interview process, in which two parties engage in externalization (give) and internalization (take) to socialize (communicate with one another) their tacit information in combination with relevant explicit information. Failure to disclose certain tacit or explicit information by either or both parties will result in frustrated relationships with a high probability of breakdown.

What Should Be Made Explicit?

As a candidate, you are obligated to make explicit anything and everything that will affect your relationship with your future employer:

During the Application and Interview Process

  •         Truthful résumé
  •         Accuracy of all answers on applications and paperwork (especially questions about criminal, driving, past employers, and financial records)
  •         Honest answers to interview questions
  •         Unrehearsed references

Onboarding / Training

  •         Availability (planned vacations, family obligations such as the responsibility of care for a loved one)
  •         Refusal of a counter-offer
  •         Ease of relocation
  •         Realistic consideration of the time, stress and expense of a long daily commute

Cultural Fulfillment

  •         Do you truly believe in the company’s values, vision, mission, and policies?
  •         Are you coachable (receptive to training, criticism, and changing habits)?

In recent weeks I’ve seen two executive-level candidates come very close to losing golden opportunities in the post-offer stage because of how they handled the non-disclosure of tacit information. Neither case involved a dramatic revelation of a criminal past or résumé lies (both are candidates of solid character and professional reputation – experts in their field). The issues were quite mundane, having to do with a planned vacation and relocation logistics.

Neither employer had a problem with the issues themselves, but the candidates’ timing of disclosure caused a temporary breakdown. The bottom line: When you are engaging on a leader-to-leader level, both parties should expect mutual transparency on issues that will affect the relationship in the short- and long-term.

Upsides and Downsides of Candidate Interview Transparency

Upsides of Transparency (100% Explicit)Downsides from Lack of Transparency (Mix of Tacit and Explicit)
Solid Match of  Employer & CandidateMATCH…Especially values, skills and abilitiesMisaligned values, skills and abilities
Emotional Maturity of DecisionEmotionally mature decision;- transition will be easy- you will crave training- you will accept constructive criticism well

– you will find much in common with your new coworkers because you are willingly culturally yoked

Emotionally immature decision;- you won’t be able to keep up- you won’t desire coaching; you will instead reject it because you never bought into the company’s values, vision and mission- you will be prone to become a complainer, and eventually rebel against company leadership

– the relationship will end in failure for both parties

Ability to Fulfill the Job RequirementsChallenging position but not beyond your capacities (skill base, ability to receive training)Challenge beyond your capacities (skill base, ability to receive training)

An assumption made throughout this piece is that the employer is wholly functional and brings their tacit knowledge to the interview as well. If an employer fails to be transparent when you are, then they are at fault. The higher your emotional intelligence, the better you will be at accurately sensing a “transparency gap” during the interview process.

Successful employer-employee relationships are based on trust and sharing of common values (culture). Transparency will nurture that culturally-bonded relationship. We’ll look beyond interviews and hiring to being a trainee and mentoree next month with “Are You Coachable?”

Joseph D’Alessandro

About Joseph D’Alessandro

Joseph spent 15 years in leadership positions in hospitality operations before becoming a full-time executive recruiter in 2000. Joseph founded SHS in 2002 and has grown the business from a one-person outfit to a full team of dedicated experts.

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