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5 Things You Should Never Do During An Interview

August 21, 2017

Can you keep a secret? What would you say if it’s just between the two of us? What would you share if it’s off the record? Maybe you’d talk about how terrible your competition’s products are. Maybe you’d complain about your boss, your coworkers or even your spouse. After all, none of this is part of the official interview. Everything’s in the clear, right?


Despite what you think, everything you say or do before, during and after an interview is fair game to a journalist. Before you know it, that one little unimportant quote becomes the biggest headline.

How is that fair? Aren’t journalists breaking their promise? Have they been luring me into a trap? Well, that’s not exactly the case. Most of the time, they can in fact get away with it, and here’s why.

1. Going off record doesn’t mean what you think it does.

Words can easily be misunderstood. Going off the record means a lot of things to different people. To some, it means they can use the information without citing you as the source. If it’s something known to only a handful of people, it’s not hard to pinpoint where the “anonymous” quote is from.

Even if journalists agree not to publish that information from you, that’s not going to stop them from using it as a tip. If they can find someone else willing to confirm it, then they’re going to write about it. While you’re not the one on print, the story has already been leaked to the public.

2. Anything you say can be quoted.

A journalist’s mind is an encyclopedia. Even if the recorder is turned off, don’t let your guard down. Just because they’re not writing it down in a notebook doesn’t mean they’re not storing information in their heads. Remember they’re always on the move. They’re trained to spot details and soak it in like a sponge.

3. Words can easily be misunderstood.

Maybe you’re just making small talk. Maybe you just want to unload something off your chest. Either way, it’s not always easy to draw the line between personal and public information. If you’re sharing it, the default mindset is that you want to broadcast it.

A journalist has more in common with a detective than you think. It’s not because they’re deliberately setting you up. They just want to know details. It’s important for the story, and it’s what serves their audience best. If they don’t uncover facts, then what good is writing news stories?

4. It’s hard to take back what’s already been said.

Even if you manage to pull down an unwanted quote, what’s done has been done. Information moves at lightning speeds, and with a click of a button, it can easily be screen-shared and sent to thousands. By then, it’s already too late. Sure, they can write an apology and republish a different story, but they can never undo it. Sometimes even damage control can add fuel to the fire sparking unwanted gossip and attention.

5. You can connect without revealing too much.

Before you get the wrong idea, you don’t have to be paranoid. Nobody is saying you shouldn’t be open and friendly. Just don’t say anything unless you want to be quoted for it. Always assume everything you do is within the record.

While this may seem like common sense, many people still don’t follow it and face dire consequences. Nobody is limiting your self-expression and your ability to voice opinions. When you speak, be aware of how you phrase things. Don’t let the false security of going off the record lull you into saying something you might later regret.

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