And if you're the one seeking the job... –

Although it's the employer that could face a lawsuit for asking the wrong kind of questions, make sure you don't hurt your chances for getting the job by revealing too much information about your personal life in an interview.

The purpose of a job interview is to assess a candidate's ability to do the job, says Danielle Caldwell, human resources manager for Banta Integrated Media in Cambridge, Mass. Oftentimes candidates offer personal information that could potentially harm their chances of getting the job.

"Sometimes you're thinking 'Stop, don't tell me anymore,' " says Jennifer Berger, senior recruiter with The Forum Corp., a training and consulting firm in Boston. Berger says she's usually looking for people who can think on their feet and address difficult questions without losing a professional tone. When a candidate insists on offering personal information, it negatively affects the interview.

Here are a few topics you should keep quiet about:

Negative experiences with a former employer. Even if you are positive you were in the right, the interview is not the place to discuss past employment problems.

  • Personal information. Discussing your family, friends and significant other diminishes your professionalism to the interviewer.
  • Money or credit problems. It's not legal for the employer to ask, so you certainly should not offer any potentially damaging information about how you need the salary.
  • Health issues. The employer should be doing the talking and telling you about benefits the company offers. Don't discuss what you need in health care.

One thing you should be prepared to discuss is your weaknesses. Nobody is perfect, so make sure you have some constructive criticism for yourself in case the interviewer asks you to identify your shortcomings.

Moreover, avoid "yes" or "no" answers. Interviewers want to see and hear you think constructively. Discuss previous experiences in which your input helped solve problems or give examples of how you developed a better way to do things.

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