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Transition Talk

by Mike Arsenault, Vice President of Candidate Services

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credit check of a military job seeker

Bradley-Morris answers questions from transitioning military job seekers.

Q: I was in an interview recently and the conversation veered toward politics. It was awkward and I had no idea how to respond. I looked it up and it doesn’t appear to be illegal to discuss my political views, but I felt uncomfortable.

I have two questions: First, how should I stop the conversation from continuing without hurting my chances for a job; and second, if I’m offered the job, should I say, “No”?

A:  You are correct. A person’s political views are not legally prohibited from being discussed during an interview. Granted, it can be awkward and perhaps inappropriate.

There are 10 categories that are prohibited by state and federal laws from being discussed or asked during a job interview. They are:

-Age

-Race/Color/National Origin

-Credit Rating or Economic Status

-Religious Affiliation or Beliefs

-Citizenship

-Sex

-Arrest and Conviction

-Disability

-Height and Weight

-Military Discharge Status

I completely understand your instinct not to engage in any political conversation in a civilian interview. Those are discussions you probably can’t win and your experience and skills might get lost amidst your personal political opinions.

If pressed on a particular issue, a tactic you could try might be along the lines of, “Truthfully, I really didn’t have much time while the military to focus on politics and the various viewpoints on different issues. I was more focused on taking care of my people and getting things done.”

Hopefully, you will find a way to steer the conversation back to what really matters during an interview - your skills and experiences as it relates to the position in question.

If your interview included significant inquiries into your political beliefs and you are subsequently offered the position, you need to determine how you see yourself fitting in with the company’s culture and/or working for someone who may have strong political views. Is this person your direct supervisor or not? Do you otherwise feel at home with the other members of the team that you’ve met? Are the views espoused by the person indicative of the surrounding community as a whole?

You shouldn’t discount the job just because there is someone who likes to talk politics, but you do need to consider whether the culture of the company and perhaps the community is a fit for you.

Mike Arsenault is Vice President of Candidate Services at military placement firm Bradley-Morris, Inc. He can be reached at (800) 330-4950 ext. 2105 or by email at marsenault (at) bradley-morris.com.

Return to September/October 2014 Issue