Taboo Topics: What to Do When You Don’t Know What To Say

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Imagine your excitement as you get the call requesting you to come in for an interview after passing your resume around to what seemed like every recruiter and potential employer in town. Think about the anticipation that builds as you get dressed in your best business attire, catch every red light on your way to the office (that always seems to happen, doesn’t it?), and then search for the right office in the building. Picture yourself hastily turning your cell phone on silent and walking, calm and collected, through the doors to what you hope will be your future workplace. This scenario is both adrenaline and anxiety producing, but it’s something that every job hunter goes through to find that perfect position.

What are you to do, then, when your excitement gives way to panic as the interviewer, ten minutes into your meeting, turns the topic of conversation away from your resume and to your favorite political candidate in the upcoming elections? Though this may come off as a highly unprofessional move on behalf of the interviewer, the truth is that some companies are actually using taboo topics to gauge your performance under pressure – and your ability to shape your answers to their company’s views.

Unfortunately, politics isn’t the only taboo topic that these interviewers will choose from. So, what should you do if you are asked a question that would traditionally never be discussed in an interview? How should you respond to make yourself seem competent, confident, and discreet? Below is a list of taboo topics that you may run in to, and how to respond to them in good taste.


The question of politics is one that is better left unasked in an interview, naturally, but some companies want to push your buttons while you sit in the hot seat, so hiring managers ask the tough questions to pull you out of your shell and see if you have what it takes to work for their company. When this particular question arises there is one thing you most certainly don’t want to do, and that is get into a serious conversation about political ideology or the unimpressive candidates that are running this year.

Instead, you should play the part of the diplomat and spin the question into another direction. For example, if a political party you know is actively involved with a charity or organization that you believe in (one that is nonpartisan, of course), go ahead and say something to the effect of, “I love that the political world is looking outside its own sphere. Just yesterday I read that some prominent politicians are involved in my favorite charity! I love working with (name of charity); it allows me to share my skills with others while keeping my mind sharp and in the game.” Then go on to explain how the volunteer work you do actually strengthens your professional competency.


A deeply personal and oftentimes controversial matter, religion is one of those topics that you would assume interviewers would keep as far away from the conversation as possible. However, sometimes the topic does come up, especially when it comes to religious beliefs that may interfere with the expectations of the job.

The best way to respond to the topic of religion is to be respectful and voice a tolerance of others while remaining unwilling to discuss the issue in further detail. Remember that you want this job, but also remember that religious discrimination is still alive and well, unfortunately. Keeping a polite but neutral stance will allow you to answer the question without compromising your interview.

Remaining Professional

Basically, you want to answer any controversial question in a way that is strong yet noncommittal, so that you don’t end up offending a potential colleague. Remember that sometimes interviewers are trying to see if you can handle pressure, and that remaining composed and speaking clearly while spinning the discussion in an appropriate direction will get you much farther than becoming emotionally involved in the topic.

Keep in mind the fact that many interviewers are just as nervous as interviewees, especially if they are new or are under a lot of pressure to fill the position. Everyone gets a bit antsy when meeting new people, so do your best to make the conversation comfortable and you should be able to breeze through any taboo topics that arise.

A writer for, Terry Crenshaw interprets current economic trends. She traces the ideas of Peter Orszag and other leading experts relating to the economy and the healthcare industry.

{image: WrongWay}

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