Talking About Sensitive Personal Issues in Interviews (Sexual Abuse)

Is it ever okay to talk about personal issues in interviews if they are relevant to the question and a big part of who you are?

One of my greatest strengths is resilience. This is because I've gone through a lot in the last ten years and the last few in particular.

When I was 9 I was sexually abused. I told nobody for ten years and I let it eat away at me. I went through the PTSD, nightmares, depression, self harm and attempted suicide all alone. After graduating high school I finally came forward and started therapy and taking medication.

I have since realized that this experience is a big part of who I am. Not only am I still alive, but I managed to keep my act together and perform in high school and so far into college (sophomore). This experience has made me realize that I can take on anything life throws at me because of the hardship I've had to deal with.

If an interviewer asks me something like "What is an example of adversity/obstacles/hardship you've gone through?" is it okay to answer with this story?

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Comments (21)

Jan 17, 2019

no, this is not appropriate, and will most likely get you dinged for not understanding that.

when asked about overcoming obstacles, interviewers are looking for things relating to professional activities (how to deal with a group member not pulling their weight, how to deal with a rude customer, how to make a decision with imperfect information, how to manage multiple competing priorities). This interview question is not just to learn how you overcome adversity, but also shows how you are able to determine what is appropriate to discuss in a professional setting, and what is not.

a job interview is not a therapy session....and if you treat it like one, you will get dinged for that.

just google it...you're welcome

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Jan 17, 2019

For a job interview, probably not the best topic to bring up as they are probably seeking more professional examples of certain skills/character traits.

Extreme personal stories like that are a bit of a heavy topic to discuss. Then again, I don't see any harm in projecting it in a positive way for much softer questions like "what motivates you" if you keep it broad enough (don't go into details).

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Jan 17, 2019

While I understand that this resilience defines your character, I would not mention it in an interview. Being completely realistic here, it could make your interviewers uncomfortable and get you dinged just because they don't wanna deal with that. Also, they could see this as a candidate trying to guilt them into hiring. While keeping stuff like this hidden sucks, it would not benefit you in a job hunt. Better to play it safe. I'm really sorry that you had to go through that btw, nobody should ever have to.

Dayman?

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Jan 17, 2019
AnonymousPoster23:

If an interviewer asks me something like "What is an example of adversity/obstacles/hardship you've gone through?" is it okay to answer with this story?

No.

There are things that we overcome in our lives that give the interviewer a good idea of how we are going to be able to overcome obstacles in the position. This doesn't sound like one of them.

Unless you're applying for a therapist role for abused children, talking about this subject is likely to put the interview on an odd note and any things you have to say about your major or career goals will probably be overshadowed by this comment. The interviewer basically has to give you high regards for getting through it, but might ding you for it (maybe for not fitting in, or saying comments out of place - not sure). Its great that you overcame these obstacles in the cards of life that were dealt to you, but you're going to want to focus a bit more on some obstacles that are a bit more transferable to the role.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Jan 17, 2019

The biggest struggles and motivators for myself in my personal life are things that I would never share in an interview setting. My suggestion as a professional is that you follow suit and find professional examples to cite.

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Jan 17, 2019

As others have said, for better or worse, this isn't a topic you want to introduce into a professional setting. You wouldn't share these intimate details to anyone else you barely know. Your interviewers are no different. If you bring this up to relative strangers in an interview, would you also bring this up to a client?

You say that what you want to convey is your resilience. Don't share the trauma that made you resilient; share examples of how you've used that resilience to tackle challenges in other aspects of your life.

Jan 17, 2019
HighlyClevered:

You say that what you want to convey is your resilience. Don't share the trauma that made you resilient; share examples of how you've used that resilience to tackle challenges in other aspects of your life.

Well said -

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

    • 1
Jan 17, 2019

dude...

thots and prayers

Jan 17, 2019

Part of growing up is knowing when certain jokes are appropriate and when they are not. A stand-up comedian getting edgy in front of a paid audience who knows what to expect is one thing. Responding directly to an actual survivor of something terrible so you can minimize it with a crude joke just makes you an asshole. There's a real human at the other end of this post. Try to pretend you know how to be one.

Jan 17, 2019

Did you even stop to think how your comment might make me feel? You can't just insult someone to their face on a forum and not expect real consequences. I'm a human too. Your words are cruel and I've reported you to the mods.

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time

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Jan 17, 2019

New to the forum and have had the unfortunate pleasure to read over some posts that you've attempted to troll on. I doubt OP was too ruffled by your little Rhianna lyric (really clever btw), but I wanted to recommend that you watch some edgy comedians or real life trolls on Youtube. Generally, comics are pretty witty and intelligent people, which I suppose shows why you aren't very good at trolling/getting reactions. Good luck in your troll endeavors , hope this helps

    • 1
Jan 17, 2019

"You're not very good at getting reactions"

Proceeds to give me a great reaction

THE IRONY

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time

    • 1
Jan 17, 2019

lmao child

Dayman?

Most Helpful
Jan 17, 2019

As others have stated here, a job interview is not the time or place for this level of candor. While close friends and family or others in your life can, in the appropriate and relevant context, appreciate your sharing of such difficulties and how you persevered in spite of them... in an interview setting, there is really no way that the broaching of such an intimately personal and difficult topic will benefit you in the recruiting process.

More than likely, it will make the interviewer uncomfortable. Add to that, it makes the interviewer question your ability to keep things impersonal and professional, especially when you're at the nascent stage of introducing yourself and your skills to a potential employer. Plus you don't want them to potentially pity you or view you in any other way than a viable, skilled, willing-to-learn candidate for the job at hand.

If you start the doubtful/do-I-ding-them-or-not process that each interviewer has, you're basically ruining your chances before you start.

I admire and appreciate that you are willing to ask a really tough question about how appropriate this particularly difficult and painful experience is to discuss in a job interview setting. I hope you can come up with a way where you can indeed illustrate your personal perseverance, resilience and fortitude.

Kudos to you for sharing your story and your question here, even anonymously, it can't be an easy thing to address and share.

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Jan 18, 2019

Just to add to a very good reply - you also have to bear in mind that you will (hopefully) end up working with whoever is interviewing you.

In general, I tell my family and personal stuff to a few selected ones. If you spill the beans during the interview stage, everyone in the office will label you after your interview, regardless of whether you get the job or not.

While I respect you for sharing and wanting to share your story further, I doubt this is the right time. As others have said, try and look for situations where this experience has helped you become who you are. Taking ownership of being a sexual abuse victim and pursuing a career in finance (i'm assuming), shows character.

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Jan 17, 2019

The simple answer: Absolutely fucking not.

The longer answer: Absolutely fucking not. However, you should not have had to go through that and I'm glad you came out on the other side stronger. That's an awful thing to have happened and I hope justice is served.

Jan 18, 2019

I knew a guy who tangled with the wrong crowd growing up and spent some time in the sandbox upon turning 18. He got his GED behind the wall and found he actually liked learning. He got out and was accepted to the crappiest for profit college you can imagine (only school who would take him in all honesty). During this time he took a large active role in a nonprofit organization mentoring at risk youth.

When he spoke of his involvement in this nonprofit during interviews, the writing on the wall was pretty clear that he came from a troubled past too.