Do I Discuss Past Mental Health Issues During a Job Interview?
Q. I am extremely sensitive and it’s not helping me in my life. I am a recovering alcoholic (8 years sober) and had a nervous breakdown four years ago where I checked myself into a psychiatric institute for treatment which lasted three weeks. The triggers were my divorce and for the breakdown; the illness and subsequent death of my dad.
In between those times, I have managed to clock up some professional time and some studies but now as I live in a very small town; I am afraid that either my reputation during my drinking days and my nervous breakdown (it really is a small town) or my hyper sensitivity stops me from getting a good job and having a relationship.
I feel ashamed, a failure and react to every perceived or real slight by either resigning from the relationship/job or sinking into depression.
I am about to go for an interview and I’m wondering if I should tell the prospective employer that I have had these problems as she’s bound to find out. Many thanks.
A. You are very welcome. As a general rule, the less you tell others about your personal life the better. The more people know about you the more they may use this information against you. Unfortunately, people tend to be judgmental. The less they know about you the less they will have to judge you for.
With regard to a potential employer, I would suggest not revealing this information during a job interview unless you are absolutely certain that your potential employer will acquire negative information about you from others. If you know for sure that potential harmful information will be shared with your potential employer you might want to clarify these facts during your interview but otherwise, it is better not to reveal details of past events regarding your personal life during your interview.
If the interviewer asks if you have even been arrested and you have, then you should be honest. If the potential employer asks you during the interview if you have had past legal troubles and you have, then you should say yes to this but to bring up these matters unprompted has no real benefit for you. It is never advisable to present negative aspects about yourself willingly. A potential employer is looking to hire the most qualified person for the job. If you present yourself as being qualified but “still having problems” that you’re “trying to work through” you most likely will decrease your chances of being offered the job. You may think that you’re being honest by presenting both the positive and negative aspects of yourself during the interview but your potential employer may not see it this way. Your goal during a job interview should be to highlight your strengths and positive qualities rather than your past mistakes or indiscretions.
Maybe part of you feels that is necessary or required of you to reveal this negative information about yourself, almost as a way of punishing yourself for your past mistakes. If you feel this way, then you may be being too harsh on yourself. Please realize that everyone makes mistakes. No one is perfect. Yes, maybe you used to have a “drinking problem” but you also have worked very diligently to improve yourself and correct your past errors in judgment. You mentioned in your letter that you have eight years of sobriety and have attended treatment weekly (and sometimes four times a week) for the past 18 years. You are to be commended for your efforts.
I hope your interview goes well and please remember, don’t offer negative information about yourself without being prompted to do so. Answer honestly but also try to emphasize your strengths. Good luck.
Randle, K. (2008). Do I Discuss Past Mental Health Issues During a Job Interview?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 4, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/08/11/what-the-best-way-to-handle-past-mental-health-issues-during-job-interview/