We all know what to avoid in order to stay or get employed – a bad attitude, inappropriate clothing, swearing and laziness to name a few.
However, employers may also be looking at less traditional criteria when deciding whether to hire or fire you.
Here, we dissect the lesser-known career taboos that could make the difference between keeping and losing your job.
Playing it safe
When it comes to job interviews safe answers won’t always work.
“I will cross someone off straight away if I get a textbook answer,” Anne-Marie Orrock, director of Corporate Canary HR Consulting, says.
Questions like ‘What are you greatest weaknesses?’ aren’t designed to highlight your faults but rather to reveal your nature – many employers will know when you’re omitting the truth.
“As an employer, you’re not looking for weaknesses you’re looking for quality of character,” Ms Orrock says.
Be straight down the line and honest – it shows self-awareness.
Being too private
For so long employees have been discouraged from bringing their personal life into the office, but closing yourself off could actually be detrimental to your future.
“What’s becoming more acceptable is talking about feelings and family issues and being willing to discuss them with your manager or Human Resources,” Ms Orrock says.
Sally-Anne Blanshard, director and coach at Nourish Coaching, says, when appropriate, to be open about your family and how you spend your spare time.
“Also, if you become insular about your worries then there’s no one there to support you when you’re in trouble,” Ms Blanshard says.
It’s not your skills, it’s you
Often, even the most on-paper perfect candidate will miss out on a job just because of who they are.
Ms Orrock says she has interviewed many people who are perfect on their CV, but “you just know they’re the wrong fit for the organisation”.
“It doesn’t come down to discriminatory things – most trained interviewers look past that – it’s just you know they wouldn’t fit with the team. Psychological profiling tools substantiate that.”
A culture of long hours with no breaks is not only terrible for your health, Ms Blanshard says it also raises alarm bells in the eyes of your employer.
“The people that are always good at what they do get out of their desks at lunch, go for a run and balance all of their pressures,” she says.
“If you often work late it may suggest you’re not getting enough work done during the day and there’s something wrong.”
Having a really, really long resume
A lengthy resume could be a sign of a career well spent – or it could suggest flightiness and unreliability.
“You don’t want to be chopping and changing every six to 12 months because it looks like you don’t have a conscious career plan,” Ms Blanshard says.
While there may be a shift in perspective as Generation Y move into management roles, traditional employers still see a long CV and assume instability.
Being a quiet achiever
Modesty might be a desirable quality in your personal life, but in the office it could mean you’re completely ignored.
“Employers want engaged employees. It’s about putting your hand up in meetings, contributing and selling yourself,” Ms Blanshard says.
Lying low could earn you respect from your peers but it will also mean you’re easily forgotten.
“You want to be memorable,” Ms Blanshard adds. “If you’re not being discussed at board tables in relation to opportunities, you’re not memorable.”
Taking too many sick days
“Patterns crop up and people aren’t silly,” Ms Blanshard warns of faking it.
Unfortunately, the realm of sick leave is a difficult one to navigate so make sure you follow protocol.
“People can make a snap judgment,” Ms Orrock says of repeated absences.
As an employee, it’s better to be self-aware and proactive and admit that you’re struggling.