While every past position hasn’t necessarily been a dream job, chances are you’ve had a bad experience or two in your employment history. From bad bosses to policies that don’t make sense, you probably have quite a few stories…but how you handle those experiences during a job interview could be essential to determining whether or not you land the job.
Careful handling of past job experiences is key.
Interviewers will expect you to come prepared to discuss past employers and positions, so careful preparation and handling of any bad experiences can make the difference between starting your new job and submitting another resume. Here are five tips to help you get through the discussion with flying colors:
- Be honest. It can be awfully tempting to gloss over a bad work experience in an attempt to impress interviewers, but this tactic can blow up in your face – and cause more damage than a tactful answer in the first place. Chances are your recruiter will speak with someone at your previous job and understand that it wasn’t the best situation. Be ahead of the game by sharing honest feedback on your previous experience.
- But not too honest. An overview of past experiences – good or bad – can help give interviewers a well-rounded look into your background and how you’ve handled challenging situations. But while honesty is important, be sure to avoid giving too much information during a job interview. A high-level explanation of the challenges in a previous workplace, and how you overcame them, is more than enough to paint an accurate picture for recruiters. Going into more detail can open up additional questions that are uncomfortable and lead to unnecessary details.
- Avoid negativity. While honesty is important, tact and class are especially critical. Never (ever!) speak negatively about an individual in your previous workplace (or about an employer in general). While you can mention that you didn’t “have the strongest relationship” with a specific colleague, refrain from getting into blame or personal attacks during a job interview. Sometimes coworkers or bosses and employees don’t get along. It happens to many people, and if you speak about it with honesty while staying professional, you will make a much stronger impression.
- Find something positive. While you may not have had the best experience at a previous employer, chances are there was something positive you gained from the experience. Maybe they provided you with opportunities to grow your skill set. Or perhaps their flexible work arrangements helped create a better environment. Tying in something positive about the employer – despite your overall negative experience – demonstrates your willingness to learn and stay objective in difficult situations.
- Talk about your other jobs. Once you’ve given a high-level, honest overview of your experience and the positives you gleaned from it, move on. Put the emphasis more on your positive experiences and how they’ve prepared you for the specific career opportunity discussed in your interview. If you focus too much attention on the negative experience, it could end up being the most memorable part of your interview (for the wrong reasons). Instead, get to the details and move on to help tell your story and show why you’re the best fit for the job.
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