by Joe Turner
Here’s the scenario:
You’re about to have a phone screen or even a face-to-face interview.
Problem… (Pick one)
- You’ve been out of work a long time, (a gap in your work history).
- You were terminated (fired) from your last job ( or any job).
- You had a worker’s comp claim filed.
- Your skill level in a particular area may be a little weak.
- You have a criminal record, a misdemeanor or even a felony conviction.
- You have some other skeleton in the closet that the employer will find out about and you just know that this vulnerability will become an issue.
How do you address this vulnerability?
Do you address it?
Consider a job interview or a phone screen a “discovery process” where the interviewer is attempting to uncover strengths as well as weaknesses. They will uncover weaknesses. It’s their job. So rest assured, if you have any skeletons in your closet, they’ll eventually come out. Many of us harbor a skeleton or two in our backgrounds. Most are no big deal. Some, however, can become major showstoppers to a job offer.
If you have a skeleton in your work history, consider this technique:
Don’t wait for a major objection to come up in the interview. Instead, go on the offense and use a sales technique in which you brag about your vulnerability. I learned this sales technique years ago from a very wise and successful salesman, and it works.
Here a simple example to demonstrate my point: Let’s say you’re selling a car, but the car has a dent in the left rear fender. One approach is to show the car and pretend it doesn’t exist, hoping perhaps that the prospective buyer won’t notice it. But of course, he or she does. The buyer brings the dent up as an objection at the end, and you’re left to explain it. You’re now on the defensive, and it’s hard to regain any high ground. At this point, the only thing that’s on the mind of the buyer is this dent and possibly the fact that you tried to hide it. End of discussion. No sale.
Alternatively, try this approach:
The seller greets the prospective buyer and begins to talk about the wonderful benefits of this car. But then he stops and says “However, there is one small thing I want to point out right now.” He then leads the buyer over to the left side of the car, points out the dented fender, and says, “As you can plainly see, there is a dent in this fender.” As the buyer looks it over, there is the human tendency to assess it up front and minimize it. He or she will often say something like “Yes, but it’s not that bad. Tell me about the rest of the car.” The seller now resumes showing the car, and the dent has receded in the buyer’s mind as a major objection. Of course, if the dent were a big problem, the buyer will likely say so at this point. The presentation will be done and little time was wasted on either side.
Final Thoughts on Job Interview Success
You can use this same approach in your upcoming interviews. Much like the dent in the fender, you already know that “no longer working” and “why such a long time between jobs” or whatever your vulnerability, will be discovered and brought up as an objection. Therefore, at your next interview, brag about your vulnerability instead. In other words, take the initiative to bring this sore spot up near the beginning of the interview. The benefits you gain are that you retain the control; you get to tell your story without feeling defensive. You’ll also earn respect for being open and honest. Most importantly, the employer can determine if, in fact, this point really is a deal-breaker. If it is, at the very least, you’ll know early on and you won’t be wasting further time with this prospective employer. If not, however, you can move on to the rest of the interview. You now know you’re a genuine candidate with a shot at an offer since the employer can’t legitimately use this vulnerability as an excuse later on as a reason for rejection.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
As a recruiter, Joe Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their career. He makes it easy for anyone to find and land the job they really want all on their own in the shortest time possible. Discover more insider job-search secrets.