Just as a mountain biker would watch out for potholes on a dirt trail, there are 3 interview pitfalls every job seeker should be prepared to navigate. I ride mountain bikes a lot, as you can see from the above photo. Many trails are nice and well graded, but some are rough and bumpy and uneven, especially after a good rain. My time spent on rough trails was initially unenjoyable, until I learned where the various ruts and bumps were, and either avoided them or approached them in a more cautious manner.
Well, what does that have to do with my job search? I have found that otherwise strong job candidates can get tripped up by a pitfall that they do not see coming. Here are 3 interview pitfalls you may want to be aware of as you search for a job:
The employment gap. Many times, recruiters or employers will ask about a gap in employment on a resume, especially if it was a long gap or a recent gap. If the answer is not adequate or prepared, the employer may hesitate in moving forward. This particular pitfall is especially true in down economic times, or if you are re-entering the job market after a season of not working for personal reasons. Make sure you inform the employer about how you used the time productively. (For some tips about how to do this well, read this article.)
The termination. Employers may ask about why you left certain jobs, and for some, the topic of termination will come up. What you want to do above all else is be honest. Reference checks can uncover things that you may have tried to hide, and perceived dishonesty is almost always a deal-breaker. Make sure to humbly inform them you were terminated, and while you don’t need to go over all the gory details, I’d encourage you to close with what you learned. Perhaps your boss was unfit to be a manager, or the role and company were not a fit for you. Whatever the case, tell them generally what happened, and close with what you learned to make you a better employee in the future.
The previous employer. Companies will ask about previous employers and previous positions, often times in an open-ended way. I’ve had clients ask candidates what their favorite and least favorite jobs were and why. The important principle is that you never want to say something negative about a previous employer. If you sound disgruntled and bitter about a previous employer, many companies will be skeptical that you may be disgruntled and bitter towards your next employer as well. Again, I’d advise that when you speak of things that were low points in your career, always put a positive spin on the situation. What YOU learned is a much better focus than what you feel your employer did wrong.
So, while you must focus on your strengths and accomplishments while preparing for an interview, I’d encourage you to also identify these 3 interview pitfalls or others in your resume that might come up. Being prepared to honestly and tactfully address those questions will help keep you on the right trail.
Our operations manager, Barrett, takes on a jump, and my fellow recruiter Jason shows his skills.
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