Interview Tips: Turn a negative work experience into a positive one

Let’s face it, many of us find it incredibly cathartic to let off steam by having ‘a right good moan’ but is an interview the right place to do it?

LinkedIn blog - positive or negative

As a headhunter we sometimes find ourselves in interviews with potential candidates listening to a list of reasons why they aren’t enjoying their current roles – it could be about poor leadership from above, a perception that their product hasn’t evolved fast enough to remain competitive or that they feel that colleagues aren’t pulling their weight. Whilst there’s no doubt that these might all be justifiable reasons to leave, should they be things that you talk about in an interview?

To answer this you need to ask yourself a couple of simple questions. Firstly, even if the issues are completely justified, is there a risk that you may come across as a negative individual and in the worst case scenario be viewed by an interviewer as a part of the problem? Secondly, does talking about these negative issues actually serve to improve the impression of yourself that you want to convey? In short, do you gain anything by talking about the negatives?

It’s worth pointing out here that there is clearly a difference between an interview with your recruiter and an interview with a potential employer. Of course it makes sense to tell your recruiter which aspects of your current role are forcing you to consider leaving because clearly you don’t want to repeat the experience in your next role. That said, our experience is that often those who get into the habit of bemoaning their current situation with us often repeat the performance when they meet with potential employers. There is no doubt that this is a mistake and it will damage your chances of landing your dream job.

Our advice here, even if you are leaving a role that genuinely does have problems, is to do your very best to find a positive way to position the narrative. Let’s look at some basic examples to clarify the point:

  • Rather than talking about having a poor product to sell why not highlight instead that you’ve really had to develop and hone your sales skills in order to keep up with your bigger name competitors.
  • Rather than talk about a lack of direction from your leadership team, focus instead on how autonomous your role is and how much you’ve enjoyed developing your decision making skills.

It’s a simple fact that people will tend to be drawn to those who are able to take positive experiences from negative situations. In fact, arguably, you might be seen as an even better applicant for the role BECAUSE of the hurdles you’ve had to overcome. Being able to demonstrate success from adversity might just be your most powerful play.



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