After you have read the articles on our site, you may have a question like this for us:
“Dear Job Interview Board,
I have noticed that in response to some interview questions, you asked us not to highlight our failures or not to mention our decisions that resulted in a mess which were handled successfully. Are you advising us to hide? Is it not good to be honest about our mistakes, especially if they were handled successfully?”
Glad you asked that question.
Before we answer that question, we have a question for you. When you see a glass half-filled with water you say it is ‘half full’ and someone else may say it is ‘half empty’ does it mean that one of you is lying or concealing?
That is not the case, right?
Same thing goes true with the way you respond to questions at an interview. You say that you want to mention a situation that caused the mess which was later handled successfully. Would you repeat that same mistake again?
An average individual will try not to but there is no guarantee that you will not repeat the mistake. After all, did Paulo Coelho not remind us that “A thing that happens once can happen again, but a thing that happens twice will happen third time for sure” [paraphrased].
Your interviewer will be thinking in exactly those lines. In your mind you are being honest but interviewer’s mind is thinking ‘is there a chance that he/she would do that again?’. Since most people have natural affinity toward imagining the negative and worst, chances are he/she is thinking Paulo Coelho’s line.
After that brief elaboration, we say that we are not asking you to conceal anything, all we are asking you to do is present the good parts of your learning process. Everyone has 10 good stories for one bad story but we only pay attention to the bad ones. All we are saying is indulge in those 10 good stories for now.
What is important – the issue that caused the mess or the lesson you learned from the experience? How does it matter if you say that “there was a situation that resulted in so and so, but this is what we ‘as a team’ learned from it”, without saying that YOU caused the situation. Are you concealing? We hope not.
All you are doing is telling your interviewer that you have seen a lot and learned a lot. That is what your interviewer wants to hear.
Intelligent people don’t wait to experience everything by themselves, they also learn from others mistakes and failures. All you are doing by highlighting what you learned from others experience is showcasing you are an intelligent person and not the dumb ass who caused all the issues in the first place.
Is that lying?
Take an example, say you were let go from the company because of the economy. As we stated earlier, in most cases, the employer will not reveal that during the verification/background check. However, you being honest during the interview state that you were let go. Do you think Interviewer congratulates your honesty? The first thing that strikes his/her mind is ‘why was he/she let go?’.
The question that pops in interviewer’s head is not ‘why you were let go’ or ‘that economy is bad’, but the question in his/her mind would be why were ‘YOU’ let go?
If I was interviewing you and you were let go – as an interviewer – I don’t want to know unless it is because of disciplinary action. What I do want to know is that you are talented and that after I hire you – you will do your job well. Any information beyond that is a noise in my perspective. However, if you tell me that you were fired before – I will be very skeptical in offering you an opportunity.
Point is to keep your conversation at the interview to the ‘necessary’ and ‘required’ and excluding everything that is not required or requested.
There is, however, one caveat – if you think that your previous employer will reveal the fact of letting you go (you can check with your ex-HR about this) then yes, you absolutely have to come out clean.
I have seen, personally, some interviews just breeze through without ever asking you ‘why do you want to leave your job’. If you happen to be in one of those interviews then you have no reason to bring the topic of your ‘letting go’.