My Job History Is Spotty — What Do I Say In An Interview?!?!

How to Spin Negatives Into Positives During Your Interview: The Do’s and Don’ts

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Chances are you may run into a few tricky interview questions when someone asks you about potentially negative things regarding your past experiences or personality traits. For example, one of the most common interview questions is “What is your greatest weakness?” How you approach unfavorable traits and situation, such as a personality flaw, shows a lot about your character and attitude. That is why interviewers ask these tricky questions in the first place. Learn how to turn negatives into positives to win the day and earn that coveted position.

Do: Be Honest

Above all, be honest with the people in front of you. Give your interviewers an honest and real assessment of your feelings on every negative matter they discuss. If anything, a frank way of explaining your personality earns points. An HR manager worth his salt can usually pick up on your nonverbal cues and tell if you are lying. Therefore, it’s best just to be honest.

Don’t: Lie

Absolutely don’t lie about any answer in an interview. If you say your greatest weakness is procrastination and a former supervisor gives you a glowing review of how you always got tasks done early, then your interviewers are going to wonder why you said you had trouble staying on task and on target. Don’t lie about anything on your application or resume, either. When your future employer digs deeper into your skills, qualifications, education and previous employment, everything should correlate to your information. Otherwise, your prospective employer may believe you are willing to lie to your supervisor and co-workers.

Do: Say How You Learned From a Weakness

Everyone has a greatest weakness, so interviewers expect you to answer that question in some fashion. Turn that negative into a positive by saying how you overcome the weakness. For instance, you might say you wait until the last minute to turn in assignments, but you learn to do things more efficiently for next time. Take your negative trait and turn it into something positive.

Don’t: Say You Have No Weaknesses

Everyone has weaknesses. Instead of claiming you don’t have one, choose your best weakness and explain it. For example, you could say that your greatest weakness is that you self-criticize too much. However, you can turn this into a strength by saying you carefully review things before finishing your work.

Do: Explain Employment Gaps

You had some employment gaps which you listed on your resume. Be honest about your time away from work, but make sure you filled in the gaps with something active. Volunteer at a local organization for a few hours per week, and ask your volunteer supervisor to vouch for you. Freelance during your downtime, but make sure you have a portfolio ready to show off the freelance work that you performed. If you became a stay-at-home parent, turn your unemployment into a leadership position with your child’s PTA at school. There are many opportunities to turn the negative of a layoff into an opportunity for a good reference.

Don’t: Say or Do Nothing

When someone asks you to explain any gaps in employment, don’t say you have no explanation. Find something you can say that relates to what you did during that time, such as you evaluated your career choices or you took some time off to assess your life. If you have negative and bitter feelings about that time in your professional career, try to fend off those feelings by the time you walk into the interview room.

Do: Maintain a Positive Attitude Throughout the Interview

If someone asks, “Why were you fired from Acme Brick?” you can still answer this question with a positive attitude. Smile and succinctly state how you were let go from Acme Brick. Turn this into a positive by saying what you learned from the experience, such as “I realized that my firing led me to examine my next career move in great detail.” This represents a decent way to show how you became a better person after your firing.

Don’t: Say Negative Things About Others

Never say anything negative about a former boss, company or co-workers. Even if you had the worst experience and your former supervisor was the meanest person on the planet, find something positive to say about the person or don’t say anything at all. When you make positive statements about everyone else, it shows you are a team player with a positive attitude.

The best ways to overcome any negative aspects of your personality or past experiences includes practicing and preparing. Learn how to express a negative feeling with a smile on your face. Maintain an even keel throughout the interview to capture the attention of your interviewers and to demonstrate to them what an optimistic and favorable outlook you would bring to their company.

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Do your interview skills pass the test?  Do you need some assistance in improving your interview persona?  If so, contact a Career Counselor with Lexacount Search’s Career Consulting Services.  If you are interested in learning more about finance and accounting industry opportunities, contact a Search Consultant from Lexacount Search’s Finance Group.  Or, if you are interested in attorney or other roles in the legal industry, contact a Search Consultant from Lexacount Search’s Legal Group.


By Lexacount Search

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Lexacount Search is a boutique recruiting and staffing company, focusing on permanent placement for legal and accounting professionals. We place attorneys, paralegals, accountants, and contract specialists with law firms and corporations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and nationwide. Equidistant from New York and Washington, D.C., our offices are located in suburban Philadelphia. Our search consultants have a range of experiences as lawyers, paralegals, law clerks, accountants and accounting clerks. These backgrounds make our consultants uniquely qualified to match your skills and career goals with permanent positions with our clients. Whether you are a lawyer, paralegal, law clerk, accountant, accounting clerk or other skilled professional, Lexacount will provide you with a variety of available career opportunities.

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