How NOT to Talk About Your Last Job

No matter what job you’re interviewing for you will get questions about your most recent employer. 

This is a guarantee. 

We give lots of interview advice but I’ll take this moment to give one very specific piece of advice regarding how NOT to talk about past employers. 

In one word: NEGATIVELY

A job interview is not the place to air grievances about bad managers, terrible company culture, shady business practices, etc. etc. etc. Friends are great for this. 

But in a job interview, you’re not having a casual conversation with a friend. You’re trying to present yourself favorably. And one surefire way to make a negative first-impression is to bring heaps of negativity to the table. 

Consider this exchange I recently had with a job seeker:

“I see you left your last role after 1 year, tell me about it…”

“My manager was terrible,” the candidate replied with a bit of a laugh. 

Now, I appreciate the authenticity. I really do. But a big red flag has been raised. One thing every hiring manager is thinking about is, “How well does this person work with others?” 

With this response, I’m immediately unsure.  In some interview processes, this one negative answer could be enough to sink your candidacy. With a red flag on the table, now I’m looking for other red flags. Not only that but now we’re talking about a conflict between the candidate and their manager, not the candidate’s strengths, insights, accomplishments, etc. It’s a wasted opportunity.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that you can’t talk about negative experiences and what you learned from them. What I’m saying is do it positively. Control the message. 

Now, imagine the candidate who had a terrible manager said so positively, instead of negatively. For instance, “I learned the type of manager I want to work for.” 

Positioning your negative experience in terms of what you learned and why you’re interviewing for this new job shows maturity, self-awareness, and positivity. These are big pluses. 

Talking about the past can be tricky, especially if there’s been bumps in the road. But remember, a job interview is a first impression and it’s wholly in your control whether you give a positive vibe or a negative one. I’m sure you can guess which vibe is generally most successful. 

Stay irie folks! 

If you have questions, we’ve got answers. Ask your questions here and we’ll get back to you!

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