Many job candidates have a negative work experience that follows them through their careers. There are many reasons that a previous job didn’t work out; some candidates were let go for performance issues, others may have been let go due to downsizing.

But when it comes up in an interview, what is the correct way to discuss it with your potential new employer? It can be difficult to navigate the rocky landscape of previous work experience; here are some tips that may help you be ready when the time comes to discuss these past endeavors:

  • Use objective information when at all possible. For example, if you left a previous place of employment due to a downturn in sales, this information is all that is needed to explain why you left–and gives an opportunity to include why you wish to work for the interviewer’s company. However, if you did not connect with the work environment due to more subjective items, such as a clash with the company culture, choose a diplomatic but truthful way to inform your interviewer of that difference. Again, use this as a chance to express interest in the new company as a juxtaposition to your past experiences.
  • Do not overshare. This is not an opportunity for you to complain about all the things your last boss did wrong, or to discuss all the ways your last company wastes money. This is simply a time to showcase your own grace and how you handle less-than-optimal situations.
  • Remember the size of the world. Have you ever found out that your dry cleaner knows your aunt’s hair stylist, or that your child’s soccer coach went to college with your best friend? It really is a small world out there, so choose the words you speak about previous employers and co-workers carefully and with pause. If you spend several minutes of your interview insulting the CEO’s favorite squash partner, your chances of getting hired are going to be pretty slim.
  • Be honest. If the previous work history that is flummoxing you is not a negative experience, but rather a lapse or gap in employment dates: do not lie. According to this Forbes article, as many as 35% of resumes contain discrepancies related to the dates of previous employment. If you are worried about discussing a gap in your employment history because you believe that it could preclude you from your dream job, simply remember that it would be far worse to be found to be a liar than to need to explain a resume anomaly. Rehearse a three or four sentence statement regarding why the gap occurred and perhaps what you learned from the experience, how it led you to where you are today, or why it would not affect your performance in the position for which you are interviewing.

Work history is hard enough to discuss, but when there is a blemish or a negative experience that may be brought up, it can be even more difficult. Remembering poise and objectivity can help you move forward from those experiences in interviews for new employers.

Our recruiters specialize in working with candidates to find them the perfect position for the candidate’s expertise and employment history. Contact us today for help ironing out the details of your work history and to learn how to make your past work for you!

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