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Job Interview Trauma – Please Don’t Ask This!

If you had to decide between going through an interview for a job you really want or having a tooth pulled, which would you choose? I wouldn’t be surprised if you opted for the tooth removal! At least it would be over with quickly, and you’d start feeling better soon.

With the job interview, though, not only do you have to get through the period before the interview, but also you need to endure the interview itself and, hopefully, do well enough to receive a job offer. You also have to survive the waiting period after the interview, when you’re not sure what the outcome will be.

Interview Questions You Hope They Won’t Ask

I always tell my interview coaching clients, “If there’s one question you really hope they won’t ask–assume they’ll ask it, and be prepared.”

Whether or not you believe negative vibes like that can somehow travel through the air and into the mind of the interviewer, it often seems that interviewers have an uncanny ability to come up with the one question you’re dreading. In reality, it could just be that the question is something they would want to know anyway. Either way, the ball has just landed in your court.

Tough Questions You Might Face

One of the following could be the question you hope interviewers won’t ask:

One thing

  1. Why did you leave your last job?
  2. Why have you been out of work since ________________ (date).
  3. Why have you held four jobs in the last six years?
  4. Have you ever had a supervisor you couldn’t get along with?
  5. Why did you go from VP of Marketing to Marketing Manager?

I could add more, but I’m sure you get the idea. The key point is, how can you handle your “one question” most effectively?

Right and Wrong Way to Answer

First, there might not be only one right answer to your “please don’t ask me” question, but there’s one sure wrong answer: “Uh-h-h-h-h,” accompanied by a deer-in-the-headlights expression and dead silence.

Whether or not you “hit it out of the park” (make a job interview home run), you can’t afford to stumble over a question. How you decide to answer is up to you, but two things should help guide you:

  1. Anticipate the worst-case situation and figure out how to turn it to your advantage or at least do enough damage control to minimize its possible impact. (IMPORTANT)
  2. Know your value to employers inside and out and prepare stories (backup information) to present your value so compellingly that when the dreaded question comes and you share your predetermined response, you can almost skate over the issue. (CRITICAL)

For example:

Question: Why have you held four jobs in the last six years?

Possible answer: As you see in my resume, I was recruited to the first two positions by executives I had worked for previously and got some great opportunities as a result. The third position was eliminated during a post-merger integration. My current company has a restructuring going on and, although there’s a chance I could keep my job, I decided this was a good time to look for a new position.

Your particular situation might be different, of course, but basically what you want to do is identify any factors that can put a positive face on your decisions and help defuse possible concern about your ability to hold a job.

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Don’t Wing-It – That’s a Recipe for Disaster

Whatever you do, make sure you’re prepared, confident, and able to act naturally (be yourself) throughout the job interview. Winging-it does not offer even a tiny assurance of a successful interview outcome and neither does hoping the interviewer won’t ask that question you’d like to avoid!

If you really want to land the job you’re after, you need to get your act together for those interviews.

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