August 27, 2009

Q. How much slack do you cut an applicant for expressing negative feelings about a former employer?

In other words, how do you discern when a conversation has become too much about the former employer’s shortcomings and not enough about the applicant’s character?

There are a lot of righteously angry people out there who have stories they need to tell.

Things to Say

A. Do not vent in an interview. Save it for friends and therapists. I’m serious.

Steer away from describing how much you dislike your former employer — even if the interviewer is curious about it — and use the time to say good things about your work.

There are many reasons to keep negative views about an ex-employer to yourself:

  • You will sound like a chronic complainer.
  • It shows bad judgment.
  • It can be tiresome.
  • The interviewer may not know the person you’re talking about, but he or she likely knows someone who does.
  • Your comments may get back to your former boss.
  • You miss the opportunity to focus on your skills and positive qualities.

Rehearse a line that will keep you following your interview script and save you from dangerous detours: “You know, what I’d really like to talk about are the opportunities here. I am excited about them and would like to talk more about how they would work.”

What is your question? Is it about interviewing? Or how to get to that stage? Your question will help others. E-mail it to Joe.

Coming Thursday: She knows how to format her online portfolio but is stuck on one big question: What about the content?

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Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website. From that, he published…
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