Let’s talk about telling the truth in an interview. Too often, depressed people use the phrase, “BUT IT’S THE TRUTH!” when they say horrible things about themselves. I like to tell them to feel free to rot in the hell of their own creation. It’ll save me some time when I rise from the depths of Sunken R’Lyeh to ruin everybody’s day. People say that’s harsh, and I respond back with “Not as harsh as you’re being on yourself. Lighten up, bub.”
And that’s the truth: job hunting is a massive beat-down in so many ways. It extracts a spiritual, intellectual, and even physical toll on the job-seeker. Your job as a job-seeker, your number one job as a job-seeker, is to stay positive in spite of the storms that beset you. That is the hardest thing to do, but the most necessary thing to do. No matter what you’ve got on your resume, no matter how impressive your history may be, one lousy interview and you’ll never have the job you seek. If you go into an interview ready to tell the truth in the best way possible, you have a strong chance of coming across as the best fit for the job.
It’s a simple thing, really… often, it’s easier to train someone in technical areas than it is to teach someone how to be a more enjoyable person to be around. You will work with other people, and they want to know that you’ll be someone that fits in with the rest of the team. Not knowing how to be positive or upbeat will destroy your chances in the interview. So, you go in, you tell the truth, and you make it sound good.
Say you’ve been out of work for a year or two. That’s harsh. The wrong way to explain that gap is to say, “I was out of work for two years.” Sure, that’s the truth, but that’s a way of putting it that makes the speaker sound like nothing special.
“I couldn’t find a job for two years.” Oof. Even more depressing. I won’t give you a job, but I might give you a hug and tell you to cheer up.
“I’ve been out of work for two years. It’s been a tough local market, but now I’m able to start looking outside my area.” Better. What else can you add to it? Have you taken training classes? Have you volunteered for charity work? (A word on charity – even if it’s not in your field, if you have nothing else, do that. It tells your potential employer that you’re willing to do hard work and that you have a good heart. What could be wrong with that?) Did you do any internships? *Can* you look outside your area?
However you dress it up, don’t lie, but also don’t be depressing. My minions have observed people with hard felony time and unusual gaps in their job history go into interviews with a good attitude, tell the truth in a positive light, and – here’s the payoff – get the job. That’s right, they get the job. Ten years in prison, twenty years of parole served, no IT job worth mentioning in the last few years: with a good attitude, this guy can get an IT job.
When you think of reasons why you left previous positions, think more of what you were walking towards than running away from. Even if you hated a job, it still gave you experience, and it wasn’t totally without merit. Be positive. If you have hopes and aspirations, here’s where they come out as you discuss your leaving past jobs.
When you talk about one of your weaknesses, remember that you have strengths and that, compared to your strengths, you have skills that aren’t as strong. Those are your weaknesses. Personally, I’m a great motivator. Compared to my motivation and leadership skills, I’m not as good of an administrator. That’s a great way of introducing my weakness. I don’t leave it there, though: I mention what I’m doing to improve my weakness. If it’s something that’s not true right now, then I need to make it true right now so that I won’t be lying in the interview.
If you’re asked something technical and you don’t know the answer, just say that you don’t know. That will help your employer figure out what training you need when you get hired. Worst case, you may be interviewing for the wrong job – the one that will make you miserable – and revealing that you don’t actually have the expertise for the role will help you avoid being in a job you are not prepared to do properly. If you really want the job, be honest about what you don’t know and ask what needs to be done in order to close the gap between where you are now and what you need to have to be qualified for the job. Then, go and do those things.
Above all, learn about where you’re going to interview at and get some genuine excitement for the possibilities. Read up on your potential employer and think of three great things that would go with working there. Is it close to home? Is it a growing company? Does it have an interesting focus? Does it provide a needed service? Do other people like working there? Find out what’s good about it, and use that in your answer when you’re asked why do you want to work there. If you say something along the lines of how it’s just another job, then you’re just another applicant. If you can be excited to be there, they can be excited to have you be there.