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It’s loaded, and comes pre-aimed at your foot

We are interviewing at work again. It’s nice to be adding instead of subtracting. Business indicators are starting to swing back towards the positive and folks are hiring again. Hurrah!

Unfortunately not all interviews are enjoyable. We had to reject a candidate today based on a very common interview mistake. This particular candidate complained long and hard about the various sins of her previous employer.

Any interview coach will tell you to avoid this topic. It’s a classic mistake and one that has cost many job offers. In this situation the person interviewing you is unlikely to identify with your complaints. They are going to side with your previous employers. They are asking themselves “do I want this person to work for me”. Its very easy for the interviewer to see themselves in the future, the subject of the same criticisms you are currently leveling against your previous employer.

For this particular candidate it became clear partway through the interview that she was very intelligent and capable. She had tackled difficult projects and done them in a way that set the project up for long term success. For one reason or another though, she had been forced to deal with less competent co-workers that ended up generating additional work. Through whatever combination of management techniques and social dynamics then end result was a person that harbored a deep seated resentment of many of her co-workers. My suspicion was that she had been made to feel inferior to her less capable co-workers. In an interview we don’t have nearly the time necessary to unpack that resentment and see if it’s something that can be healed and eradicated, and so our decision has to be “no-hire” which is really a shame.

This candidate would have been a good addition to our team if she wasn’t held back by a seething bitterness. She had been fighting so hard against her less capable co-workers to prove her worth, that in the end she ended up sabotaging her own abilities. The low self confidence, bitterness and resentment grew a hard shell of arrogance to protect itself from an unfair situation.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are bad-mouthing previous employers in an interview, it might be worth some reflection time to try and unpack exactly what is making you so angry. Holding on to that frustration and bitterness does nothing to harm those you are angry with, and only serves to limit your ability to grow in your own career.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Complaining at all during an interview is probably going to give the interviewer a negative impression. Even over something trivial.


    March 24, 2011

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