A job interview can be scary and stressful. After all, just getting to the interview meant you had to jump through hoops. You might be one of six interviewees chosen from over 300 applicants. But getting past the other five can be a minefield.
One challenge clients often raise is, “What about my problems with my boss in the job I just left?”
“What if my new boss is an acquaintance of my old boss?”
For instance, one career changer told me, “I’ve been job hunting for a long time. My past boss was abusive and he didn’t like me. It’s a small world. What should I do?”
Relax. Chances are your old boss is just a ghost who will never materialize in daylight. Your old and new boss probably don’t know each other. The odds of your name coming up are quite small. Of course, if your new employer calls your former boss for an off-the-record chat, there’s nothing you can do. You won’t even know about it, since those chats probably violate company policy. Still, the odds are in your favor. Bosses know they will look bad when they insult a former employee, unless they have straightforward factual information.
During your interview, you don’t need to bring up the past, recent or distant. If you are asked directly about your previous job, focus on enjoying a positive experience. Focus on what you learned, not what went wrong.
Your interviewer is not your therapist. She wants the answer to one question: “How will you contribute to the organization, department and mission? How will you make her look good?” Regardless of what you are asked, imagine framing your answer as, “The way I will contribute is…”
One surefire tip to banish ghosts: Make a list of all the ghosts that could possibly appear to embarrass you. For example:
Ghost #1: You’ve been out of work for eight months. You might be asked, “What have you been doing?”
Ghost #2: “Why did you leave your job? Why aren’t you working again?”
Think of every possible awkward or difficult question. Write out the answer as a soundbite that focuses on your contribution. Consider reviewing your responses with a career consultant or coach.