Career Advice Tuesday – Practice, Practice and More Practice

November 16, 2010

Dear Lee and Mike,

I resigned from my last job a year ago.I was”squeezed out” after 20 years due to [some things going wrong].

Now, I’m ready to go back to work.   I provide HR with 3 great professional references wherever I apply. I am always asked about “the” reference from my former manager. I say I will try to get one, that it is difficult to contact her, she seems to be away a lot. I know a reference from the former manager is non existent.  It just aint gonna happen.  Each time, I hope that my 20 years at a company, with 3 great prof.references from staff whom I have worked with for 20 years, will satisfy them. It obviously does not. I am guessing, but after what I think was a really good interview, I just don’t hear from them.  Should I email the potentially new employer and very briefly try to summarize the conditions under which I left my last job, of course not mentioning the specifics?

Please advise, even though you have answered similar questions.I feel soooo stuck and I have been out of work a year.

Hurting and Scared

Dear H.a.S,

One of the toughest parts of answering these questions is that, sometimes, it’s incredibly hard to tell people what they don’t want to hear.  And it’s hard because we’re very compassionate and caring guys, and we don’t ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

First things first, however… you’re breaking one of our positively, absolutely, 100% cardinal rules of interviewing.  Don’t lie.  Ever.  Never.  EVER, EVER, NEVER, EVER. Were we clear there?

Don’t say: “Oh, she’s on vacation a lot.”  Say something like: “Things didn’t really go very well when I left due to some situations that occurred.  I doubt that my previous manager has much to say that reflects the way that I worked.  Perhaps you could speak to [insert these 3 other previous managers] to get a better idea of who I really am.”

Here’s the thing: people unconsciously detect deceit in those who aren’t naturals (i.e. sociopaths).  Something about your letter (most of which we didn’t reproduce above) suggests that you’re not a natural sociopath.  Thus, you’re probably coming off as nervous and it’s helping to taint the interviewer’s impression of you.

Which brings us to the hard part of the response.  You say that you leave what you “think was a really good interview”.  Here’s the thing: it wasn’t.  If it was a really good interview, at least one of these hiring managers would have brought you back.   Lee often brings up the old saying that “if 3 people tell you that you’re drunk, you’re drunk.”  If it was just one interview, I’d say you just had bad luck.  But the fact that it’s multiple interviews across multiple companies suggests that you’re not interviewing well.

Here’s what you need to do: get someone who’s an experienced hiring manager in your field.  Preferably someone who isn’t a friend of yours who’s willing to interview you for a job and give you honest feedback on the process. Compare that with how you thought that it went.  And learn from that process.  Do it a few times until you start to understand your own issues and you start to notice when things aren’t going well.

Then, you’ll know what’s a good interview and what isn’t.  And you’ll start to have some insight in to why you aren’t getting the positions that you interview for.

That’ll be a good start.

Mike & Lee

Posted by mmurray | Filed Under Career Advice Tuesday 

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