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4 Ways to Make a Negative Job Experience Work For You in an Interview

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4 Ways to Make a Negative Job Experience Work For You in an Interview

Interviews are the perfect opportunity to boast about your past promotions, raises, and achievements. If you have a strong work history that shows steady growth, congratulations, you can stop reading now! Not really, because the truth is, everyone has something they hope the interviewer won’t ask them about.

Perhaps you were fired from a job or you didn’t always hit your goals. Maybe you switched jobs frequently or were unemployed for an extended period of time. Or, like a lot of people, maybe you are a new college graduate and have no work experience at all. Whatever it is that makes your work history less than perfect, these four tips are the perfect hack to make your negative work experience become your most valuable asset.

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1. Determine what you learned

Before entering into the interview process, take some time to reflect on your negative job experience. Be honest with yourself about your part in the way it turned out. Writing it down can also help. Dwelling on the past will not change anything, but, learning from it will make your future much better. What one or two major lessons did you learn when things did not turn out the way you’d hoped?

When asked about getting fired or changing jobs frequently in the past, lead your answer with, “What I learned from that experience is…” For example, if you didn’t hit your quarterly sales goals four quarters in a row, you might say to the interviewer, “What I learned from that experience is how important it is to nurture each client relationship personally”. By leading your answer with what you learned, you are showing growth and determination.

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2. Establish what you would have done differently

This tip is similar to determining what you learned, but it goes a step further. Rather than just determining what you’ve learned, think about what you would do differently if you had to repeat the exact same scenario. Would you have put in extra hours to meet your goal? Would you have asked your boss what you could have done earlier to save your job? New college graduates, would you have taken better advantage of internships or summer employment when you were a student?

In the interview, tack on what you would have done differently to your previous response about what you learned. So you would say, “What I learned from this experience is how important it is to nurture each client relationship personally. If I could have a do-over, I would take the time to introduce myself to each client and check in with them every week about new ways to work together”. Show the interviewer that you are a go-getter, determined to succeed.

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3. Own it

Confidence is key to proving your worth to a potential employer. Now that you’ve learned how to turn your career history into a lesson learned, you should feel confident about the value you are capable of bringing to the workforce. Oftentimes, the best experts are those who have learned from their own mistakes or risen from hard times. Switching up your resume format can also help you put your best foot forward.

Now, you certainly don’t need to tell the interviewer about the experience if they don’t ask, but if you are asked, respond honestly and confidently to the question. Humility is always relatable and honorable in a person. Plus, showing that you don’t shy away from tough discussions will demonstrate a great professional quality in you.

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4. Start a new chapter

Make it clear to the interviewer that you aren’t defined by your work faux pas. Respond truthfully and clearly to the question if it is asked, then move the interview along. Saying something like, “I’m excited about the opportunity to start anew because that experience has made me a much stronger asset to the workforce”.

Or, if you’re a college graduate, you could say, “I’m looking forward to taking all the knowledge I’ve learned and finally using it to make an impact”. Your positivity and passion will outweigh whatever happened in your past.

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Featured photo credit: Alejandro Escamilla via images.unsplash.com

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