How Do I Explain This on on My Interview Without Seeming Negative?

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EP 1730 Here, I answer a question from a member at where they don’t want to appear negative when speaking about their current employer.

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One of the people who's a member of asked this question that was specific for him and I'll take into a more general vein but he describes how he has this interview that is coming up and what his concern is. The long and the short of it is he is looking for job now, noticed that a corporate recruiter had looked at his LinkedIn profile. He had interviewed with this person 8, 9 months ago, and sent them a quick note saying, “hey! Is there anything I can answer for you?” He received a quick response back. Yay! Good move.

So, now he's in a situation where he's got a problem to explain. We’re all trained not to appear negative on interviews, right! You don't want to criticize your boss. You don’t want to criticize your company, but there is a problem and, in doing anything else, you is is going to make you same weird.

So, here is his issue. He works in marketing and he describes a situation where, suddenly, he joined under one set of circumstances and the firm is having problems in one way or another. Unsure messaging. Not real clear about what their vision is. He is doing a lot of tactical firefighting work. So, he has no problem dealing with deadlines, handling different management areas, including improving the firm's brand presence. What he has a problem with is a lot of this seems like firefighting to him. As a result, he has trouble explaining how to explain his marketing footprint because it doesn't really match what's happening at his firm without really being too critical.

Again, that is his unique situation but we've all had stuff happen to us where we have to explain a problem and we don’t want to appear critical. So, here is what you do.

I’ve said many times that there is theater in interviewing. You are an actor or actress on the stage, putting on a performance. Really, that's what you are doing. You are putting on a performance for an audience. You’re a sales person. You are trying to be convincing. One of the ways that you do that is with your voice.

“So, why are you looking for a position?” If you seem uncomfortable at the time, “well, uh, I joined the firm with the expectation that we would be doing a lot of planning work, developing a marketing strategy for the organization…” and you talk about a couple of different things that you had the expectation of doing. Marketing is his circumstance. Whatever your circumstance is, you start by saying this is what my expectations was.

“As time has progressed, what has happened is we are not really getting to that. What we’re really doing, primarily, is fighting fires. I understand that there are times when you have to do that. There is a crisis; you need to respond to. There is a proposal that you need to respond to. I get that.

“But this is overdoing and, thus, the impact of what I'm doing is that I am doing a lot of crisis work, rather than doing the proactive work to promote the organization. That is not what I really signed up for. So, rather than spend the next few years of my life in this kind of a role, it just made sense for me to start exploring other options that, again, I expect that there will be times that we will be dealing with crises, but it is not going to be the steady diet of them.”

So, in explaining it that way, notice how I use descriptive terms that cause people to understand. For example, no one likes to be in firefighting mode all the time, right? No one wants to be in a situation where they are in crisis mode all the time, right? You are no different than this person in that regard.

So, what you or trying to do is change the style of your voice. In my case you, I would normally speak to you like this. My eyes might be lit up. I would be excited and, then, I would switch into something that's just a little bit different.

I might slow my speech down and pause a little bit between phrases as though I was really uncomfortable. Notice that I took a deep breath as I slowed down and this may take a little bit of practice on your part. You can adapt what I said earlier in ways that fit for your circumstances, but it's not just what you say that matters. It's how you tell the story.

We tend to think of sincerity and as not being a fast talking salesman, right? You don't be talking quickly. “I don’t want to work in a place where . . . “ That doesn't sounds sincere. But, if you slow down, if you pause between phrases, if you look like you our thinking about it, trying to pick the right words, that come across as much more sincere than anything else you might do.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1700 episodes and “The No BS Coaching Advice Podcast” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was named a Top 10 podcast for job search. is also a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.

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