John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC
Everyone makes mistakes. You’ve probably heard that a lot. Still, it doesn’t mean you aren’t embarrassed when the mistakes are yours. And when those mistakes involve job changes, they can be tricky to explain in an interview.
How do you do that, exactly?
The first step is to cut yourself some slack. For one thing, you’re not likely to meet someone who’s never made a mistake. For another, mistakes often look like mistakes only with the benefit of hindsight.
Next, take an honest look at the circumstances in play when you originally made the decision you now need to explain. Was your choice made without information that simply wasn’t available to you at the time? Or – tell the truth – were there things you could have known if only you had asked the right questions?
Was your decision something that looked and felt right at the time? Or was it merely the best among a bunch of bad options?
Use those observations to craft a one or two sentence explanation of how and why the decision was made. Write down your explanation and fine tune the language until it gives an objective view of what happened. Does it walk the line between taking all the blame and none of the blame?
Next, and this is the most important part, consider what you have learned. Use the same writing exercise from above until your language articulates the real lesson. This may require multiple drafts. Without doing the writing, it’s easy to tell yourself that you did learn something. When you write, you’re forced to be more honest with yourself about what exactly you learned.
When you’ve completed both steps, test-drive your explanation with a friend or co-worker to see how it plays. Does it accurately portray the circumstances surrounding the original decision? Does it make clear the lesson you have learned? And, most importantly, does it have the ring of truth?
Interviewers aren’t interested in playing “gotcha” about something on your resume that reflects a bad decision. They’re more interested in what you have learned and how you’re moving forward from it.
If you’re having difficulty explaining a job change that might have been a mistake, contact us. Maybe we can help.