I just got off the phone with a potential client, who provided an extremely insightful view of the value of background checks. That is, the on-line or professional services which provide information on DUI’s, criminal records, credit checks and the like.
“The background check,” she stated, “is essentially an integrity check. If someone has a single DUI or has defaulted on a loan, which can happen in these times and this industry, and he tells me, I can be fairly comfortable with him as a candidate. If he hides it, that’s a different matter.”
In other words, it is more important to this company that their employees be honest than that they be perfect.
Honesty is a highly effective job search strategy.
Job seekers with flies in their professional ointment generally try to cover them up, leading interview conversation away from unfortunate incidents and stretching dates to cover periods of unemployment, or inventing stories and excuses.
This is a mistake because:
- Most people who hire often can recognize cover ups
- Incidents covered up in the interview process which surface later can be grounds for immediate termination.
- Not all employers see incidents as an impediment to hiring.
In my opinion and experience the best way to deal with the flies in job history ointment is to bring them up as early in the process as possible, so that the positives which follow receive more attention and remain in the memory of the interviewers. People tend to weigh what they hear at the end of an interview more heavily than what they hear at the beginning.
At the very least, it is wise to be open if you are asked at the end of an interview if there is anything else you need to share. You want employers to hear these things from you rather than from anyone else.
Avoid excuses. You can explain facts surrounding employment impediments, but you should never try to blame someone else for your situation.
The same logic applies to your professional weaknesses. Nobody can do everything perfectly. The last candidate I would want to hire is someone who thinks he can. Good self assessment is high on my list of interview positives. It allows me as a recruiter to direct candidates towards positions where they have a high probability of success, and it allows employers to know what to expect in a new hire and to determine what additional training or support to offer.
Employers, once they have identified a candidate with a work history they like, are quite likely to forgive weaknesses, or even welcome them. To quote one, “Great, then she hasn’t learned any bad habits. We can teach her our way.”