Though the economy is looking up, people with a less-than-pristine employment history continue to face high unemployment.
If you are among the job seekers who have made mistakes in the past which have resulted in being fired, or if you have a felony conviction on record, you need a pro-active strategy for addressing these issues before you start your job search.
Take an objective look at yourself from the employer’s perspective. What are employers worried about?
They are concerned that you will be a liability, cost them money or embarrass them. Employers face enough challenges without the risk of hiring a problem employee.
In “The 6 Reasons You’ll get the Job”, Debra Angel MacDougall and Elisabeth Harney Sanders-Park outline a process for addressing concerns about your checkered past. In a nutshell, here is what they suggest:
Expect and welcome questions about your past. Acknowledge the employer’s concern, “Thank you for asking, although it is personal, I know that if I were you, I would want to know. . .”
Take responsibility for your actions. What an employer wants to know is, have you learned from your mistakes or are you playing the blame game and not taking personal responsibility for your situation?
Share what convinced you to change and tell them what you learned from your mistakes. The employer must be convinced that you are truly repentant and have changed for the better. If she is convinced that you are only sorry about being caught, she won’t take a chance on you.
Offer your solution and paint a new picture. This is the time to let the manager know what you have done to change your life or situation and how you see yourself moving forward.
Let the employer know what he will gain by hiring you. Tell success stories that demonstrate how you can make a valuable contribution to his organization.
Practice sharing your story until you can do so succinctly and with honesty and humility.
Sometimes it makes sense to address a potential concern before an employer brings it up, especially if it something that you think will come up later in the interview or in a future interview, “You may have noticed that I have a felony conviction . . .”, or, “I want to let you know about . . .”
Other times, it is better to wait until the interviewer asks you about a troublesome situation. Never lie to an employer; if an employer directly asks about an issue, share your story; however, do not volunteer negative information which does not impact your ability to do the job. If you are a recovering alcoholic and have not lost a job due to alcohol abuse, do not mention that you are in recovery.
Do not share information that the employer cannot ask you about. Do not disclose that you are a single parent, are going through a nasty divorce, or are in therapy; it is none of the employer’s business. While bringing up these issues may “feel” right, they only reinforce the idea that hiring you is a risk.
If you have truly changed your life don’t let your past destroy your future.