1. #1
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    Default Addressing 'Skeletons' in the Interview

    Again- Yahoo publishes another job related article. Its not totally fire srevice related, but its up to you to pick out the nuggets..Bou

    Addressing 'Skeletons' in the Interview

    Joe Turner, for Yahoo!

    Here's a scenario that trips up many candidates: You're about to have a phone screen, or even a face-to-face interview, and you have one of the following difficult situations on your resume.

    You've been out of work a long time.
    You were fired from your last job (or any job).
    You had a worker's comp claim filed.
    You have a criminal record.
    You have some other "skeleton in the closet" they will find out about, and you just know that this will become an issue.
    How do you address this? Do you address it at all?

    The Skeletons Emerge

    Consider a job interview or a phone screen a "discovery process" where the interviewer is attempting to uncover strengths as well as weaknesses. They will uncover weaknesses; it's their job. So if you have any "skeletons" in your closet, they'll eventually come out. Many of us harbor a skeleton or two in our backgrounds. Most are no big deal. Some, however, can become major showstoppers to a job offer.

    If you have a skeleton in your work history, don't wait for a major objection to come up in the interview. Instead, go on the offense and address the situation directly, which is very similar to a sales technique called "bragging about your objection."

    Avoid Being Defensive

    Let's say you're interviewing for a particular position, but you hadn't worked at a "real job" for almost 18 months. This is because you took time off to care for an ailing parent and perhaps also took some night classes to strengthen some software skills. One approach is to proceed with the interview and pretend this gap doesn't exist, hoping perhaps that the interviewer won't notice it. But of course, she does. She brings this up as an objection later on in the interview, and you're left to explain it.

    You're now on the defensive, and it's hard to regain any high ground. At this point, the only thing that's on the mind of the interviewer is this gap, and possibly the fact that you tried to hide it. End of interview. No hire.

    Here's an alternative: You walk in and greet the interviewer and begin to talk about why you would like to work for this particular company. But then you stop and say, "However, there is one thing I want to point out right now. You'll notice that I wasn't working from (insert dates). And here is the reason..." You then proceed to tell him about your 18-month gap.

    Here is where you position your "objection" in your best possible light. Then let the interviewer decide if this is a showstopper. As he thinks it over, there is the human tendency to assess it up front and minimize it. He'll often say something like, "I'm glad you brought this out," and then proceed with the interview. You can now resume your interview knowing the gap has receded in the interviewer's mind as a major objection. Of course, if the gap was a big problem, the interviewer will likely say so at this point. The interview will be over, and little time was wasted on either side.

    Rewards, Instead of Excuses

    The benefits you gain by taking the up-front approach are:

    You retain the control of your interview.
    You get to tell your story without feeling defensive.
    You'll earn respect for being open and honest.
    You'll save time and anguish.
    You can use this same approach in any interview. Much like the example above, you already know that "a long time between jobs" -- or whatever your "weakness" is -- is going to be discovered and brought up as an objection. Therefore, take the initiative to bring this objection up near the beginning of the interview. You have everything to gain in the process.

    As a recruiter, Joe Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers. Discover more of his job-search insights by visiting www.jobchangesecrets.com.

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    Mar 2007
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    Wow, very informative article. I certainly can benefit from this. For the last three years I've had a clean driving record, but it was pretty crappy before that. I know this will be a concern for the department I'm in a hiring process for now. I've never lost my license, although I've certainly had my fair share of tickets. I've been working really hard the last few years to be a good driver and even took a safe driving class (by choice) through the DMV. If this comes up at an interview, I'll have some good pointers on how to respond. Thanks for posting this article, because it touched on issues that could concern job candidates entering any field.

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    Youre welcome. Glad it worked for you.

  4. #4
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    Default Yea, well

    You can use this same approach in any interview.

    You retain the control of your interview.

    Believe it or not you're not in charge of a firefighter interview.

    This might be true in a regular job or corporate interview but I believe you never bring anything negative up in a fire oral board interview (which is like not other interview) unless the panel does. They might not. It could only open a can or worms you may never close. You’re looking for a seamless no surprises interview. If you bring something up that they didn’t ask you it could create doubt and affect your score enough to and put you out of the running.

    Some will tell you they probably already know so you better hit it head on. Often the panel doesn’t know. Often these are things that are handled in background. On some tests the panel doesn’t even know your name much less anything about your background.

    Almost everyone at sometime has problems. It's how you put them on the background check and present them in oral that makes the difference. A reasonable explanation is what's important.

    Many candidates strain their relationships, marriages and finances and do various jobs trying to get the badge. This is understandable with the right explanation. This information is asked on background forms. The oral board seldom knows this information.

    I had a candidate tell us on an oral board, "You're probably aware of the charges of stealing over at the college." We didn't. This guy had just nailed his oral and then tanked himself by bringing something up we hadn’t asked about.

    You should, however, be prepared and practiced with a recorder answers for those things you’re concerned about up until they come out of your mouth the way you want them to sound to the panel or background investigator if they’re brought. You don’t want to be caught flatfooted.

    I served 5 days in Santa Rita Prison for drag racing. Yes, I put it on my application. Because if you don't and they find out, you're gone. In my oral board, I was asked about this. I told the panel, "That since that incident, I had been in the army, married, children, the situation hadn't occurred again, and had been on my job for 9 years. I was a stupid kid then. It's hard to believe this really had happened. One of the captains asked, "Mr. Smith are you trying to get go around this problem and ignore it?" Here's the "Nugget" answer; I said, "No. If I was trying to do that I would have never put it done on the application." He was done with that question.

    When I got my results for that test, the number placement wasn't on the notice. When I called, the personnel lady told me, "Well, Mr. Smith, you're number one. Not only are you number one, you're five full points ahead of number two!" It was having a reasonable explanation prepared in advance that becomes your "Nugget" answers that makes the difference.

    That question and the "Nugget" answer probably helped me, not hurt me. It catapulted me past the other candidates at light speed, and did indeed get me my badge!

    "The secret of success is to know something nobody else knows." --Aristotle Onasssis

    "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

    More Tips on getting hired and promoted by Firehouse Contributing Author Fire “Captain Bob” Articles here:

    Fire "Captain Bob"


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