Don’t Let Your Past Limit Your Future

There are not many individuals who can boast a perfect job history or have the perfect resume or CV.  Things happen in life that can be misinterpreted as a “red flag” which can limit career opportunities, unless you learn how to present them.

execunetselect-past-futureIn fact, often it’s not the most qualified person who gets hired, it’s the candidate who packages themselves and interviews best.  You might have exactly what a prospective company needs but didn’t get hired because the interviewer had concerns about you fitting in with the current team or you didn’t click with your direct report.

Most individuals conducting a job search have at least one or two “red flags” on their resume or CV but are still hired.  Let’s discuss how to handle the most common problem areas including:

  1. Lack of stability
  2. Gaps of employment
  3. Unemployed for an extended time – not working
  4. Terminated or laid off
  5. Steps back of responsibility or income 

Lack of Stability

This has become less of an issue because of the job market and the new “gig” mentality.  However, a future employer wants to hear that you are now looking for a long-term commitment and it’s the experience you’ve gained from your past jobs that has qualified you for their position.

Stability is much less of an issue if you are looking for a contract opportunity.  You can often earn more as a contractor than full time employee and increase your marketability and income potential with each contract. 

Gaps of Employment

If you left a prior job without having another job in place, this is often perceived as a “red flag” with a future employer.  However, if you explain that you did not want to interview or take time off from your prior employer to interview, that positions you as a loyal employee.

Covid was responsible for many gaps of employment over the past two years.  These gaps could have been caused by health concerns, jobs being eliminated, or caring for school aged children who were forced into virtual learning.  This forced many parents to quit their jobs or work virtual.

If you have prior periods of unemployment on your resume or CV, you must show the employer what you were doing in addition to seeking a new job.  Volunteering?  Working temp or contract?  Attaining new skills?  Caring for ill relatives becomes suspicious if used as the reason for gaps of employment repeatedly.

Everyone wants what everyone else wants.  If you’ve been unemployed for an extended timeframe, an employer may wonder why no one else has hired you.  It’s better to admit that you took some time off to just enjoy life because you knew once you went back to work your vacation time would be limited.  It’s okay to say you traveled, took courses, helped family members, etc. You now need to prove 100% of your effort is focused on getting back to work and you feel you’re more qualified as a result of your time off. 

Terminated or Laid Off

The key here is to be honest.  There are times when you don’t click with a supervisor, or the job or culture was not a match.  Refrain from negative comments and focus on what you learned because of this experience.  If you were laid off, indicate how many others were also laid off.  If you were part of the “last” group to be laid off, share that with a potential employer. 

Steps Back – Responsibility or Income

A potential employer may view this as your inability to work at a certain level of responsibility. You need to provide answers that prove this was your choice and why.  You may be at a point of your life where money is not your first priority, but a balanced quality of life is more important.

Next let’s address the importance of sharing your accomplishments and the impact they had on past employers.

The only thing that separates you from others who had your job before you are your accomplishments.  You not only need to list accomplishments on your resume or CV you need to show the impact they had on your past employers.

Hiring managers will assume that what you’ve accomplished for someone else is a good indicator of what you can accomplish for them.  If you have ever saved a past employer money or time, those are often the most effective accomplishments to list.  You don’t want to restate the details on your resume or CV during your interview. 

The ability to overcome objections is another skill you must master since finding a job is a sales process.

As a result, you should expect people to state objections or ask probing questions.  You can’t become flustered or upset because you are a stranger they don’t know or trust.  Their questions are trying to validate that you are the best person for their open requisition.

Starting today, welcome objections because they are a request for information and a buying sign.  If there was no interest in hiring you, they wouldn’t voice objections they would just stop communicating with you.

There are only four types of objections – Service, Postponement, Personal, and Price.  When you realize what category of objection you are receiving, you can better overcome it.  When you effectively overcome objections, you are showing your strong interest in their job but also verifying your credentials.

Start out by saying “I completely understand why you are questioning that, please let me explain why that won’t be an issue.”  Validate their opinion but sell yourself back in, so you will be considered for the job.

Lastly, your questions can turn a mediocre interview into a job offer. 

When you are being asked questions, the interviewer is in control.  When you ask questions, you now have control of the interview.  Have you ever left an interview frustrated that you were never asked about some of your greatest strengths or accomplishments?  Or have you ever left an interview convinced that you absolutely were going to obtain an offer and then experienced crickets?

The questions you ask are critical to the success of your interview.  Your goal is to uncover the priority of each person who is involved in the hiring process.  “What is most important to you when hiring someone to fill this position?” “What is the greatest challenge the person you hire will face?”  “I’m interested in this position and confident I can do the job, but what is most important is your opinion.  Do you feel I have the experience and skills necessary to do this job?”  You then need to overcome any concerns that could possibly screen you out.

If you follow the advice in this article, you will be prepared to handle any concerns or “red flags”, you will effectively overcome objections, know what questions to ask and your past will not limit your future!



Barbara Bruno

Barbara Bruno

Barbara Bruno, author of HIGH-TECH HIGH-TOUCH RECRUITING: How To Attract And Retain The Best Talent By Improving The Candidate Experience, is an internationally recognized recruiting expert who has a proven track record of helping recruiters and talent acquisition professionals become more successful and less stressed. She has created several popular LinkedIn Learning courses and is president of Good As Gold Training, HR Search, Inc., and Happy Candidates.

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