Q: In my last interview, the interviewer rattled me by asking in a very unimpressed tone if I was a job hopper. He pointed to an eight-year period in my 20s when I had four different jobs. However, I look on that that as a very productive time in my career when I learned loads from working in a number of high-profile companies. I never recovered from the accusatory way he approached the topic, however. What should I have done differently? (EC, email).
A: It sounds to me like you did not have your ‘story’ together when it came to describing your career path. You were easily put off your track by how this interviewer depicted it. In reality, you should be able to articulate very persuasively the reasons why changing from job to job was a good idea for you, writes Liam Horan, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
The lesson here is that you cannot rely on the interview panel to see things exactly as you want to see them – which is why you must tell them. So, next time, rather than waiting for an interviewer to shine the light on your regular job changes, you should consider volunteering the fact that you deliberately moved jobs in your 20s to gain experience.
And then you should talk insightfully about that very experience – what you learned that is relevant to the position you’re now chasing, the exposure you got and the contacts you made. In some careers, the network is everything, and if that is true of your sector, you should bring that to light as well.
What you’re really saying is that your career path has real value. Articulate your view that different experiences are more useful in terms of developing your expertise than staying in the same place for, say, ten years.
If you’re not bulletproof about that going in the door, chances are a probing interviewer will derail you. And if there’s one thing for which good interviewers have a dog’s nose, it’s uncertainty.
They are ever alert to the possibility that said uncertainty could lead them down an interesting trail. In a slightly different context, I sat on an interview panel with a very skilled interviewer – the kind of smiling assassin that’d have you sliced in two with a machete before you had time to get your hand to the Swiss Army knife dangling from your belt.
The candidate showed uncertainty. The interviewer probed. Further uncertainty revealed itself. Further probing followed. It all led somewhere, after all: the candidate was basically telling lies about a previous job. They hadn’t done half, or even quarter, as much as they had let on.
So, you’ve got to be able to stand over who you are, where you’re at, the decisions you’ve made and what you’ve learned along the way.
Whatever you believe to be true about those career changes, get that across the table. If it’s likely they will reach the wrong conclusion, the onus is all the more on you to lead them to the exact conclusion you’d like them to reach. Don’t wait for the panel, and don’t believe that just because they don’t bring it up, they’re not thinking it.
Liam Horan is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers in Ballinrobe.
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