I was kept down, now I need to rise to the challenge

Q: I’m going for an interview in my own company next week. I’ve been working here for ten years and, to be honest, I have been kept down by my boss, despite my best efforts to get involved in various initiatives. She has now retired, and I fear that in the interview I will be asked why I haven’t made more of an impact on my department over the year. The reality is I couldn’t really get a look-in, but will that reason cut it in the interview? (CD, email).

A: Interesting scenario, indeed. When we go for jobs in our own companies, we often fear how our time there will be judged and if those with decision-making powers will conclude that we took enough initiatives or led the line often enough. I have seen strong candidates reluctant to suggest ideas to enhance the functioning of the company lest they be asked why they hadn’t implemented these ideas before then.

If your manager is as you say you are – I have no reason to doubt you – chances are that those interviewing you will realise what she was like as well. It is unlikely that she spent a lengthy spell in the company without alerting others to her management style, and I would hope they would make some allowances for you as someone who, as you say yourself, was “kept down”.

But you can’t rely on hope. You’ve got to take steps to lead the interview panel to your door.

As always in an interview, you must fight for the right to show what you can do in the role. Even if you feel that you were constrained over the years, you can’t allow that to haunt you again now by playing it safe.

Best foot forward

To maximise the likelihood of you getting this job you must put your best foot forward in the interview. If they conclude that you were swinging the lead for the last ten years, and wonder why you haven’t previously fulfilled the initiatives and ideas you are now suggesting, then so be it: there’s nothing you can do about that.

But if you don’t give them ideas, a sense of your passion and enthusiasm, and a strong appreciation of the sector and the company, they will have no reason to hire you.

It is unlikely they will ask you in the interview about the existing manager. It is a topic you should avoid, if at all possible. Criticising another person is rarely the way to go in an interview (and it’s me who knows, but sin scéal eile…) and you need to show yourself as somebody who is professional and focused on the job at hand.

Use your knowledge

Take time to outline five things you would do to enhance the functioning of the business. You’ve built up a great deal of knowledge over the years. Now is the time to channel that knowledge for your own good.

As I said above, there is a strong chance, they will have realised that things have stagnated in the department and might relish your input as they chart a new way. Let them see you as the best person to lead the department through the next phase. Best of luck – but more to the point, make your own luck through good preparation.


Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.


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