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by Joe Turner, | March 10, 2009


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 for a long time, (a gap in your work history).
  • You were terminated (fired) from your previous job (or any job).
  • You had a workers' compensation claim filed.
  • You have a criminal record, a misdemeanor or even a felony conviction.
  • You have some other "skeleton in the closet" that the employer will discover and you just know that this will become an issue.

How do you address any of these scenarios? Do you address them at all?

The skeletons emerge

Consider a job interview or phone screen a "discovery process" during which the interviewer is attempting to uncover strengths as well as weaknesses. They will uncover weaknesses. It's their job. So rest assured, 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 offensive and use a sales technique called "bragging about your objection."

Avoid being defensive

Let's say you're interviewing for a particular position, but you haven'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, they do. They bring 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 approach: 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 or her about your 18-month-long employment gap.

Here is where you position your "objection" in your best possible light. Then let the interviewer decide if this is a showstopper. As the interviewer thinks it over, there is the human tendency to assess it upfront and minimize it. They'll often say something such as "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 an upfront approach are:

  • You retain the control of your interview.
  • You are able 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 "no longer working" or "why such a long time between jobs" or other "weakness" will be discovered and brought up as an objection. So, at your next interview, "brag about your objection" instead. 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. Known on the Internet as "The Job Search Guy," Joe has also authored how-to books on interviewing and job search. He's been interviewed on several radio talk shows. Discover more insider job search secrets by visiting:


Filed Under: Interviewing

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