I don’t know about you, but I am definitely one to hold a grudge.
Past injustices still seem so raw when I think back on them, possibly because so much emotional energy was spent getting over them at the time, and although I realise that it is not healthy to dwell on them, my blood can’t help but start to bubble slightly whenever they come to mind.
I’m not sure if that is normal (probably not), but hey, no one is perfect.
Luckily, I am perfectly happy sitting at my desk writing away, so I don’t have to subject myself (or others) to the experience of reliving my career glories and horrors. There have been many of both, trust me.
Most interviewers are proficient at sensing where the weak spots lie. Just one careless word can betray a less-than-ideal career episode and all of a sudden you are forced to relive it with a total stranger. You can’t possibly concisely explain the complexity of why things didn’t quite work out, so how do you handle those past moments of career anguish?
You do want to explore them, you desperately want to explain them, and you want someone else to say “yes, I agree with you, that was horrible.” However, maybe an interview isn’t the best forum for such self-righteousness?
Should you lie? Should you brush over them and change the subject? Or should you leave the interviewer with a sense that although it wasn’t your finest hour, you got through it and learned from it?
My personal feeling is that an interview should be as upbeat as possible with a few notes of imperfection sprinkled here and there for realism.
Dissecting past injustices and mistakes in detail is never going to end well.
An interviewer is only going to remember a few things about each candidate after their interview and they will likely remember those things that made them think. You make someone think by invoking emotional responses as you tell your story, but if your story is too focussed on the “learning” moments in your career, they might well feel that you still have a lot to learn.
Be expansive on the positive stuff and succinct when it comes to the negatives.
But not to the point of insisting that you are perfect.
This is the tightrope of any interview. It is a bad idea to let your past injustices and failures dominate the narrative, but if you exclude them completely, then your interviewer will think that you have something to hide.
Let your injustices into the room, but don’t let them into the spotlight.
I have probably written over 200 personal blogs over the years, some of them stories about my past. However, there is one episode that has not yet seen the light of day. I am not sure that it ever will. The thing is that if I tell this particular story, I will feel compelled to give as much detail as possible to explain why things turned out like they did. They didn’t turn out well. I won’t be able to help myself, but once the genie is out of the bottle, I know that I won’t be able to get it back in.
Once you have said something, it is impossible to take back.
That is why you need to be careful about what you talk about at interview and how you talk about it.
Fury about past injustices bubbles far nearer to the surface than you think.
Don’t let that become part of your interview narrative.