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Negatives That Can Be Used as Positives in a Job Interview

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The stakes are high in a job interview. You want to make the best possible impression. A review of your employment history may reveal unattractive details. However, knowing how to communicate about difficult issues can turn your negatives into positives and increase your chances for a successful interview.

Long Unemployment Periods

Employers automatically view extended periods of unemployment as a negative against you. Blaming the situation solely on the economy makes you look unwilling to accept responsibility for your own actions. Explain that you waited for the right opportunity to become available, demonstrating an ability to weigh your options. This also shows that you are not desperate for employment. Olympic Staffing Services, a California-based employment agency, suggests that you exemplify productively by speaking about industry-related training or volunteering you completed during your extended unemployment.

The Weakness Question

"Tell me one of your weaknesses" is a difficult and tricky interview question. According to Douglas B. Richardson, who heads a nationally recognized career consulting firm, taking a strength and turning it into a weakness is the worst possible response. Doing so patronizes the interviewer, states Richardson. He advises that the best answer to this difficult question is an honest one. Tell the interviewer about a real weakness, but explain what you have done to overcome it. For example, taking on too many responsibilities can be a weakness, but learning to delegate and practicing time management are valuable solutions.

Lack of Experience

Addressing a lack of experience is challenging. If you acknowledge it as a weakness, you are providing the interviewer with a reason not to hire you. Instead, give an answer highlighting your skills and future accomplishments to the company. Though you may lack experience in the exact position, you probably have experience with one or more aspects of the job. The department of human resources at Brigham Young University advises that you tell the interviewer about the experience you have accumulated. Speak with confidence and personality. Presenting yourself as the right personality for the job can be equally as valuable as extensive job experience.

Problems with Co-Workers

Interviewers often ask you to discuss how you responded to a particularly difficult situation. According to the New York State Department of Labor, employers ask this question to gain insight into your future behavior. Stay away from negativity when replying to this request. Blaming others makes you appear unpleasant or difficult. Employers are considering both your personality and your work experience. Give an answer that focuses on the solution to the problem instead of the problem itself.


Erika Winston is a Washington, D.C.-based writer, with more than 15 years of writing experience. Her articles have appeared in such magazines as Imara, Corporate Colors E-zine and Enterprise Virginia. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Regent University and a Masters in public policy from New England College.

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