Hey Job-Seeker, What Do You Say About Your Former Employer?

There is a very natural and real, emotional grief cycle when one loses his or her full time job. One of the most dangerous stages in that grief cycle is the Anger stage. It is natural to feel frustration, anxiety, irritation – even embarrassment and shame. If you have not dealt successfully with these emotions, they may spill over into your job search. The mostly likely target for that anger will be your former employer. And while you may have legitimate negative feelings about your former employer or boss, expressing those feelings to a potential new employer is very dangerous. Following are the reasons why, and what you can do about it.

Future employers are listeningto see if you will speak poorly of a past employer. In their mind, your willingness to speak poorly of a past employer is an indication of your willingness to speak poorly of them someday. If you are still holding on to your anger and frustration, this potential new employer has a legitimate concern that you will not be focused, committed and engaged in their business. While you may believe that a new job and a new focus is just the medicine you need, a potential new employer is not interested in solving your problems – in fact the last thing they want is for a “problem” to walk in the door.

Future employers are asking. Recruiters and Hiring Managers WILL ask you, and some will even prod, poke and manipulate you, to find out if you have some choice things to say about your last boss. Resist! Standard interview questions include some like these:

  • What did you dislike about your previous job?
  • What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?
  • Tell me about your previous supervisors and co-workers.
  • Describe the worst boss you ever had. What particular traits did you find difficult?
  • What kind of references do you think your last three bosses would give you?
  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss and how you handled it?
  • Tell me about one person you have had trouble getting along with, and what you did about it?

It is imperative that you have a plan for dealing with these questions and a plan for keeping your negative emotions in check. Here are 3 simple rules:

1. No Bad-Mouthing:

It is critical that nothing in your public statements about your past job, employer, manager(s) or co-workers comes across as bad-mouthing. Undoubtedly, there is always something positive you can say about a past job – something you learned, connections you made, and especially your accomplishments (despite the barriers).

2. Get the Negative Energy Out!

Lean back on your personal support network (family and friends) to voice and exhale the bad energy and bad experiences you may have had at past employers, and keep those discussions away from recruiters, job contacts and hiring managers.

3. Exit and Move forward:

Develop your script for why you are in career transition. Wrap that script around positive aspects of your previous role and how you are leveraging your experience as you “move forward” in your career. Stay “on message.” And keep it positive.

Take some time NOW to think through how you will answer questions about your former employer. Think of something positive you can say in response to each of these questions:

  1. What were some positive experiences you had, working for your last employer?
  2. How did you create some success with your previous employer?
  3. Which customers, clients, vendors and co-workers did you enjoy working with, and why?
  4. What helpful things did you learn from your last manager?
  5. What does your past employer do well – what is their niche in the market?
  6. How will your past employer have a good future?

The STAR Career Workbook is full of guides, worksheets and charts that you will use to prepare your resume, cover letters and other communication tools; as well as networking plans, interview preparations, and negotiating strategies. Regardless of your situation, employed, unemployed, under-employed or under-compensated, the STAR Career Workbook will help you. For ordering information on the STAR Career Workbook, please visit http://www.amazon.com/STAR-Career-Workbook-Dan-Medlin/dp/1461152089.

About the Author:

Dan Medlin. Dan’s career includes over 20 years in career counseling, professional development, leadership coaching, human resources management and recruiting. Dan is the Global Talent Manager for Wayne, a GE Energy Business. He lives in Austin, TX. Find him on the web at http://www.linkedin.com/in/danmedlin

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