How to Keep Things Positive in an Interview
Life isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Neither is work! At some point or another we have all dealt with negative situations at a job. Whether it be a rude co-worker, demanding boss, or malfunctioning snack machine, nothing is ever perfect. Sometimes in an interview, conversation can lead down a negative path. In fact, sometimes an interviewer will ask you to elaborate on a negative event, work relationship, or unpleasant job duty at a former place of employment. Part of the reasoning behind this approach is that the interviewer wants to see how well you deal with imperfect or downright negative aspects of a job. The important thing is that you answer the question without spiraling down a slippery negative slope.
Let's explore some ways to take a negative question and turn it into a positive answer.
Avoid fiery or emotional language
Thinking about a part of your old job that you didn't like might stir up some negative emotions in you. No matter what the question is, your job is to remain professional and think of ways to redirect the conversation in a positive way. It's important to present yourself as a happy and confident person, who can move on from negative pas experiences well. Development and growth happen when we rise above difficult or challenging situations. The same goes for dealing with an unfortunate person or event at work. Being the type of person who can bounce back from despair is essential for success. So, try to keep it positive and avoid any over-emotional or fiery language. You're not at Starbucks with your best friend, so do not take this type of question as a signal that you can vent. If your interviewer asks you what your least favorite part of your former job was, you might say something like this:
“ When I first started at the company I had never been responsible for managing a group of people before. It wasn't easy to get used to at first. By the time my work was finished there, I was leading a 12 person team and our department's productivity sky-rocketed. In my time there I realized that leadership and management were strengths of mine.”
Avoid Criticizing People
Keep in mind that the person interviewing you may possibly be a future colleague of yours. No matter how heinous the situation you are reminded of is, avoid criticizing former co-workers and bosses at all costs. Nobody wants to hire someone who holds on to negative emotions and brings them into the future, and nobody wants to hire someone who might eventually talk negatively about them either. So keep it civilized, and if you must reflect on something that is negative, refer to a situation or event that was less than pleasant, and then discuss how you worked to improve the circumstances. Turning a negative situation into a positive situation shows that you are a resilient person who is skilled in problem solving and teamwork. That's the kind of person that gets hired. If your interviewer asks you how you handled a past conflict at work, you might say something like this:
“I've always felt that excellent communication is the key to positive work relationships and company productivity. At one point, my team was not communicating well and I knew we had to do something to change that. I arranged for weekly team meetings and set up an open google document, where members could site progress, comments, or concerns. The improvement in communication was one of the best things that could have happened for the team and the company.”
Remember- positive things happen to positive people!