If you’re a sales professional and have had at least on career misstep, how do you deal with that when you’re interviewing for your next great job? This is an important question because we interview top sales candidates all the time and while there are many people who have had a smooth career without any bad decisions or failed start-ups, inevitably, most people have probably encountered some difficulty in their career along the way, particularly if they’re risk takers. Those of you who have worked in start-ups for most of your life in particular can appreciate this. As we know, 8 out of 10 start-ups fail, so the probability that you’ve been involved along the way with a business that has not gotten off the ground is pretty high if you’ve had the kind of risk profile.
How you deal with this on your resume and through the interviewing process is very important. First of all, its important that even if you had a mishap with a particular company that you still listed on your resume, there are ways to de-emphasize your participation in a start-up, particularly if it was shorter than one year, by listing all your sales accomplishment at the top of your resume and only having a brief chronological history of your actual employment relationships.
Probably more important, when people ask you about a particular job where you can’t point to any particular successes, its very important through the interviewing process that you be up-front with the interviewer. Don’t provide too much information at the outset, but if you are asked to provide the details of what happened in a particular situation, how it happened, why it happened, and what you learned, then you should focus on making sure you give clear, explicit answers.
Interviewers want honesty above all. They want to see evidence that a person is willing to take ownership and responsibility for any mishaps that they’ve had in their career, particularly as it relates to start-ups.
One thing that you’ll want to avoid is blaming only the external factors related to a job situation that was negative. Employers want to know that a candidate has actually learned from a particular situation and takes some level of ownership for what did or did not happen in a business failure. So if you are about to go out on a great interview and you’ve got a few chinks in your career armor, make sure to not hide from or avoid the truth, as you go into the interview process. You’ll find that you’ll commend a lot more respect and receive more opportunities if you deal with those kinds of situations in an honest and up-front way.