EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

I think you will find as you are out and about interviewing, that there are always at least two difficult questions that an interviewer would like to ask you. And, not much will happen during an interview unless you get them out of the way.

While the “elephant sitting in the room” varies by person, the most obvious question first question is why you left your last job. I tend towards wise guy answers like: They stopped paying me. Or the ever popular: When the security guard threw me out into the street with all my possessions, I didn’t think it made sense to go back to work.

Why this question is so important is hard to explain, but just as you like to know why a car or house is for sale, I guess it helps to know a little about the background situation. In a way, it helps paint a picture of you, the person being interviewed. If you are still employed, substitute an answer to the question as to why you are considering leaving your current job.

In both cases, the question is hanging out there. If you choose not to address it, just keep in mind that the interviewer may be trying to think up a way to politely ask you instead of listening to your very fine offerings about your many talents and how they could be applied to the job in question.

Another question hanging out there if you are older is how much longer you are planning to work. This is, of course, close to being an illegal question. But, if the job in question is potentially long term or might involve a move, it is a question that left unexplained may cause you not to be considered for the position. Even if you have left off your dates of graduation and perhaps even your first jobs from your resume, you will ultimately slip up at some point in the conversation and give them a date, or your personal appearance may let the cat out of the bag in and of itself.

In most cases, and I don’t know why, these kinds of questions tend to catch you by surprise when you allow the interviewer to initiate the back and forth. When they do find what they think is a polite way to ask a difficult but very obvious question, you are going to react just like the kid caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar. You may flush red or start to stammer. My experience has been that most folks are uncomfortable with the answers to these kinds of questions anyway. I think they sort of hope they won’t come up, but they always do.

Your goal needs to be to get your story out in exactly the way you want it to be heard. If you watch courtroom dramas you have heard the opposing attorney say: question asked, question answered. In much the same way a brief but very complete and accurate telling of the “story” renders follow up questions unnecessary.

Since you are likely to be every bit as uncomfortable addressing any of these kinds of questions as the interviewer may be in asking them, it is in the best interests of both parties to get them out of the way early in the interview so that more important matters can be addressed.

The time allotted to an interview is always finite. To waste precious minutes in a cat and mouse game of avoiding obvious questions doesn’t serve your best interests.

I know if you had a cast on your arm, you would feel the need to explain. Why not come up with a gentle way to dispose of the obvious and enjoy the benefit of a positively productive conversation that may win you the job of your dreams?

Regards, Matt

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