A while back, I shared a favorite bit of advice from Dale Carnegie:
"When we are right, let´s try to win people gently and tactfully to our way of thinking, and when we are wrong – and that will be surprisingly often, if we are honest with ourselves – let´s admit our mistakes quickly and with enthusiasm. Not only will that technique produce astonishing results; but believe it or not, it is a lot more fun, under the circumstances, than trying to defend oneself."?? How to Win Friends and Influence People
I got to thinking about this advice in the context of a job interview. How quickly and with how much enthusiasm should we admit mistakes to interviewers? I wonder what Carnegie would say about this? Here´s a couple assumptions I have about interviews and selection:
1. It is worse to NOT share the truth and then have the company find out the bad piece of information (like during a reference check).
2. It probably improves our chances of getting hired if the negative piece of information is never known or discussed.
So we may be damned if we share the info and double damned if we do not!
We all have career warts: Do you worry about someone who may give you a poor reference? Was there a period of time when your work was sub-standard? Did you have an emotional meltdown in front of a bunch of people? Have you been terminated?
How much should we tell?
First, let me say that if you have been terminated, you should assume that the employer will find this out. It is one of the easier things to determine during a reference (even when your employer does not say the word terminated, there are other common phrases that say something similar, like, would not rehire, did not resign).
But how much should you say? Does the Carnegie advice work in an interviewing situation where you are being stacked up against others?
I think it might.
Small print: I´m just "talking"?? here, you need to assess your situation for yourself.
One of the things that hiring managers and HR professionals worry about most is whether they are getting the straight scoop from applicants. They worry about whether they can trust the person and if they are representing themselves accurately. I quickly eliminate someone who I think is spinning every answer into gold.
If we are open about our career warts, won´t this make the interviewers more comfortable? Now, if our warts are big and ugly, we may not get the job. But then that job was not the right fit anyway. Most warts are not gargantuan, they are just warts.
For example, I used to be a lot more cocky than I am now (luckily, age and coaching mellowed me). That said, I can remember being a bit on my high horse and openly critical of my boss. The ME of today gasps when I think about this because it was just so dumb and immature. But it happened. I was not fired, and my internal clients loved me, but if someone were to talk to that ex-boss, who knows what he or she would hear.
If I ever end up interviewing again, should I share this? I think sharing this wart and learning with prospective employers might do more good than harm, but that´s just me. Of course, I think it works better is there IS some learning to share.
This example brings me to another point. An area where I think Carnegie´s advice DOES certainly apply is in repairing relationships. It´s a good idea to go back and say, "Hey, this is what I acknowledge happened and looking back, here´s what I regret and own about the situation."?? I have done this with the aforementioned ex-boss and that´s one reason why I feel pretty conformable talking about it. It happened, but it does not have a hold on me any longer.
What are your career warts and what´s your strategy for making sure they do not get in your way?
This is all just food for thought, but for those of you trying to get a job or more more consulting business, it´s something to think about. For the rest of you, consider the various applications of Carnegie´s sage advice.
"??Let´s admit our mistakes quickly and with enthusiasm."??
What do you think?