Job Seeker Saturday suddenly sounds like a dumb title

Okay, it’s Saturday. Saturday’s an interesting day of the week: if you’re unemployed, it’s probably not your choice job-hunting day because that’s what the rest of the week is for. But as my former boss used to say, all the employed people are job hunting on the weekends. That’s their time off, and that’s when they’re trying to get everything taken care of to get out of their current job – without their employer finding out. Really, I chose it because “Job Seeker Saturday” sounded better than “Job Seeker Tuesday” or something.

This week’s super exciting job hunting tip isn’t rocket science. I think, however, that people need a reminder. I also think this is something we can all work on, especially those of us who haven’t interviewed often. And you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t actually use this “tip.”

You always hear that honesty is the best policy. Don’t lie in your resume. Don’t lie in your interview. I’m a huge advocate of not lying AT ALL, even if it’s just a little white lie on your resume. Employers will find out. Granted, you can always word things a certain way to make them look more favorable, but don’t lie.

At the same time? Honesty can sometimes be the worst possible thing, if you don’t do it right.

For example. Say you’re going for a job in sales. At your last job, you didn’t do very well. You couldn’t hit your quotas most of the time – maybe this is because you’re not good at sales, maybe it’s because the company sucked, maybe it’s because your boss instituted crazy-high quotas that no one could hit because your boss was a jerk and wanted his employees to suffer. It doesn’t matter. The point is, you didn’t hit your numbers and you’re hoping your interviewer doesn’t ask.

Hint: they’re going to. And you shouldn’t lie and say “oh, I did great!” because they’re going to ask for details and you’re not going to have them. Still, it’s not the greatest idea to say “No, I never hit my quota,” or “I generally didn’t do very well,” and leave it at that. I mean, come on – if you aren’t confident in yourself and in your abilities, this stranger interviewing you won’t be, either. Yes, on some level your numbers speak for themselves: if your quota was ten sales a week and you made four, that says something (even if what it says is “ten sales a week is too high because no one can sell ten hot tubs in a week” or whatever). It’s also not great to say “I never hit my quotas, but that’s because the boss set them too high because he was a jerk and wanted us to fail.” That’s never, ever going to reflect well on you, even if it’s the truth (and trust me, I have an awkward bad-boss experience on my resume, and having to explain why I left is always awkward, but I never say it’s because I worked for CrazyPants McGee.)

Answering the question – and then spinning it to show why you can hit your quota in this job – is imperative. I can call your previous employer and verify your numbers; what I can’t verify is what you learned from it, or what you did to try and hit the quota, or how you’ll do it differently next time. “I had a hard time hitting our numbers, but I realized it was because the economy was suffering and no one had the money to purchase hot tubs. Because I was getting a lot of objections about price, I started coming up with ways to show the value of the product. Instead of saying, ‘This will cost you $2000,’ I showed them how much they would be saving every week by having an at-home hot tub rather than needing to visit the pool or spa and pay membership fees and gas money. I also brainstormed out-of-the-box ways to drum up more business and seek out customers, so instead of staying at my desk all day making phone calls, I started setting up tables at local fairs and selling door-to-door as well. Even though I still wasn’t hitting my numbers, my sales went from four a week to six, which was the highest in my entire department. I left the job because the company went out of business, but I’m confident that at this point, I’d be hitting my quotas if not blowing them out of the water, and I’m sure I could do even better selling your product, and here’s why.”

That’s going to get you a lot farther than “Actually I didn’t do well at all and never made my commission,” and it’s still honest. It’s just honesty with the added bonus of selling yourself, demonstrating your abilities AND your willingness to work hard and overcome difficulties.

It works in a lot of situations. Just like you are supposed to answer the question “What is your biggest weakness?” with something you can spin positively (more on that another time), so should you back up even negative statements about your work history with something positive. An interview is your time to sell yourself, so even if the honest truth doesn’t paint you in the greatest light… always throw in something that does.

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