Before going to a job interview, you may be worried about how to handle questions about things in your background that probably will not be favorable in an employer's hiring decision.

If you did not finish high school, are likely to receive negative comments about your work or work habits from a former employer, have a record of job hopping, have been fired from a job, have a criminal record or a record that includes alcohol or drug abuse, you must be prepared to address questions or even raise the issue yourself to put the red flag to rest and have a chance at being hired.

Here are some general guidelines for dealing with questions about red flag behaviors.
  • Give the information asked for - no more. This is not the time to confess all your past negative behaviors or talk excessively.

  • Maintain good eye contact with the interviewer throughout. Remember, you do not want to seem dishonest by avoiding looking at the interview in the eye.

  • Talk briefly about what you have learned from the mistake you made in the past. Acknowledge and take responsibility for your actions.

  • Talk about what you have done to change this aspect of your life. What have you done to modify the red flag situation and behavior, as well as what positive behavior(s) have you put in place?

  • Make your comments positive and concise. Do not ramble on and on.

  • If you are the one bringing up the subject of a red flag behavior, avoid introducing the subject early in the interview. You want to have a chance to impress the interviewer with your positive attributes and make a favorable first impression.

    Also, avoid introducing the subject of a red flag behavior at the very end of the interview unless you have overcome the problem in a truly significant way. You want the final thing the interviewer remembers about you to be positive.

SOURCE: Adapted from Caryl and Ron Krannich, Ph.D.s, Job Interview Tips for People With Not-So-Hot Backgrounds (Manassas Park: Impact Publications), pages 71-72. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.