When an employer spots one or more red flags in your background during an interview, you need to be able to give an explanation for the red flag behavior and convince him/her that you have changed your behavior. How can you most effectively lower those red flags so that you won't be screened out by the employer? You want to convey to the employer:
  • what changed in your situation.
  • what you have done to overcome the negative behavior.
  • what you learned from the experience.
To do this, you can:
  • frankly and truthfully explain the situation.
  • acknowledge the former employer's need for a dependable employee.
  • say that you respect the former employer's decision regarding your employment.
  • take responsibility for your behavior.
  • be concise, straightforward, and factual about it, and not ramble on and on.
Before the interview, as you plan how you will handle red flag questions, do not try to memorize your responses. If you do memorize, chances are you will forget your lines or your answers will sound "canned" - or both. Neither will be convincing to the employer.

  • Tell the truth in the most positive manner possible, but do not confess more than is necessary.

  • Avoid blurting out all your weaknesses or negatives, limiting your answer to the work situation, and do not bring your home life into the discussion.

  • Keep your comments concise, focused, and to the point.

  • Avoid talking too much, rambling on and on out of nervousness. A little silence is all right.

  • Try to avoid discussing a red flag behavior at the beginning or the end of the interview, which are most likely to be remembered with greater clarity by the prospective employer. Try to end on the most positive note possible.
As you explain what you did to change the situation, you will reveal some important elements in your character that are desired by employers: honesty, integrity, forthrightness, responsibility, change, and self-transformation.

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 39-43. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.