Want to score big points in a job interview?
Be prepared to discuss the position you've lost or other unfavorable career events in depth, says Korn/Ferry International recruiter Cheryl Buxton.
A candidate who can show how he or she has learned from a negative work experience will demonstrate analytical thinking and the ability to grow from professional adversity. Korn/Ferry dubs these skills "Learning Agility," and trademarked the term it defines as the ability "to extract" knowledge from experience "and apply it to new situations." Princeton, N.J.-based Buxton, a pharmaceuticals specialist and global managing director of client services for Korn/Ferry, says Learning Agility has always been valued but more so of late as organizations seek leaders to guide them through difficult times.
Los Angeles-headquartered Korn/Ferry is a leading executive search firm and respected observer of recruiting trends. In a paper on the company's Web site, entitled "Distinguishing Yourself as a True Leader During Behavioral Competency Interviews," Buxton and other Korn/Ferry recruiters offer a blueprint for interviewing better.
Behavioral interviewing attempts to gauge how someone is likely to react to varied, often difficult situations. While the paper's target audience is largely high-level executives, its suggestions apply to all ranks.
Show Capacity to Improve and Adapt
To be sure, hiring experts have long counseled job seekers to handle questions about such issues as job loss directly and in an upbeat manner; this approach reflects well on their candidacy. Still, Buxton says if interviewees go further, they'll leave a stronger impression.
For example, Buxton says that even a CFO ousted by a new CEO eager to install his own team might suggest areas where he could have performed better and saved his job. This ability to identify weaknesses offers strong evidence that a candidate is looking to improve. Moreover, she says that it suggests that the individual will perform well not only in one position but in future, higher-level jobs. "I want to know what that CFO thinks (he or she) could have done to build the relationship with the incoming CEO, to have been more secure in the firm." She adds: "What companies are looking for is not just a history of success, but what someone has learned and how they've applied it to their careers."