Career Advice

Are you a Negative Nellie?

Brooke McKay Posted by Brooke
min read
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In my 20 years of interviewing, the one thing that always comes up is the need to coach candidates around negativity. Even the smallest of comments can sit in the interviewer’s mind and distract them from all the great things you are saying about yourself.

Examples of how you can turn a negative into a positive are:

  • "everyone left and there was no handover from anyone " could be "I needed to show initiative to research the answers to problems as it was a stand-alone role"

  • "they didn't promote me even though I worked there for so many years" could be "I took on extra responsibilities in my role such as A, B, C and after four years I felt it was time to seek a new role that was suited to these new skills I'd developed"

  • "my manager wasn't around very much" or "my boss micro-managed me" could be "I needed to work autonomously," or "I work best when I'm set a task and left to complete it as was the case with the role I did at ...."

If you are going to speak negatively about a previous boss or employee, it is better to switch it up in your mind and think of how you can turn it into a positive message instead.

The trick some interviewers use is to try and get you to speak negatively or talk about your frustrations as they want to hear an honest answer. Honest answers and an honest approach are ALWAYS best but you want to use positively framed examples rather than negative ones.

For example:

"I was frustrated when my peers weren’t pulling their weight and everything was left to me" should be followed up with what action you took to turn that frustration into a positive outcome. Such as, “There were times when I felt my peers could have been doing more. As we all worked within a team, I'd let them know what I was doing and ask for assistance with some of the tasks. I also asked about how I could help them. Opening up the communication with them really seemed to allow for more sharing of the workload and connected us more as team."

The above structure and style of interviewing is known as competency interviewing using the SAO technique which is short for "situation, action and outcome" and it is a common style for interviews. There is more on our website on this to help you best prepare. 

I hope this interview preparation and insight helps you in your next interview. Just remember everyone has frustrations in their roles but you don't want them to hold you back in your next career move so get talking about the positives!