Preempt Any Negatives – Don’t Wait

A preemptive strike is a good strategy.

I came home from work one day and I had just walked in the house as my son came up to me and said, “We need to talk.” He was too young for the birds and the bees and probably knows them anyway, so I knew something was up. He explained that while practicing his pitching for baseball, he threw a wide pitch and broke the window above the garage. I replied, “No big deal, all boys break a window once in a while.” He then said, “Well, that is not all. After that I moved to the other side of the garage and threw another wide pitch and broke the other window, too.” He was scared I would really be mad. However, I thought, “How can I be mad? You stole all my thunder by coming to me. I didn’t have time to get mad.” He did a preemptive strike.

How does this relate to a search? I was conducting a search for a Sr. VP Human Resources. One candidate’s resume indicated a lot of turnover. As I went through her background it became clear that there were great reasons for the turnover and in most cases the company turned over on her, not the other way around. The problem was that she wasn’t addressing these in the interview right up front. Basically, she wasn’t defusing a negative situation.
We helped change that by putting together a script that dealt with the turnover right up front. In the interview, she preempted the interviewer by saying, “I realize from my resume it appears that I have a lot of turnover, and I can understand why one would think that. Let me explain the circumstances surrounding the turnover as I’m sure it will help clarify this issue.” This defused the situation and opened the opportunity to explain that a lot of the job changes were not her leaving the company, but rather the company leaving her, by either relocating or closing facilities. By addressing it right up front, the candidate demonstrated she had nothing to hide and allowed for a discussion around the issue.

When the candidate did get a job, she wrote to us saying she felt this technique played a major role in helping her get past the first interview. Too often a candidate leaves the interview thinking everything is great because the interviewer never mentioned anything about the negative. They don’t understand, that is, because they have no concern about it. You are out, so it didn’t need to be addressed.

Don’t avoid negatives. Do a preemptive strike by bringing them up first.

Just in case you are wondering, he has broken the same windows again. I started buying replacement windows in bulk.

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About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.

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