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Job Interview Advice: How to Answer a Question about Your Red Flag

July 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Job Interview Tips

perfectresumeredflagsFrom Kent Lee, CEO of Perfect Resume

Recently I did an interview coaching session with a high-level executive worried about a potential “red flag” on his resume.

Red flags are warning signs that indicate to hiring managers and recruiters that you might not be a great candidate for their jobs.

Many of you probably have red flags on your resume and might not know the best way to handle this situation during an interview.

Examples of red flags might include:

  • A significant gap of unemployment.
  • Working for several years in an industry unrelated to the industry in which you are pursuing a job.
  • Short employment stints, such as working for several different companies for 1 year or less.
  • An incomplete college education.

When dealing with red flag questions, I teach my clients to use the CCR Technique. The CCR Technique is one you won’t find anywhere else online. CCR is an acronym that stands for Concise, Confidence, Redirect.

C: Concise

When an interviewer asks you a question about something on your resume that could potentially be viewed as negative, it’s important to answer in a very concise manner. I teach my clients to answer these questions in 30 seconds or less.

Why? Because the longer you talk about something potentially negative, the more defensive you sound. And the more defensive you sound, the more you remind the interviewer you might not be a good fit for his or her job.

C: Confident

When someone asks you about something negative, the best response always involves you remaining confident. Why? Because it shows that you aren’t afraid to discuss this topic and, to you, it really isn’t that big of a deal at all.

The more confidence you have when answering these questions, the more interviewers will pick up on your confidence, and they’ll start to believe that the red flag isn’t that big of a deal either. Plus, trust me when I say this, employers love hiring confident people.

How does someone screw this up? By rambling and not being clear and concise.  That’s why step one is so important. Being clear and concise always makes you sound confident.

R: Redirect

The last step in this process is to redirect. The strategy here is to redirect the question away from the red flag subject and onto one of your strengths. By redirecting, you can actually have the interviewer think about your strengths and why you are a great fit for the job, rather than your red flag. How cool is that?

So, let me give you a real-world example so you can see how this works.

We’ll use Bob as an example. Bob is a high-level Technology Sales Executive with more than 20 years of experience.  His red flag issue is that from 2005 to 2008, he did not work in Technology Sales and instead spent 3 years selling real estate.

He’s been asked about this several times in interviews and never was offered a job.

I asked Bob how he had answered this question in interviews. He spent more than 4 minutes rambling about how real estate sales are similar to technology sales. His voice quivered, he never made a clear point, and the point he was trying to make was a very, very big stretch.

It was the absolute wrong approach. Instead of spending 4 minutes talking about real estate, Bob could have used that time to sell his strengths. Here’s how we taught Bob to answer this question:

Interviewer: “Bob, what happened in 2002? Why did you leave Microsoft and go into real estate sales?”

Bob:  “In 2002, I was on top of the world. I had just won back-to-back President’s Club Awards, I earned close to $500,000, and after 12 years … I was burned out a bit on Technology Sales.

So for a few years, I dabbled in real estate. What I realized is that I’m not passionate about real estate, and I am passionate about Technology Sales.

That’s why I’m so excited about this opportunity, because it leverages my 15 years of industry experience, specifically selling infrastructure services to top Fortune 1000 companies.”

It takes 30 seconds exactly to say this answer, and look at all of things it accomplishes.

Before Bob even addresses the red flag, he mentions that he won back-to-back awards and earned $500,000 in sales. That’s pretty impressive. Next, he simply says (confidently) that he dabbled in real estate for a few years but wasn’t passionate about it.

Bob uses redirection and shifts the focus to the fact that he has several years of experience, specifically selling infrastructure services to top Fortune 1000 companies, which is exactly what the hiring manager interviewing candidates for that job is looking for.

So, the next time someone asks you about one of your red flags, remember to use the CCR Technique. Be concise, confident, and redirect the question to focus on your strengths.

Do you have a red flag on your resume? Would you like some help figuring out how to handle your red flag question? E-mail me and let me know at kent.lee@perfectresumeaz.com.

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