If you are unemployed or coming out of toxic place, here is what you must do before interviewing for a new job

By Jack J. Kelly



There is an old saying in recruiting, “If you have a job, it is easier to get a job.”  Even if you are not involved with recruiting, the adage is pretty intuitive. A person who is currently employed, especially if they are well-compensated and happy, is more likely to perform better in an interview than a person who is either unemployed or miserably dissatisfied with his or her job.

Think of it like dating; if you meet someone who is confident, self-assured, comfortable in their own skin, and in a good mood, you will tend to be more attracted to that person. Now, if you meet someone who is angry, resentful, bitter, and can’t stop complaining about his or her ex-partner that is needy and overly pushy, you would probably stay away from him or her.

When a person is gainfully employed, she could interview with confidence and assuredness. There is nothing for her to lose. If the interview goes well: fantastic. If she doesn’t do well in the interview: oh well. She still has a great job to return to after the interview is over.

Whereas, if she is unemployed (especially for a long period of time), understandably she may be nervous, anxious, and worried about how she will pay her bills, scared that she may be too old/young, not the right fit, and afraid that nothing will ever materialize.

If they have over 10-plus years of experience, the chances are that they have a very specialized skill set and there may not be that many jobs available in their specialty. Now, the stress is really on. The pressure to nail that interview is so intense that it is exceptionally hard to perform well.  We are not actors and can’t turn on or off our fears and emotions so easily. The interview, like dealing with people in everyday life, are perceptive and pick-up on the uncomfortable tension. The worry and anxiety may be too much for the interviewer to handle and will continue the interview process by meeting other candidates.

If you are in a bad situation at work, where your coworkers are vindictive, mean, gossiping backstabbers or your boss is a mercurial, sadist, and only out for himself, chances are that you will look for a new job.  The thing is that it takes time to realize that you are in a toxic environment. Then, you spend some more time believing you could fix it, just like you would try to remedy a bad relationship. As time- sometimes years- go by, you realize that it can’t be fixed. Also, what happens is that you slowly, over the course of time, become beaten down. Without recognizing it, you become angry, jaded, bitter, morose, resentful, hateful, and mean spirited. It makes sense. If you are in a hostile workplace environment, it will adversely impact you. Chances are you will bring these feelings home and your family dynamics will suffer too.

When this person interviews, the odds are that they will not be able to hide their raw emotions. When asked why they are looking, it is easy to let loose with all your pent-up discouragement, annoyances, grievances, resentment, and rage. As you can imagine, these traits are not attractive to a hiring manager. The hiring manager will wonder if it is really the fault of everyone else or is it you.

Before you interview you must make an assessment of yourself and retake control over your life.

Here is what you need to immediately do:

  • If you are unemployed or coming out of bad work relationship, the first thing you need to do is take some time alone to think. Consider why you lost your job or how you ended up in such a bad work environment. Why did things fall apart? Where did it go wrong?
  • Be brutally honest with yourself in this process.
  • It’s also okay to take some time to heal before you start interviewing again.
  • Think through not only what happened at your last company, but the places you worked previously. Are there any patterns that you fell into, which lead to bad outcomes?
  • Consider if you are in the right line of work. Are you suited for the profession that you are in?
  • Are you suited for the profession, but don’t really like it?
  • Are you doing the job primarily due to societal, family, or monetary pressure?
  • Do you allow people to take advantage of you?
  • Are you actually the aggressor or bad actor in the story?
  • Was it really the boss and coworkers at fault? Could it have partly been you?
  • Maybe you have doing work that isn’t meaningful, doesn’t make you happy or fulfilled, and it, ultimately, leads to disappointment?
  • Are you the person you aspire to be?

These are just some of the real, deep questions you need to ask yourself before you proceed. If you don’t, it will be hard to perform well in the interview. Also, if you don’t sort yourself out, you will continue in a vicious downward cycle.

You owe it to yourself to figure out what went wrong, consider any work you have do on yourself, and give yourself time to heal and recover.

After the self-assessment and once you feel emotionally and mentally healthy and have a handle on why you are where you are, then you are almost ready to interview.

Relentlessly practice your interviewing techniques and style until you are fantastic at it. Practice with someone you trust who could tell you when you come across angry, resentful, or desperate. You will eventually build-up your confidence, become a completely different  person in the interview, and succeed in getting the job!



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