Is a red herring good or bad? Obviously it can be either. A red herring distracts from an important point. Here is how it works.
Do you have something to hide? If it is a minor disqualifier, be prepared to talk around it. Let’s say you were five years in accounting, but only the last year of it in audit. They ask about how much time you actually spent in audits. You answer precisely, “I’ve been with Bolger & Smith CPA’s for five years. In the last year alone, I have done full audits of 12 companies in addition to my other duties.” The phrase, “In the last year alone,” is a red herring. Skillfully placed it diverts attention to the last year.
Were you fired for refusing to work any more overtime? First off, make sure there will be no overtime in the new job. When they ask, “Why did you leave,”
you can reply, “My manager and I disagreed on a matter of service, which I will not go into.” Don’t say, “I was fired.” Don’t give a full explanation. When they press for details you can say, “My last manager was well qualified. We disagreed on a matter of service. I won’t go into it any further.”
The red herring is your nobility in not tearing down your old manager. Make sure they see your loyalty and refusal to gossip. It makes you look good and distracts them from the issue of you being fired.
A red herring is not a lie. It is a distraction. If your distraction doesn’t work, either refuse to answer or tell the unvarnished truth. In the end, distraction is acceptable. A lie will get you fired.
Something to do today
If you have something to hide, write out tough questions. Write out three red herrings for each question. Practice them.