“You’ve done well on your final interview. I was told you can expect a job offer in the next couple of days. Congratulations.”
“Wow. Uh, Bryan, are they doing a background check?”
“Yes. This is a bank.”
“There’s one more thing you don’t know. I haven’t told anyone because I was afraid it would keep me from getting the job. Three years ago I…”
Hiding a dead fish in your briefcase won’t make it smell better when you finally have to open it. We’ll talk about job hunting in a minute. Projects are easy
Dead fish and the project arsonist
In project management hiding a serious problem will turn you into an arsonist firefighter—the guy who causes months of sleepless nights for his team. For projects, let your boss know of the problem by asking for his help to find a solution. If you ask early enough, he may still be able to get you training, equipment, or people to help you.
In job hunting, you need to make some choices if there are dead fish in your briefcase
You can make two mistakes. The first is to put everything that might disqualify you on your resume. That keeps you from being considered at all. The second is to hide the information as long as possible. The first is like slapping someone with a dead fish instead of shaking their hand when you first meet them. The second is like taking that dead fish and hiding it in your briefcase and putting it out in the sun. The smell will get stronger and stronger over time. Dead rotting fish don’t smell better after a few days.
First make sure it is a real skeleton. Age, marital status, sex, sexual preference, and country of origin are often considered to be a problem by a job applicant when they are not. Don’t bring them up. They are not skeletons.
Problems that disqualify you from a job are another matter. The only way to win with a serious problem is to find a champion. It could be the manager who wants to hire you, the HR (Human Resources) person, or someone you know who overcame a similar problem. You’ll have to take a risk in letting someone know during the interview. Often your champion will be an agency recruiter. As your champion gets to know you, he can break the bad news to the hiring team with a positive recommendation. That may be before or after the first set of interviews. It will never be just before a job offer is made.
Let’s face it, a disqualifying problem disqualifies you! You are asking for an exception to be made. If you can get someone to go to bat for you, you have a chance. Don’t try to hide a major problem in your briefcase, hoping no one notices. A rotting fish never smells better after a few moist days in the sun.
Something To Do Today
Are there problems you bring up in your resume? Do you apologize for something? Do you proudly display your age, sex, sexual preference or country of origin in your resume? Get rid of that stuff. It makes people worry you will be a flaming activist.
Bigger problems? Decide how you will enlist a champion. Will it be a recruiter or someone you know outside the interview process? Will you recruit someone within the interview process? You need a plan.
How to work a convention