How to handle the "bad experience" question


Hey, it’s Zell. Today, we have a question from a student from prefers to remain anonymous. I’m going to call this student May.

Here’s her question:

May freaks out whenever a recruiter asks her to talk about a bad experience in an interview. She had a complicated situation; she didn’t want to blame the company she was at, and she didn’t want to say she lacked experience (and therefore sucked).

She tried to answer the question, didn’t get positive results from her answers, and she’s now considering lying about the bad experience to find a job.

I love this question because there is a lot to unpack for this situation. We need to talk about May’s experience in order to fully understand the situation. So here’s what happened.

May had got a job, but was fired within three months. That job was her first job.

Why did she get fired? Well, she couldn’t complete the tasks she was tasked to do. She tried to ask for help, but nobody had the time to help her (or nobody was willing to help her). Her boss even said “I know you’re asking for me to help you, but I don’t have the time to train you”.

Now, the last point echos what I said in my job search protip video. Check it out; it may just change how you think about finding a job.

Let’s come back to May and her experience.

This is a traumatic experience, but it’s a good experience

First of all, I’m sorry to hear to hear you got fired from the job. It’s pretty traumatic to get fired within the first three months; it seems to say you’re not good enough. It’s tough to get back on your feet, but it’s a great experience to have because it sets you up for success in future—the way you think about learning and working will change completely going forward.

Don’t write this experience off and hope that it didn’t exist. This is really good experience if you look back at it in hindsight, maybe 2-3 years in future.

Next, this experience is the perfect experience to talk about in the job interview.

Think about it, why do employers ask you about a bad experience you had? Standing from an employer’s point of view, they want to know your character and how you deal with challenges in a pinch. They want to see how you respond as a person at your core.

How to answer the bad experience question

To answer the question, you need to be honest—people can smell bullshit from a mile away. Don’t try to fake it because people will feel uneasy about you.

Next, you need to reflect on the experience. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why did it happen?
  2. Why did you become inefficient in your work?
  3. Why can’t you perform?
  4. What’s the difference between the project in this job versus your projects in school?
  5. What were you worried or afraid of?
  6. What were your expectations about the job/project?
  7. How was reality different from your expectations?
  8. What lessons did you learn?
  9. How will you ensure something like this never happens again?

You need to sit down and find thees answers yourself because nobody can find the answers for you. Only you know know what has happened; only you know what you learned.

Craft your answers into a script if you can. When the recruiter pops the question, you tell your story.

The script

Tell your story truthfully. Start with the fact that you got fired because of this experience. Be honest. Honesty is important.

If your employer knows you’re honest, they’ll be open to hearing you out. They’ll also be more honest about their company and their situation; you’ll get more info about the job—it’s a win win situation for both of you.

If your employer doesn’t want to hear honest stories, you’re probably going to have a hard time working for them in future. You’ll want to think twice about accepting a job with them.

Remember, you’re interviewing them as they interview you.

Next, talk about what happens. Talk about your expectations. Talk about your worries. Talk about how your expectations were different from reality. Talk about how you asked for help, but was rejected. Talk about what you learned and how you’ll prevent it from happening again.

The most important part of the experience is how you grew from it—we’re all humans; we screw up from time to time. It’s normal to screw up.

It might be helpful to see how I talked about my project from hell experience. It was really bad. I stopped freelancing for one year because if it. Check out how I talked about publicly in the article. Watch how I looked at the situation; Watch how I talked about it and how I concluded the situation.

It may seem that I’m blaming someone else, but am I really blaming someone else? Or am I being objective about what happened?

Next, craft your story after reading the article. Email me if you want to and I’ll see how I can help.

Then talk about it when an employer asks about it.

Wrapping up

Don’t feel bad about your bad experience. Don’t write it off, because every experience is a learning experience.

That’s it for this video, I hope you learned something. All the best for your job search.

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That’s it, I hope this video has been useful. Happy Friday, and I hope to see you next week.

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