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Check Your (Professional) Baggage at the Door

We all know personal lives carry a lot of baggage - but we don’t always think about how our professional lives do, too. Most people have had at least one negative work experience and, far too often, that comes up during job interviews.  You may think you’re just being cautious when you highlight past experiences but, actually, you’re likely talking yourself out of a good job.

First of all, we don’t want you to forget about your old jobs. Learning from the bad is an important tool in figuring out what does and does not work for you in a professional environment and you should use that to evaluate new opportunities. But there are professional ways to go about it:

  • Assume the best, not the worst. Don’t ask if they do something good - assume they do and ask how it works! For example - “How do providers and managers collaborate?” rather than “Do providers and managers collaborate?”

  • Ask questions that will lead to the answers you want without telling about the experience that’s prompting the question. If you want to make sure that billing is done properly, don’t talk about improper coding at your last job and ask how they avoid it. Instead, ask them to tell you about their billing process and ask questions for elaboration.

  • Whatever else you do, don’t speak negatively about past employers! In general, this is considered unprofessional and an interviewing faux pas. Yes, even if you preface it with, “Not to speak badly, but …”

You might be wondering why this matters - what harm is there in being direct about what you don’t like and ensuring you don’t find that in your next job? The problem is in the perception your potential employer will have of you.

By bringing up your baggage, you give the distinct impression that you’re someone who looks for the negative. We all know that every job has its pluses and minuses, so it’s inevitable that you’ll find something you don’t like in this job. The hiring manager will know this and it’s an easy way to weed out applicants - because someone who seeks out the negative is rarely a long-term employee. No one likes to bring negativity into their workspace and if you focus on past mishaps during an interview, you can’t avoid coming off as a negative person.

In short - no one likes a “Negative Nancy”! Don’t miss out on a good opportunity by letting your baggage get in the way.