I need some interview help. Badly. Thanks.
October 30, 2012 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Crazy stressful job opportunity filter.

So I'm really freaked out about something. Thanks for your help.


I left job B in August to start job C (started in September). I was very, very excited about job C. The person who was training me for job C seemed to take an immediate dislike for me. I tried to rectify things and didn't really realize there was anything that wrong. Last week I was told that I had failed in my training program for job C. I had no warnings whatsoever that anything was amiss. I was told last week that I hadn't done anything wrong but just wasn't ready for job C. I actually disagree. I'm generally pretty realistic about my skills, and not a person to toot my own horn in any way. But I was very clear about my weaknesses and newness to the industry in my interviews. Most of the complaints about me were about weaknesses that were apparent on my resume. Further I thought I was doing a pretty good job at job C in my training. I definitely feel like I had tons to learn but I had said that. Their criticisms of me were just very different from the criticisms that I would have made on myself, and I'm generally a pretty good judge of my own skills.

But for the purposes of this question, if you could just assume that I'm reasonably competent at what I do, that would be helpful.

Job C is offering me another, much less interesting job that they feel would benefit me and prepare me to return to the original position (in 1 or 2 years). For various reasons this is really difficult for me and not a good scenario. However, I'm planning on taking this job because a) it's a pretty prestigious place and I think I would actually learn a lot even if it's a major step backward and b) after leaving my last job, I'm very concerned my resume is starting to look a lot like I'm a "jumper". I was at job A for 10 months and job B for 1 year. So I think whatever job I take now I really need to stay at, and sadly in this situation that might be taking this lesser job.

This afternoon I got a call from another company which is very local to me. This is for something I applied to many months ago when I was still at Job B. It's literally around the corner from my house, which is really nice. I'm not sure the details yet (they left a message) but depending, I'd be really interested in taking this job. There is someone who works at this job who I worked with at job B. We always seemed to get along, but since she's left I've made a couple of attempts to get in touch and she's been a little elusive (this is via facebook). However I think we're friends still.

I left Job B in August. I gave two weeks notice. I didn't have a strong relationship with my supervisor because I rarely saw her (I worked overnights). But I can get references from people I worked with that I think would be very good. I can also get some good references from job A. Unfortunately everyone already knows about my new job.

So of course my question is how do I explain my current situation?

My commute to job B was very, very awful. 3 hours a day on the train and I worked the overnight shifts.

So options as I see them
a) Say that the commute was killing me (which it was) and that I left to pursue some other options for a couple of months and I'm now looking for work (which I am). Ask my references to not refer to job C.
b) Be totally honest and upfront with what happened at job B. Tell my references what happened.

?? Other options?

Thanks for your thoughts. My head is spinning right now. It has not been an easy couple of weeks. I'd really love to have a better idea what to say if I get an interview.

My inclination was to go with option 1, partially because being overly earnest and honest about my skills has partially caused my issues at job C. But I'm also wondering if I would feel better if I just went with option B and hoped that they would be understanding of the situation. Regarding job C, I haven't been fired (and it would have been easy for them to fire me, as I'm on my probationary period), and they "believe in me" enough to offer me another job.

I'll try to fill in details as I can. Sorry for the generic tone here but this whole experience has me on edge a bit.
posted by sully75 to Work & Money (5 answers total)
Response by poster: ps for the record, I'm told I interview well. My style is to be totally forthright, I don't dismiss my skills but I try to be really realistic about my experience level and skills.

ps II the friend at the job I would be interviewing for does know that I left job B for job C. Although she might not remember I told her. Or she could be pissed that I got the offer. I don't know. She was not super great about responding to emails so I'm not sure why I didn't hear from her.
posted by sully75 at 1:18 PM on October 30, 2012

Job C sounds like a nightmare, if you have a way of bailing on them, I would.

Job hopping isn't really that big of a deal. That's "old economy" thinking.

Be honest, to a point, about what's happening at job C, be totally enthusiastic about the prospective new job:

"I'm so glad you called, I was really hoping to work with Company in this exact Position. The timing is excellent, I've just been informed by my current company that they want to move me to a different position, and while I've enjoyed working there, the new position is not nearly as interesting or as much a match for my skills as Position is with you."

I wouldn't worry too much about your friend from job B. Most people don't keep in touch once they change jobs, if you end up working at the same company, you'll probably start going to lunch together again.

Re: Job B, "I left to pursue the opportunity at Job C." That's all.

Focus on how excited you are about interviewing with Company D, and ask them to describe the position. If it sounds like a good fit, awesome, continue on. If it doesn't, well you've got a job at Company C, FWIW.

Don't view what happened at Company C as a failure. Lord only knows what the real story is there. You weren't fired. It doesn't reflect on you, it reflects on them.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:38 PM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

My head is spinning right now. This is normal, though not helpful. Do what you can to slow down and take one step at a time.

So of course my question is how do I explain my current situation? Well, first of all, don't explain it until you HAVE to explain it. Say nothing, in other words, until you are specifically asked or until you have to complete paperwork which will reveal the reality. Your reasons for going to Job C are the commute and the opportunity. As for why you would leave Job C so soon: "It's just not a fit" (said with a tone that combines regret and puzzlement) is answer enough.

Focus on how excited you are about interviewing with Company D, and ask them to describe the position. Yes. This should help you get the ball rolling more with Company D.

On the other hand ... Job hopping isn't really that big of a deal until you're interviewing with a boss for whom it IS a big deal. And there are plenty of them left out there, "old economy" or not.
posted by John Borrowman at 2:00 PM on October 30, 2012

Congrats on getting an interview! This is a complicated situation for you, but it's not so unusual. Basic guidelines still apply:

Don't say anything more than necessary about your current employment, but don't be ashamed of it. Ruthless Bunny has a good little script above.

Don't lie or obsfucate either... Someone you used to work with may be friendly enough but she is not your friend (except in the FB sense of the word). She might be willing to give you some insight about the new company, but she may also give the hiring person insight into you.

Finally, don't blame all of your poor review for the training period at Co. C on interpersonal dynamics with one person. It's good that you had identified those weaknesses, but maybe they are more significant than you thought, or you need to indicate that you're learning in another way?
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 2:31 PM on October 30, 2012

I would pursue Job D and see where it goes. If you're offered the job, and if it seems like this job is actually everything you'd hoped and you get along swimmingly/are a great fit, then give notice at Job C.

I would be careful about Grass Is Greener syndrome, here, and unrealistic expectations for Job D. It's easy to see another job opportunity as a panacea for everything you hate about your current gig, but the new job will have flaws of its own.

I'm also wondering if you aren't relatively young and recently out of school, and potentially biting off more than you can chew in the hiring process. It's not necessarily a bad thing that, seeing you struggle a little with training for Job C, the company instead offered you something that they were more confident you would succeed with. It's not a "step down" if the alternative was that you could potentially bomb Job C and get fired for cause.

I'm not saying that you are incompetent. But now that I'm past that phase of my own career, I can see more clearly that it's not so important to climb the corporate ladder as quickly as possible. It's more important to understand your job and do it well. Not competently. Not without too many complaints. Not without getting fired. But well. It gets extremely stressful to always be one step behind, always be the weak link, and always be afraid that the complaints about your work are going to start to outweigh what you are doing OK with. It's better to accomplish a lower level job Like A MF'in Boss than to barely cling to life in a higher level one.

Would it ruin your life to spend a year doing the easier job? Because it sounds like the issue here is a matter of pride, or a matter of seeing yourself as a wunderkind overachiever and getting angry when life shows you that you're pretty much just normal.
posted by Sara C. at 3:44 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

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