A Fault Is Not a Flaw
Sometimes work situations do not go well. We may encounter supervisors, managers or co-workers, even clients or suppliers, who are difficult to work with. We may be assigned a task without being given adequate time or resources to carry it out to the best of our ability. We may find the work culture overly stressful or ill suited to our values and principles. Our performance may slip from time to time due to illness, injury or personal issues outside of work. And sometimes—let’s face it—we just screw up.
Whatever the reason, we all have moments on the job we are not so proud of. When applying for a new position, it’s tempting to try to hide or whitewash problems or mistakes that occurred in your previous employment. Please believe me when I say that is not a good strategy. On the contrary, by attempting to avoid having to explain an unfortunate incident or conflict, you risk undermining trust with your prospective new employer if the truth comes to light while checking references and referrals.
Instead, own up to the incident, relate what occurred without being overly defensive or placing all the blame on the other party, and, most importantly, talk about what you learned from it and/or how you have since modified your behavior, thinking or planning to prevent such incidents in the future. That will make a stronger impression on a hiring manager than pretending you never err.
Success does not come without a struggle, and learning does not happen without mistakes. A fault is not a character flaw, and the occasional bad judgment does not make you a bad person. The true test of character is how you respond to such situations and how you use them to grow and improve.