Most job seekers are perceptive enough to know when an interview isn’t going well. So if you arrive late, can’t answer a question or totally botch a response, you’re not exactly surprised when you don’t receive an invite to move forward. But every once in a while, you’ll have an interview that you think went great only to get rejected (or worse, ghosted) by the recruiter.
You might wonder if the interviewers deemed you unqualified, or if the position went to an internal candidate instead. But one common disqualifier you may not have considered is that you came off as too negative in your interview.
“Negativity in any form automatically taints the interview,” says Wemi Opakunle, Recruiter at Netflix and author of the upcoming book Thank God It’s Monday: 52 Weekly Inspirational Messages to Blast Away Your Monday Blues. “The focus of the interview is to get to know you and see how you can contribute to and elevate the company. A candidate’s approach should be focused on presenting yourself as a solution. The moment you become a problem or present yourself as anything other than a solution, the interviewer puts up a mental red flag.”
So how can you tell if you’re guilty of excessive negativity, and what can you do to fix it? We turned to the experts for answers.
When Negativity Strikes
To be clear, you don’t have to be a negative person in general to come off the wrong way in a job interview. Even the most cheerful and optimistic among us fall victim to negativity from time to time, particularly in response to certain topics, such as why you want to leave your current position or company.
Often, candidates “feel the best answer to this question is to cite the shortcomings of their previous employer,” which “can quickly lead to a tangential description of the faults [of] managers or a list of a company’s shortcomings,” explains Mollie Moric, Career Advisor and Hiring Manager at Resume Genius. “The main purpose of a job interview is to sell yourself, your ability to complete a role, fit in with a company and be a positive addition to a team. Your interviewer isn’t concerned with how much of a jerk your previous manager was or how poorly the company was run.”
Besides wasting valuable time that could be used to highlight how great you are, these rants reflect poorly on your character. Career coach Lisa Lewis shares that those who complain about former employers “often come across as someone stuck in the past or feeling like a victim,” while Opakunle points out that “any employer who hears you speaking negatively about a past company in a first meeting will assume you’ll do the same about them.”
It’s also easy to sound overly cynical and/or self-critical when you talk about weaknesses and mistakes, given that they are an inherently negative topic.
“The appropriate answer to this question requires a candidate to provide a list of weaknesses accompanied by examples of how they’ve overcome each one. However, an unprepared candidate may opt to divulge a list of their greatest weaknesses and how they’ve affected their life instead of a more appropriate response,” Moric says.
Talking about past employers and weaknesses or mistakes aren’t the only situations in which negativity can slip through, though. Other indications your conversation has taken a turn for the worse include “sighing, breaking eye contact, seeing fewer smiles or head nods, noticing longer pauses in between their questions, ending an interview earlier than the scheduled time or getting the feeling that the tone of the conversation has taken on a slow, heavy energy,” Lewis says.
How to Change Your Tone
Experts recommended several key strategies to avoid excess negativity. For example, don’t talk about why you want to leave your current job — instead, try “describing the traits of the work and workplace you’re seeking for your next move,” Lewis suggests. “When you focus on your own agency and the positive attributes you want, you can take a potentially very negative situation and turn it into a positive opportunity.”
Similarly, if asked to bring up an example of a mistake you’ve made or a challenge you’ve encountered, “follow each negative comment with a way in which you were able to make the situation positive in the end,” Moric advises. “For example, if you experienced a significant period of unemployment, explain how you took online courses to update your skills or spent time volunteering to give back to the community.”
You can also try “talking about the lessons you learned from a challenging situation and mentioning all the resources you now use to handle similar issues differently to find a better resolution,” Lewis adds.
But perhaps the most important thing you can do is practice answering common interview questions aloud before your interview takes place.
“If you know that you have residual negative feelings about a point in your career that might come up in your interview, prepare your answers for those topics beforehand. Instead of getting triggered by a negative feeling and botching an important interview question, you’ll be able to provide well-thought-out answers that offer a positive perspective on an otherwise difficult topic,” Moric says.
Of course, life is always going to be full of both positives and negatives, so you don’t need to pretend that nothing bad has ever happened to you. But there’s a big difference between experiencing something negative and dwelling on it.
“If you’ve had something negative happen, don’t ignore it completely or pretend it didn’t happen. Interviewers want transparency and authenticity from you in the interview to be able to feel like they can trust you,” Lewis says. “But ensure that as you reflect, you show signs of separation and growth from the situation rather than coming across as still entrenched in the thick of the emotional consequences.”
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate|