Workplace Rights

Weekly (6/1/09)

Topic of the Week  Angels and Demons - Overcoming a Stigma in a Job Interview

Overcoming stigma in your past:
• P - Playful.
• A - Alone, NOT.
• S - Succinct.
• T - Truth.

Your Rant: I was in mortgage banking. At a recent interview a company told me they won’t hire any sub-primers in their company. How do I overcome this stigma?

911 Repair,
Stigma, it’s tough to face it for the first time in a job interview. However, join the club; women, African Americans, older workers, there are many people out there who’ve struggled against this kind of bias for a long time. Which always reminds me of the airport. The airport? Yes, because just like at the airport, at work we all carry baggage too. Baggage that can make your job search much more challenging.

However, there are many ways to avoid tripping over your baggage in a job interview, I’ve included four strategies below, built around the word “PAST.” For more ideas, check out, turning cynicism into solutions.

P - Playful. Yes, playful. Often you can move past a stigma with a witty remark or funny observation. For example, when President Obama was asked the dreaded Clinton questions, “Did you inhale?” He just smiled and inquired, “Wasn’t that the point?” Don’t leave your sense of humor at home, often it’s one of your best tools for negotiating today’s workplace. Just be careful to not appear arrogant or insensitive to their concerns.

A - Alone, NOT. As I said earlier, we all have baggage at work. Which means that many of the people you know who are currently employed have managed to move past theirs. So next time you get together with former colleagues or friends, instead of being full of boasting and bravado about all your success, ask specific questions about how they’ve gotten past the red flags in their career. You can learn a lot from the people around you about how to navigate the hiring minefield but you’ll have to ask, seldom is this information volunteered.

S - Succinct. There is a classic interviewer’s trick, when an interviewee finishes his or her answer don’t immediately ask another question. Wait. Often when confronted with silence an interviewee will just keep talking, often digging a deep hole for themselves in the process. Avoid this risk by talking about your stigma(s) succinctly. Don’t embellish. Give a short and direct answer to their questions and then wait until the next question. Don’t feel compelled to fill the silence. Adopt this approach and you will learn that silence can be golden for you.

T - Truth. I’ve had people write to me who lied during an interview and still managed to get hired, but later on the company found out about the lie and they were eventually let go. Never lie on your resume or in an interview, it has a nasty way of eventually catching up with you. That said, you don’t necessarily have to volunteer damaging information about yourself either, unless you’re directly asked about it.

Again the issue in a job interview isn’t your baggage, it’s how you handle it. Use the strategies above to roll smoothly through your next interview.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning You can also hear workplace911 on BlogTalkRadio weekly. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"Always be smarter than the people who hire you."

–Lena Horne

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