Should You Admit Mistakes During Job Interviews?


You’re getting ready for the interview of your life. Your resume and cover letter are safely ensconced in your briefcase. Your shirt’s pressed. You look great, you feel great, you are great!

Of course, this is the mantra you’re repeating to yourself as you anxiously wait for your name to be called by the receptionist. Suddenly, you’re in. You give a nice, firm handshake to your interviewer and take the hot seat. Here’s where the real work begins.

Making a First Impression

How do you make yourself appear to be the ideal candidate without being smug? Will they like you? Are they going to do a background check?

Here’s what you need to come ready to do in order to make a good first impression:

  • The most important factor in any job search is knowing why you’re the perfect person for the position. You should come prepared to convince the company that what you have is what it’s looking for.
  • You should never speak ill of previous co-workers or bosses; airing your dirty laundry in a job interview is a surefire way to not get hired.  If you’ll do it to your ex-employers, what’s to stop you from eventually doing it to the company interviewing you?)

However, even if you’re the perfect person for the job, your past may reflect the bumpy road it took to becoming you. People make mistakes. If you own up to those mistakes and, more importantly, learn from them, you will be a better employee in general. When you admit your faults in an interview, you’re showing you’re self-aware and honest.

Employers want to hire real human beings, with both strengths and flaws. Heidi Fuhrman, Director of Possibilities at the League of Innovators, says, Past mistakes don’t typically lead to a job, but being transparent in an interview about your record provides an opportunity to discuss what you’ve learned. You don’t have to pretend to be perfect, but characteristics of transparency and personal growth are attractive attributes that can redeem the past.

Admitting Your Faults

If your past is less than ideal, keeping something from a potential employer can be detrimental to getting hired. Most companies screen potential candidates prior to employment, so it’s important to share this information beforehand. (This includes checking out your social media profiles; even if you maintain these as private, many companies now pay to have open access to view your friends-only version.)

The interview process is also a great time to discuss anything on your record and explain either how you’ve changed for the better or why there’s an error present. My company participates in a program that aids in transitioning ex-convicts back into society. Their past transgressions are obviously more public than others might be, but their transparency allows us to have an open conversation about expectations and habits. Employers appreciate the opportunity to have a candid discussion with you about what they’ve found  and your willingness to participate proves to them that you’re cooperative and trustworthy, two positives on your side.

Your work ethic and abilities are shaped by your past. Additionally, many employers (rightfully) believe that past behavior is a good indicator of future performance. You should admit when you’ve done something wrong, but also explain what you are doing or have done to change for the better. If the flaws are exposed and on the table, we can then focus on  and exploit  the strengths without confusion, says Matt Roberts, COO of Molding Box.

Failure is something that enables each of us to grow as people. Even  the most successful people in the world have failed. You will learn more about yourself, and what you’re made of, in the process of picking yourself up than you ever will from not putting yourself out there.

The fact is no one is perfect. When a company is seeking to hire a prospective employee, it’s looking for people who are teachable and want to do great things. If you’ve found the perfect job that’s the sum of all your abilities, don’t be afraid to own up to your mistakes and embrace them. Being an open and self-aware book may just earn you your dream job.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at Under30Careers.

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