Q: I had a good job with good pay for six years. I just could never get into the politics and gossip that came with it. As a matter of fact, I tried to get myself fired by calling in sick a lot, being late and leaving boxes in my delivery truck for days and days. I finally figured out they weren't going to do anything, so I fired myself. My problem now is that my ex-boss is not exactly saying nice things about me when prospective employers call him. - Rick
A: Kate: Dale and I usually take the side of the person who writes to us, but geez, Rick, you make it hard. Your employer put up with your bad behavior, probably out of loyalty. I wish you had shown a little remorse. I'm sure that Dale will have more sympathetic advice for you, but you tried very hard to get people not to like you, and you were successful.
Dale: Well, yes, I am more sympathetic, unless it was my package in that truck. The truth is that Rick is simply more honest with us, and himself, than most. Many people who dislike their jobs find ways to get themselves fired, and it ends up benefiting everyone. Rick's employer didn't catch on. What to do now about the ex-boss? Most of those who presume that they're being badmouthed, really aren't. If you want to be certain, get a friend to call and ask about you. I'm betting that you'll learn that it's you who's sabotaging your application in the interview, maybe by talking about politics and gossip. To bring up such matters will cause a hiring manager to be skeptical about your ability to get along.
Kate: Instead, speak positively of what you are looking for - a place with people you can look up to and where you can work hard to earn your pay. And speaking of honesty: Please make that true.
Q: I am a 58-year-old registered nurse who was at a new job for six weeks before being fired. I was told I was fired because I had falsified a doctor's orders. What happened was that the doctor told me, on the phone, that he agreed with my assessment of a patient's needs. When the MD received a hard copy of the order a couple of days later, he became irate. This event has rattled me to my foundation. Since then I have gone on several interviews. How do I broach the subject? Sometimes I think I say too much. - Sandy
A: Dale: You've been a nurse for what, 30 plus years? This one job was just six weeks out of more than 1,500 weeks on the job. So if you're spending more than 6/1500ths of the interview on that job, you are indeed talking too much about it. You can't let that one incident undo all the good you've done and will do. You are needed. I hope you saved some of the notes you've gotten from patients - reread them. Then go and get a job as a temp to get your mind past the incident.
Kate: Furthermore, you need to learn how to take more control of an interview. Prepare a 3-inch-by-5-inch card for each position you apply for with the following:
1. Your goal.
2. Headlines for the three or four accomplishments you want to talk about.
3. An answer to the question you're most afraid they'll ask.
4. A statement of why you want to work for that specific company.
As for No. 3, you need a concise statement, followed by a segue. If asked about the six-week job, you might say, "One of the doctors didn't like me. That's unusual for me." But if you stop there, you are inviting them to probe. Instead, keep going: "For instance, I can give you the names of four doctors at XYZ Hospital who adored me. May I give you their names?" That's how you manage the interview.