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How To Handle Liability Questions At A Job Interview

  The primary purpose of a job interview, from the employer’s viewpoint, is to "screen out" or de-select candidates.  Only when unqualified candidates are eliminated from consideration can a hiring selection be made.  So, oddly enough, hiring is only a second consideration for the employer.

  This being true, the employer uses multiple tools to do the de-selection.  Asking vague, loaded questions like “tell me about yourself’ apply pressure on the candidate. There are many other screening techniques. 

  One that is most distressing to job candidates is the use of the “liability” question.  The idea is to focus on a candidate’s weaknesses and see if they can credibly deal with the issues.

  Examples of liability issues might be:

            “We require a four year degree for this job…you only have an Associates.” 

            “The job requires ten years in the construction industry, your background shows six.” 

            “I notice periods of unemployment on your resume.  What happened?” 

  All candidates have some kind of liability vis-à-vis a job they are applying for.  There is really no perfect candidate.  However, that doesn’t stop employers from using liabilities as de-selection tools.

 What can you do to stop a liability de-selection? 

  We recommend the use of the “corresponding positive.”  That is, to say, for every liability there is probably a counter-balancing positive.  Let’s say you lack a four-year degree.  Your practical experience might be the equivalent.  Or, if you lack ten years of experience, the intensity of your background may be the equal of more years.  Periods of unemployment might have been educational sojourns where you upgraded your professional skills.

  The idea is to anticipate the liability, identify the corresponding positive, prepare a statement about it and practice, practice, practice. 

   If or when it comes up at the interview, not only will your reply cover the problem, but may well leave the interviewer impressed with how well you dealt with a potentially negative moment.  Things like that lead to job offers.

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