I am among the finalists for a position with a state agency for a job that I really want. I worked for a bit over a year at another state agency, where I received a very poor performance review and not other reviews before I resigned and moved on. The nature of the final hiring process for the job I am currently a finalist for is that I must sign a release that gives them access to any information about past employment with the state. I know that all the other references I am providing will give me stellar reviews and a good recommendation.

My question is, should I proactively mention this poor review, and ask for the opportunity to give an explanation and discuss the extenuating circumstances at the time? The "circumstances" are not related to the job, boss/supervisor, or co-workers.

Thank you for any feedback. It is very much appreciated.

  • How long ago was the performance review? How many reviews have come in since then? Are you still having the same performance issues?
    – Malisbad
    Mar 29, 2019 at 2:01
  • It has been just under three years since I worked there, and have not worked at another state agency since. So there are no other reviews.
    – dtmoore
    Mar 29, 2019 at 2:04
  • What is a "state agency"? Like a government department? Mar 29, 2019 at 2:44
  • Yes, like a government department. At the level of state government. For example, most states have a department of human services, a department of education, etc. And it wouldn't be a "my boss never liked me" discussion.
    – dtmoore
    Mar 30, 2019 at 1:46

2 Answers 2


should I proactively mention this poor review, and ask for the opportunity to give an explanation and discuss the extenuating circumstances at the time?

No. Don't proactively bring up any negative aspects of your past. Instead, focus on the positives and the background that makes you the best candidate for this new position.

If asked specifically about the poor review, then certainly explain how it happened and why it won't happen again. Don't blame others, just be factual.

And if you sense that the questions are of the sort where they are clearly thinking about this one bad review, then you can say something like "I'm guessing that you are thinking about that bad performance review? Let me talk about that a bit." Then you can expand on it.

Focus on the positive. Be prepared should it be necessary to talk about the negative. Maybe it will be necessary. Maybe it won't.


If you've got a bad review, it tends to be the answer for questions like "when have you failed". What's important is to prove/discuss what was wrong, and what you've done about it since. People make mistakes, sometimes performance isn't up to snuff. The important part is that it is no longer a problem. It's sometimes even an advantage for the applicant because it shows that they can receive negative feedback, and they do something about it.

A good interviewer/hiring committee will ask you about it if they have concerns, but if there is another interview/opportunity to discuss it yourself, you can take the opportunity to discuss it. This also can play in your favour because it means that you own your mistakes and aren't afraid to face them.

Good luck!

  • 1
    While I don't think you should lie or avoid the question, I don't think it should be expressly brought up first available opportunity. If mentioned, then if anything, you should have an answer ready which makes it clear to the employer that whatever issue it was is not going to happen again due to circumstances or otherwise.
    – Neil
    Mar 29, 2019 at 8:47

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