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As a hypothetical question: I worked at a dysfunctional place - constant crisis mode, crunch time, etc. As just a "minion" I didn't create or have any influence over deadlines and such. (I didn't cause the crunch time!)

How could I word it in an interview to get across that I acted decisively, responded to constant changes, did everything necessary to meet deadlines, always acted as a "team player" etc. Without seeming to bad mouth the company or give the impression that the crisis was my fault?

I want to be able to say (in effect) I'm so great I did X,Y and Z despite this situation. Without being negative about the situation!

Edit2: I'm not sure I understand what it is to "badmouth" a company then. As I see it, saying XYZ was screwed up and I rode in and fixed it (or whatever) is trash talk?

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    You just did :P – AndreiROM Mar 1 '16 at 20:14
  • If you are "spinning it", you've already missed. Tell the truth, about the bad in the environment and the good in how you handled it. Very good chance that anyone in a hiring position already understands that these workplaces exist, just not in their house :) – cdkMoose Mar 1 '16 at 20:26
  • @cdkMoose is that different from the usual advice not to "badmouth" an old employer? Genuinely asking, not being snarky. – user47059 Mar 1 '16 at 20:55
  • You can tell the truth without "badmouthing". Maybe it's just my interpretation, but I usually connote "spinning" as taking some liberties with the truth to make things look better than they are (from your position). If you are caught being untruthful in an interview, it is all over. – cdkMoose Mar 1 '16 at 21:01
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    Does it really matter why the tight schedules existed? Demands were made on you and you met them. Doesn't matter if it was chaos or the greatest business strategy known to mankind. – user8365 Mar 1 '16 at 21:18
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Have C.A.R (Challenge, Action, Result) stories ready and don't be afraid of painting a grim picture.

The challenge in each situation is a time where your workplace was in crisis, then talk about the actions you took, and the positive result that came from them.

Phrase it that way, and it's always positive. You're not bad mouthing the company by saying it was a challenge, and you're certainly not looking as if you are to blame if you took action that got results.

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Not all workplaces are the same and even in the best of breed organizations, there are projects doomed from the get-go. It is called real life.

I would word it as, as a junior employee, I found myself assigned to a project which did not have well defined goals and good measurements and reporting. Hence the project was behind schedule all the time with a lot of rush events, none of which came as a result of my actions or lack there-of. And as a side story, I would create a scenario, how it should be handled if I were in charge of the project, if you are really up to it. Because, under the circumstances, you will be asked to give an example of bad decisions, making the project fall behind schedule, followed by "how would you have handled such a situation, if you were an influencer/project manager?"

This is not bad mouthing the company or coworkers. It is a reality even the best of us had to deal with few times (hopefully not more than a few) in our professional lives. I chalk them up as experience to learn from. Make sure you learned something from this experience and can put it positively, as in not to do this and that to prevent finding yourself in a situation like that.

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There are code words that can be used to describe a workplace as chaotic without openly badmouthing the place. I would say something like:

It was a dynamic environment with a really fast pace. The short deadline cycle helped me develop as a team player and make good decisions under pressure. It really helped me grow into a stronger {your position here}.

This has no note of complaint but any interviewer with a brain will be able to deduce what that environment really was. If you go this route be sure to maintain this tone when you give examples from your time in this workplace.

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As a junior employee it's never your fault, anything goes wrong it's management or other leaders fault, so just focus on what you did. There is no need to bad mouth anything. You adapted to changes, you handled crisis situations beyond your control etc,.

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