Gee whiz, you have sure stayed short periods of time in your last three jobs. What's wrong?
The obvious fear behind this question is that, if you are hired, you will only stay at that job for a short period of time. In fact, we will discuss this topic in a little more detail toward the end of this chapter. But your answer has to be one where you do what we call in sales "changing the base." The answer goes something like this: "While you are correct that I've had three very short stints in my employment, there are two things that are very important. First of all, I realize that someone like you is going to look at this as a liability. I don't like it any better than anyone else; in fact, it has really concerned me. I made a couple of mistakes in taking several of those positions, and if knew then what I know now, I would never have done that. The truth is, however, that I really learned from the mistake. The fact that I've had three relatively short positions is one of the very reasons I can guarantee stability. I cannot very well afford another short stint at a job, so I am being very careful about the job I take. Whoever hires me is going to get a passionate and committed employee for at least seven years. The second thing is that even though the opportunities did not last very long, I worked very hard while I was there, and the references that I have from those organizations will substantiate how hard I worked and how much I contributed."
It does not do any good at all to try to justify two or three short jobs that appear on your resume. That is a road to disaster. I've had candidates who casually dismissed the fact that they had two or three short stints on their resume and justified it by saying that it was just a condition of the economy. I have also had candidates who spend so much time trying to explain why they made such poor business decisions, and going overboard to explain it, that neither they nor the interviewing authority ever got beyond this one question. The point is to address it, make it to be as much of a positive as you possibly can, ask for understanding and empathy, then shut up. If you have this problem in your background, this will be one of the answers that you have down pat. Practice it.
You've been the president of a firm (or the owner of your own firm). How do we know that you know how to work for someone else and that you will take direction?
This is the underlying fear and concern that all employers have when it comes to hiring someone who has either been the president of an organization, run an organization, or owned his or her own firm. The idea that the highest manager of an organization would actually work for someone else scares companies. What scares them is that if they hire you, and you have been in those kinds of positions, you won't take direction, and you will never really work for someone else. They are concerned that you really won't be happy unless you are "running the show." They believe that after a taste of working for someone else, you will leave after a relatively short period of time.
It is difficult for most presidents or owners of organizations to work for someone else. It is an emotional adjustment that is very hard to make. But it is done, and it does work. So, the answer to this question is really simple: "Well, you know as president of an organization (or owner of a firm), I 'worked' for a lot of different people and I answered to the entire company. I answered to customers, employees, the government, the IRS, my attorneys, my CPAs, insurance companies, vendors, and, very often, my spouse. We all answer to someone. Even the president of your organization or owner of your organization answers to someone, and usually many people. I have never met a good leader who couldn't work within any organization and be part of a team, as well as be a good follower. The truth is that we are all really self-employed. In reality, we all work for ourselves within an organization. The organization is simply a group of people working with and for themselves. Someone in the organization signs the paycheck, but the truth is that it's earned by the diligence of each individual. That's the way I approached business when someone else signed a paycheck or when I was responsible for signing the paycheck. In this opportunity, I may not lead the organization, but I still work for myself. My future earnings will depend on how I perform. In this case, the only difference is that someone else will sign the paycheck. One greater advantage in hiring me, over others, is that because I have been self-employed (or president of my own firm or owned my own company), I really understand how difficult it is to run a business. I, more than anyone else you will interview, will treat your money like my money because I really understand how that works. Most people see themselves strictly as employees. They act as though there is an adversarial relationship between themselves and their management. Little do they realize, as I do, that we're all in this together and whatever I do for management I do for myself, and whatever I do to management I do to myself. I am as careful with the company mission and money as I am my own, because I see them as the same. So, what this all means is that I'm going to work for someone just as hard as I work for myself. It is one and the same. I take direction just as well as I give it, I follow just as well as I lead, and I do what needs to be done. My ego is in check. I'm interested in the opportunity because I could do a good job for a very good company."