The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Job Search

How to deal with job interview questions after my divorce and bankruptcy

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Heidi, you’re searching for a new job?


Heidi:               I am.


Dr. Kenner:      What’s going on?


Heidi:               This is the first time I’ve done my research since my divorce. My foreclosure on my townhouse. And in the process of bankruptcy. What I’m running into is many of these jobs are requesting background checks. I believe these background checks are coming up with the credit issues that are on there and the foreclosure and such, so in this job market I’m sure it’s putting me right out there where I’m in the bottom of the basket or thrown out.


Dr. Kenner:      That may be the case, right?


Heidi:               What am I going to do for work?


Dr. Kenner:      My gosh. What do you enjoy doing?


Heidi:               Well, I sold real estate. I’ve been an independent contractor most of my life with real estate and then an independent contractor which I would do inspections of homes and represent home owners.


Dr. Kenner:      And you enjoy this?


Heidi:               I thoroughly enjoy it and it pays well, but I had a rough year. Had a discrimination kind of situation with a vendor that I was working with that let me go, just for reasons of unknown truly, so I emotionally crashed with that for part of the season. Doesn’t give you a whole lot of work.


Dr. Kenner:      Will that be on your background check also?


Heidi:               As far as what, that I was let go? No. The reason for it, being an independent contractor, I wouldn’t believe it would be.


Dr. Kenner:      So you’re worried about the foreclosure being on there, bankruptcy, you went through that?


Interviewee:     I’m right in the process of it. There’s all these things going on and it’s just … if I was an employer and I had the opportunity to see all that, I certainly, I don’t know how that pertains to life.   


Dr. Kenner:      You come across as friendly, as energized. And I think if you came across differently, I wouldn’t even think twice if I were an employer, I wouldn’t want you. If you came across and said, “You know, I’m going through bankruptcy and I don’t know what I can do with my life,” can you hear the tone in my voice?


Heidi:               Yes I can.


Dr. Kenner:      Instead you come across with hopefulness. You’re seeking help. Your story, if you level with them and you just tell them, if you’re prepared that of course they can reject me, but what if I level with them, and they’ll hear my energy? They’ll hear my enthusiasm, and then I don’t have to fear a background check too. One of the things you could do is spread your net wider – apply for many jobs within your field – and then tell them, “I was hit with,” or you don’t have to say that because then you make yourself sound like a victim. You can say, “I went through a divorce and it ended up in foreclosure and I wish I could have done anything to prevent that. I couldn’t have. We were partly hit hard financially and I am so eager to get back to work. I love real estate. I love being an independent contractor. I enjoy the inspections and I have got all this wonderful energy and I’m looking for employment. You’re more than welcome to do a background check and can ask me any questions on it.” How do I sound?


Heidi:               You sound like, “Okay, I’m humbling myself here. I’m wanting to work for your company. Looks like it’s something I’d really enjoy. However, I need to be up front with you. The background check. I come in and feel like I’m hitting a wall with some of these things and here’s why.”


Dr. Kenner:      Right. And the word “humble” didn’t fit with me, because I don’t want to come across as meek, and you don’t come across as meek, Heidi. You want to come across just as who you are. Just that it is difficult. Another thing that you have, I mean, I don’t know the details. Did you have to go through bankruptcy because of the divorce?


Heidi:               Well, it’s a combination of because of the divorce, the emotional crash I went through, plus there was a business that failed in 2006.


Dr. Kenner:      So they’re going to find a little bit. You will want to pretend that you’re the employer, asking yourself questions. Get real down and dirty with yourself. Help me understand this, why did this happen and why did this business crash? Be prepared to answer those. You can even write it out on paper. You’re not going to bring that into the interview, but you help yourself, present yourself accurately. Don’t lie. You don’t have to. If you husband had an affair –


Heidi:               Yeah, he did.


Dr. Kenner:      You don’t have to go into the gruesome details, “I walked in and found them in bed.” You don’t have to go to that level but you do need an explanation. You can even say, “My husband had an affair.”


Heidi:               My husband ended up being gay.


Dr. Kenner:      If you say that, I think you’re going to have people’s empathy right away.


Heidi:               It was a nightmare, yeah.


Dr. Kenner:      There’s a book, After the Affair, that is by Dr. Janice Abrams. I wish you’d had that way back when. It’s on my website, The problem, the book’s subtitle, says something to the effect of how to rebuild trust when a partner has been unfaithful. You’re not looking to rebuild trust, but that book does help you put things in perspective. And it helps you understand why the emotional crash. I think it’s a very good book even for my couples who are never getting back together again. If there was an affair involved, I recommend that book. That’s an aside.


Another thing that you have, if you feel responsible for part of the failures, I would just say, “There are parts. I wish I had watched the finances more closely.” Of course they may not want you in their business. But if you’re very good at finances, name that. If it’s your husband or the fact of the divorce that led to the downfall, name that.


Heidi:               I know, I know. This industry!


Dr. Kenner:      There are people who, through fault of their own, are going through foreclosures. Meaning they themselves knew they didn’t have the money. They owned some responsibility, full responsibility. There are other people who thought they were doing everything right and got burned. So, you don’t want to misrepresent yourself. I don’t think it’s going to be shocking to someone to hear that you went through foreclosure. In fact, they’ll probably say, “Yeah, my daughter went through that too,” and it’ll bring up stories.


Heidi:               I guess I’m just trying to figure out how to get to that point.


Dr. Kenner:                  You need to build confidence in yourself. Listen, we’re right at the end of time, but write down all the questions that you as an employer would ask you, Heidi, and then answer all of those and then you’re much more prepared to be interviewed. Listen, thank you so much for your call and I wish you wonderful employment.


Heidi:               Thank you.