Every Saint Has a Past and Every Sinner Has a Future.

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future - Oscar Wilde

While I wish I could claim I came up with the title to this post myself, this quote comes from the indomitable Oscar Wilde.

Why am I writing about this today? I’ve recently received a number of queries from people having difficulty explaining past actions in job interviews; sharing everything from felonious to petty misdeeds.

Their question—a question many of us share—is, how do I present potentially dubious/damaging information to a potential employer? (Feel free to insert, “date”, “client”, “colleague” here….)

Here’s how:

First: remind yourself of the title of this post. Nobody has lived a perfect life—and if they have, they are likely to blunder sometime in the near future.

Second: consider that what you did is what you did, it is not who you are.

Third: as painful as it may be, be scrupulously honest. This is the only way you will convince your hearer of your change of heart.

So if your interviewer says, “Where shall we start?” You might respond, “If I were sitting where you are sitting, I would be wondering about X, so why don’t we start there?”

It’s always better not to be pounced on.

If he or she says something like, “I see you have a history of X.” You might reply, “Yes, that is a part of my history—my past. What I’ve learned since then is the value of X, Y, Z.” (Insert a quality that demonstrates you recognize the error of your earlier ways: your “lesson learned”.)

If a colleague or date says something like, “I would never want to work with/be in a relationship with someone who did X.” You might respond, “I understand that thought process, but let me see if I can change your mind. You see, I had the following experience…” Tell your story as factually as possible and, again, close with your lesson learned.

What I (and a surprising number of friends/clients) have discovered is that – provided you speak honestly and sincerely– people are generally far more accepting/forgiving than you might imagine. In fact, you may be astonished to discover how many of them are able to tell you about lessons they themselves have learned.

Frances Jones Cole signature