The Seven Ways to Deal with the Worst Job Interview Question

Interviewer: Why is there a 10-year gap on your resume?

Job Applicant: I was in jail for drug smuggling, this is what I learned and this is what makes me a great candidate and employee for your company.

That’s how you answer any negative question: Tell the truth, explain what you learned, and why the employer should hire you.

Of course, most candidates with something to hide will try to avoid the question and answer. And some may get away with it – especially if the employer doesn’t ask the right questions or perform a background check. But one individual was proactive.

I recently came across an ad I had photocopied from the February 23, 2001 issue of the National Post, published in Toronto. It appeared on the front page of the classified under the category, “Employment Wanted.” At the time, it was very popular. But, given that so many years have passed, no doubt many current job seekers don’t know the story.

It was the only ad in the category. That was probably a good thing because who would want to follow this:

 Former Marijuana Smuggler

Having successfully completed a ten year sentence, incident-free, for importing 75 tons of marijuana into the United States, I am now seeking a legal and legitimate means to support myself and my family.

Business Experience – Owned and operated a successful fishing business – multi-vessel, one airplane, one island and processing facility. Simultaneously owned and operated a fleet of tractor-trailer trucks conducting business in the western United States. During this time I also co-owned and participated in the executive level management of 120 people worldwide in a successful pot smuggling venture with revenues in excess of US$100 million annually. I took responsibility for my own actions, and received a ten year sentence in the United States while others walked free for their cooperation.

Attributes – I am an expert in all levels of security. I have extensive computer skills, am personable, outgoing, well-educated, reliable, clean and sober. I have spoken in schools to thousands of kids and parent groups over the past ten years on “the consequences of choice”, and received public recognition from the RCMP for community service. I am well-traveled and speak English, French and Spanish. References available from friends, family, the U.S. District Attorney, etc.

Please direct replies to…

If memory serves, this individual was invited to be on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and had job offers within a week.

All kidding aside, look at what he did:

First, he made his incarceration into a positive – “incident-free.”

Second, he makes himself “human” by saying that he wants to support himself and his family.

Third, he quantifies his “business” successes. (I would have liked to have learned about the “island,” and don’t you just love the references to supervisory experience and revenue?)

Fourth, he notes that he “took responsibility” for his actions – albeit while sounding bitter that others got off for, apparently, turning on him (which, of course, begs the question whether or not he had any choice but to “take responsibility”).

Fifth, he answers the employer’s question before it is asked: He is “clean and sober.”

Sixth, he has made amends by doing public service.

And, seventh, he has references from the RCMP (who, apparently, do “always get their man!”), the US District Attorney, and whoever “etc.” is!

You have to give him credit for going public which, obviously, is why he was successful in getting a job so quickly.  I guess chutzpah counts in a job search.  Who knew?

This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse: