How to impress a hiring manager when your current company is underperforming

Feel like you’re tarnished by your tanking employer? Don’t sweat it—you can still seriously shine in a job interview.

How to impress a hiring manager when your current company is underperforming

As an executive, you’re in a high-powered position within your company. You’re diligent, successful and downright likable. But, you’re one person, not a superhero. If your current company is underperforming and losing money, all your powers can’t save it. You’re part of a sinking ship, and it’s high time to find a new job.

But what happens when you have to interview for a new job and your company doesn’t exactly have a stellar reputation? Because you’re high on the totem pole, outsiders may view you as partially to blame for the company’s poor performance. (Junior staffers likely won’t experience the same level of judgment that a company executive would.) You can’t exactly walk in there and exclaim, “It’s not my fault!”

Don’t sweat it. You can rise above the negativity and build your confidence to ace that interview, regardless of the condition your current company is in.

Resist bashing your company

Although your initial plan may be to distance yourself by bad-mouthing your company, you must refrain. Otherwise, you’ll be viewed as unprofessional. Interviewers may wonder if you freely talk negatively about your current employer, will you end up talking negatively in public about theirs, as well?

Even when a prospective employer shines a light on the elephant in the room and addresses your company’s declining reputation, don’t bash your employers. Accentuate the positive aspects of your job. Perhaps you have an excellent relationship with your boss, or you have a team devoted to turning the ship around—pivot the conversation in that direction.

Put yourself in the spotlight

Just because your current company is performing poorly doesn’t mean you have no career highlights to share. You didn’t get to where you are by chance.

Consider this job interview as your opportunity to shine. Prepare talking points prior to the interview with your top achievements, both in your current role and in your previous roles—and be ready to quantify them. For example:

  • How many people do you manage?
  • What’s the amount of the annual budget?
  • How much money did you save the company in the past 12 months?

Even if the company stock dropped 20% within the past month, you need to specifically point out your own achievements irrespective of the company’s performance.

Exude confidence

Don’t be a reflection of the issues plaguing your current employer. Speak with enthusiasm, make eye contact and remember to smile Interviewers are looking for the ultimate fit with their company, and at the executive level, that means finding someone with obvious, seasoned leadership skills. Share stories that demonstrate how you’d be a positive force on their management team.

For example, at your current job, did you instill a sense of camaraderie that boosted morale significantly and therefore increased productivity? Even if that didn’t result in sizzling sales for the quarter, you have the ability to build and nurture strong teams—and that’s very valuable skill to have, especially when morale is low.

Obviously, the hiring manager is going to ask you to talk about your weaknesses; you should feel confident talking about something that didn’t go as planned, how you reacted and how you ultimately bounced back. If you can identify one specific example that ended on a positive note, hiring managers will appreciate your commitment to growth, as well as your candor—and that’s the kind of leader who gets job offers.

Monster’s career expert Vicki Salemi has more than 15 years of experience in corporate recruiting and HR and is author of Big Career in the Big City. Follow her on Twitter at @vickisalemi.