The Holy Hustle: How To Turn a Lemon Into a Lemonade and Shine At Job Interviews.

Updated on February 19th, 2023

August 26th 2022

Ontology Of Value pexels-tima-miroshnichenko-5439155-Cropped-1024x683 The Holy Hustle: How To Turn a Lemon Into a Lemonade and Shine At Job Interviews Job Applications and Interviews Self-management Tools and Strategies

This text was fully written by humans.


  • “I am too young, too old, too inexperienced, too experienced, I have too few jobs on my resume, I have too many jobs on my resume…” — we like to find reason to worry while applying for jobs.

  • In this article, we review a number of myths about job interviews and the recruitment process. You don’t need to be as ideal a candidate as you might think!

  • We also review a number of situations in which you need to introduce yourself as a candidate while having some point in your resume that is considered a weakness. We give effective tips for how to sell yourself to the recruiter in these situations.

Is This a No-Go? On The Game Between Job Seekers and Recruiters and How To Shine At Job Interviews.

Many professionals wonder: “Am I good enough for this job? Perhaps, I am just not competitive enough… I am too young, too old, too inexperienced, too experienced, I have too few jobs on my resume, I have too many jobs on my resume…” They blame themselves for every rejection they get in the recruitment process. 

Indeed, it is easy to develop the feeling that if you get rejections, you must be the perished apple in the basket — and there must be a valid reason why all your applications get rejected and you make no progress in your career development. That there is some no-go element in your resume that will make every next recruiter reject you as well.

Well, surprise surprise: more often than not, this is not the case! The vast majority of such cases boil down to the wrong pitch. The recruitment process is a game. While playing this game, you need to show your best side and know how to approach the recruiter to make them notice your value, so that they propose your salary as high as possible.

The recruiter, on the other hand, plays the game the other way around: they will praise you as much as possible and show you the non-material benefits coming from working for them so that you feel good about this job and agree to work for as little as possible. 

It is just a game, with quite simple rules when you think about it. Once you arrive at the recruiter’s office, the game is on. Before we talk about how to play it, you need to know three important facts.

Three Simple Truths About How To Shine At Job Interviews.

Fact #1: No One Out There Has an Ideal Career Story!

…Some people are just better at crafting resumes than others. If you think critically about your own resume, ask yourself this question: is it really the document containing the resume that is your problem, or is this your whole career story? Or, perhaps you have complexes related to lacking education or gaps in your professional life? 

As a matter of fact, no one has an ideal career story behind. Virtually everyone had some backlashes in their career — such as, for example, illness, burnout, changing a study major midway, dropping a frustrating job and going for the unknown, unsuccessful projects, wanted or unwanted career gaps, unresolved conflicts at work, learning skills that have since become obsolete…

The point is that people consciously choose to focus on the positives in their resumes and wipe all the dirt under the carpet. Their resumes are the same prettified and misleading as their shiny, exciting social media profiles — this is the only reason why their resumes look competitive. 

Building a resume is a matter of massaging your credentials and crafting a compelling career story, just as if everything you have ever done led you to the point in career development where you are now. 

Please find more information on the dos and don’ts while writing a resume in our article “Perfect Resume and Why It Is NOT Perfect For You: Marissa Mayer’s Resume and Personal Story.

Fact #2: A Candidate Who Lands the Job, Rarely Fulfills All Expectations.

The lists of requirements in the job offers are long and unrealistic, oh yes they are! One might think that all they need is a twenty-year-old with thirty years of professional experience. So, does this mean that you need to score each and every point mentioned in the job offer? No!

You need to know that more often than not, it is wishful thinking from the recruiter’s side. They can ask for anything, so why not ask for everything? 

In the unlikely scenario, some Hercules representing all the mentioned requirements — including the non-essential ones — might apply for the job. So, why not try? Remember that recruiters also play the game: they try to find a candidate as good as possible at a price as low as possible. 

By the way, many job offers are automatically loaded via LinkedIn and other professional networking sites and job boards. LinkedIn offers templates for employers which make the process of formulating the job offer much easier, but not necessarily more transparent. 

So, when you are loading your job offer onto LinkedIn, you will be asked about the position title, and depending on your answer, you will be given a suggested text for the job offer.

For instance, if you are looking for a Senior Data Engineer, you will be given the list of proposed programming languages that this person should know as well as major data-management frameworks and soft skills that typically mark a candidate for potentially great Data Engineer. 

What happens in such a case? Well, many recruiters get lazy and load minimally edited templates as job offers. LinkedIn knows better, right? No wonder the lists of requirements are long and unrealistic. 

So, what to do when your resume does not comply with some of the essential requirements mentioned in the job offer? Well, in that case, you still need to address all the raised points in your motivational letter. In case you lack some skill or experience, you should mention your willingness to learn. That’s it.

Fact #3: Most People Are Not Picky Enough While Choosing Job Offers.

Perhaps, the problem lies not in your resume but in the way you choose job offers. Many offers are written so that they sound like they were crafted for you. While in fact, they appeal to numerous professionals out there. 

This phenomenon is known as the Barnum effect — it’s the same mechanism that makes horoscopes “work.” Please find more information about the Barnum effect in job applications in our article “The Barnum’s Effect In Job Applications: How It Can Make Your Career Development Hard and How To Tackle It.”

Barnum’s effect causes you to apply to jobs that are much more random and much less suited for you than you would wish. So, perhaps you should learn how to be pickier with choosing job offers that you decide to apply for. 

Without extending the total amount of time spent on job applications, you can think of allocating more time to picking the job offers that are especially appealing to you and suited to your profile. Yes, you will apply to fewer openings this way — and yet, your chances of getting a job offer will dramatically increase.

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How To Play The Game Like a Pro and Shine At Job Interviews.

Now having these three points out of the way, how to overcome your worries and complexes, and make the best impression at the job interviews? 

As mentioned before, it is all a matter of the right pitch. In this article, we will discuss a number of contradictory situations, and propose how to turn a lemon into lemonade in each one of them. 

Situation #1: You Feel That You Perished with one Employer For Way Too Long.

…and, that you know nothing and nobody else in your field. Yes, employers want to have experienced people on board. BUT there are different ways of building experience. When others were busy flipping jobs, you were busy doing projects for your employer. 

If you have just one job on your resume, you should mention the most exciting, successful, or influential projects you’ve done so far, despite the fact that you complete these projects holding one position. 

Remember that what is interesting to employers is your successfully completed projects, not your position titles. There are senior professionals out there who never finished one good project in their whole lives! They were just taking any opportunity for promotion jumping from one position to another like tourists.  

If you list your key projects, then all of a sudden your resume will become much more compelling. Furthermore, remember that staying faithful to the values of your employer and the team, as well as integrity, are highly valued by employers. 

If you play the “integrity” card, it will be received as a highly appealing attitude. Please find out more about integrity in our article “Why Is It Good To Have Integrity in Your Professional Life and Why Do Employers Seek Integrity?

Situation #2: You Feel That You Were Changing Employers Like Gloves.

…and that no one will trust your loyalty now. This is the opposite situation of the previous one. Let’s assume you changed jobs quite often in the recent few years and now, your resume looks like a restaurant menu. 

Well, of course, it is not good to have too many job shifts, but can you still pitch this period in a way that shows you in a good light?

Sure you can. First of all, across all sectors, the average turnover rate of employees is higher than it used to be in the past. 

In our new, post-pandemic economy, it is more OK than ever to change positions every year or two. Therefore, you can pitch your story as a sign of intensive self-development focused on building your skill set.

You can say something along the lines of: “I was looking for my identity as a professional and I was focused on building a strong, compelling professional skill set via completing a number of projects under the wings of a few employers. 

Now that I know I can take on a wide variety of challenges in my profession, I am looking for stability and a place where I can plan and build my career.”

Employers also want to see someone well-informed and well-trained on their team, therefore, you can confidently play this card.

Situation #3: You Are Young and Unexperienced.

…and you feel that you don’t have enough skills for literally any white-collar job. As mentioned above, don’t feel intimidated by the length of the requirements list. It is just an orientational list that should give you a flavor of the ideal candidate — it doesn’t mean that this candidate even exists!

Also, play your “youth,” “enthusiasm,” and “eager to learn” cards in such cases. Hey, you don’t need to be the most experienced candidate if you just finished school! 

You can trade your experience for willingness to learn and the speed of learning. Many employers would appreciate that, especially now in the times of the Great Resignation when employees evaporate so easily.

Situation #4: You Are a Middle-aged Employee.

…and you are fear age discrimination. Age discrimination isn’t just pulp fiction — it really is there. For instance, the Mensa Association, including 2% of people with the highest IQ in the world, corrects raw IQ Raven’s Progressive Matrices Test results by age — if you are older, you will need fewer raw points to hit the mark of 148 IQ and get an invite to the association.

But, Google and other leading IT companies do not make this correction at all. They indeed expect you to be as good at solving logical puzzles at 60 as youngsters at 20. 

Yes, there is some age discrimination going on. Perhaps you might be a little slower at solving logic puzzles. But, as an older professional you also have strengths that 20- and 30-year-olds can only dream about. 

In particular, you’ve got all the skills that can only be learned in battle but never at school. Things such as: predicting major fuckups before they ever appear, selecting ideas with the highest ROI, design, conflict management, finding talents, or public relations. 

Going for the interview, you need to be aware of your own strengths and able to explain to the recruiter how they can benefit from these strengths. Always take their perspective and be self-confident. It matters not only what you say but also, how you say it. 

If you properly stretch your arms, smile at the recruiter, and give answers with passion and energy, they won’t pay as much attention to the fact that there are a few wrinkles on your forehead. 

Situation #5: You Had a Long Career Break.

…and you worry that this is a no-go to employers. First of all, conscious, planned career gaps are becoming increasingly popular among professionals today. Therefore, employers are prepared that they might find a career gap in your resume. 

They are just afraid of employees who are either lazy or feel entitled (for instance, run to a doctor to get a burnout diagnosis on any irrelevant occasion and let their employer pay their salary). 

This is why it is better not to ignore the elephant in the room and just tell the truth. Explain to the recruiter what were the reasons behind your career gap, what your career gap has taught you, and how you are a way better professional now after the gap. 

So, turn your career gap into your strength! Please also check out our articles “How To Explain A Gap In Your CV? Professional Development, Personal Development, or Wasted Time?” and “Employers: Give a Chance To a Candidate With a Gap In Their CV!”

Situation #6: You Suffer From Mental Health Problems.

…and you worry that this is a no-go to employers. If you suffer from any mental health problems, it can give you a justified fear that it will be seen as an argument against hiring you. 

Well, technically, you do not need to touch on this topic during the recruitment process at all. But obviously, you can, if you feel that it works on behalf of your professional development.

Well, mentioning your current mental health problems might not be the best idea for your professional development, mostly because employers might fear costly burnout and the associated downtime in the projects. 

However, at the same time, talking about mental health problems experienced in the past might actually score you points! 

Today, mental health problems are so common that it’s good to have a team member who understands the nature of the problem and successfully combated mental health problems in the past. 

Please find more information on how to talk about your mental health at job interviews in our article “Should You Mention Your Mental Health Problems in the Job Interview? Job Interview Tips For The Hard Times.

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Situation #7: You Are an Introvert.

…and you are worried in general. Let’s be real: these are not easy times for introverts. Most employers expect a “full package,” namely, an employee who not only is good at what they do but also open to people and outspoken.

Furthermore, today, it’s hard to build a career without top-notch communication skills. You need to be your own manager, represent yourself in public, and be capable of giving public presentations. Therefore, even as an introvert, you are supposed to push yourself out of your comfort zone whenever necessary.

You also need to know that public presentations are not natural to any of us! Research demonstrates that most people fear public presentations more than death! Introverted or not, you won’t become a strong presenter without practice.

To learn more on how to overcome stress related to public presentations, please check our article “11 Steps To Stop Stressing About Public Presentations.”

In either case, as an introverted person, you have a number of positive traits sought by employers of today. You are independent at work, you are structured and focused, you can perform deep work, you are good at planning, you use your imagination every day, you focus on meaningful meetings and conversations, and you are respectful of other people’s personal space. 

Having that said, whenever attending job interviews, you need to focus on those qualities, instead of suggesting that you are an introvert. Please find more information on the strengths of introverts in our article “Top 23 Careers For Introvert Persons.”

Conclusion: How To Shine At Job Interviews?

Well, none of us is perfect as a professional. No one has an impeccable resume. In fact, it does not matter what happens to us but what we do with it. You need to build a belief in your value as a professional before meeting the recruiter.  

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters to the recruiter is whether you can do your job well and whether you are easy to work with. Your age, history of employment, or personality profile are only the proxy to assess these two qualities. 

Of course, recruitment is a probabilistic process and you can never secure success with 100% probability. However, if you focus on your excellent professional skills and your ability to work in a team, you can be sure that the recruiter will see your value. 

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2022, August 26th). The Holy Hustle: How To Turn a Lemon Into a Lemonade and Shine At Job Interviews. Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/the-holy-hustle-how-to-turn-a-lemon-into-a-lemonade-and-shine-at-job-interviews/

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